UBC provides a hosted content management system (CMS) based on WordPress. It is easy to use, centrally supported, and free for faculties and units. At its simplest, CMS is an acronym for a “content management system”. But inherent within a CMS, there is more – CMS is not only about a system or piece of software, it’s also about a Strategy and about Services.
Why is CMS important?
Whether referring to a system, service, or strategy, a CMS can enable the sustainable creation and on-going maintenance of high quality websites by establishing a common baseline of standards such as the consistent use of a common-look and feel template (or “CLF”), as well as common platforms on which to build new emerging technologies.
The UBC CMS service utilizes WordPress for content management. WordPress is an open-source publishing platform used to power millions of websites around the world. Thanks in large part to the thousands of plugins, widgets, and themes contributed back to the software by the open source community, WordPress has evolved beyond its original roots as a blogging tool and is now used as the basis for a broader range of online publishing needs including content management.
What’s the difference between Self-Managed WordPress vs. WordPress as a Service?
WordPress is available for download through WordPress.org. Anyone is able to download and install the software on their own web servers, as well as activate themes and plugins of their choosing (i.e. whatever you can find on the open web).
Running a Self-Managed Model, you would:
- Visit WordPress.org
- Download WordPress
- Install WordPress on your own web server
- Request a stand-alone UBC Common Look and Feel WordPress Theme from the Public Affairs Office
- Configure and build your site (select and activate Plugins, configure settings, make Theme modifications, write or migrate your content)
- Continue to manage and maintain the software, Plugins, Themes, and content
Given that you are managing your own installation of WordPress, you are able to select and activate the Plugins of your choosing, thereby adding additional functionality beyond what is available in the “core” of the software. You also have direct access to the source code of WordPress as well as the Theme (template), and hence can make modifications or extensions that are specific to the needs of your website.
With WordPress as a Service (or the SaaS Model), all of the software and server support is handled by the service provider – in the case of the CMS Initiative here at UBC, this is provided through a partnership between UBC IT, the Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology, and Public Affairs. With WordPress as a Service, you would jump straight to building your website – no need to download software, nothing to install or configure, nothing to design or develop. Using WordPress as a Service means that you can make use of the Theme and Plugins that are made available to you through the system. The Plugins made available address the majority of needs when it comes to functional requirements for your website, and these Plugins have gone through an evaluation and testing process to ensure they are reliable, easy to use, and easy to manage in the long term.
The Difference is in the Business Model
The core software is the same whether you opt for a Self-Managed or SaaS model. The choice is more about the business model in terms of what you need from your website (and hence what functionality you would like to add on top of the core system), and more importantly what you are prepared to support with dedicated budget and staff time. Running a Self-Managed WordPress Model, you (your unit) is responsible for all aspects of software maintenance / upgrades, selection of Plugins, site configuration, and any modifications or customization work you have done on the Theme. WordPress is a realtively easy tool to set up and run, but longer term it will always require someone with technical knowledge to properly maintain.
If you do have dedicated web resources in place, however, you will be able to build on top of a very flexible and easy-to-use system, and tailor the site to meet your specific needs. With WordPress as a Service, all aspects of system maintenance / upgrades, evaluation of Plugins, along with Theme design and development, is supported through UBC IT, CTLT, and Public Affairs. An added benefit of WordPress as a Service is that you will be on board for the continued evolution of content management at UBC which includes integration with other existing centrally-provisioned web services (CWL, UBC Wiki, UBCevents for starters) with more potential along the way in other areas such as online video and social media.
Using WordPress as a Service means that whenever there are new Plugins, new updates made to the CLF, or new services added onto this baseline service such as integration with other digital spaces at UBC, all of this will be transparent to you as an end-user – you won’t see it nor need to be involved. The same goes for system upgrades and backups.
With WordPress as a Service, all you have to worry about is creating and managing your content.