What is a Content Management System?

The term Contents Management System (CMS) is usually used to describe a database which organises and provides access to digital assets, from text and images to digital graphics, animation, sound and video. This type of product is relatively new and there are a few CMS available as off-the-shelf packages. CMS range from very basic databases to sophisticated tailor-made applications and can be used to carry out a wide range of tasks, such as holding digital content, holding information about digital content, publishing online and publishing on-the-fly.

Is a database sufficient?

The CMS provides mechamisms to support asset management, internal and external linking, validation, access control and other functionality. Typically, a CMS is built on an underlying database technology.

Content Management Systems range from very basic databases, to sophisticated tailor-made applications. They facilitate easier tracking of different parts of a Web site, enabling, for example, staff to easily see where changes have been made recently and - perhaps - where they might need to make changes (a 'News' page that hasn't been edited for 6 months?). They also ease the handling of routine updating/modifying of pages, where you want to change a logo or text on every page, for example.

A CMS can also simplify internal workflow processes and can ensure that you are working with a single master copy of each digital asset.

However there are other approaches which may be usable, such as making use of server-side scripting to manage resources.

Solutions may include:

Use of a dedicated CMS system.
Note this may be expensive, and there may be costs in learning the system, using it, etc. In addition you should ensure that an 'off-the-shelf' CMS product supports the metadata standards one might expect to use.
Use of a an open source CMS system.
This avoids licence costs, but there are still resource issues.
Use of a database.
May manage the resources but will it address issues such as workflow?
Use of server-side scripting approaches, such as PHP (Unix) and ASP (NT).
These may allow bespoke applications to be developed, and may sit on top of databases.

To summarise then, the issue to be aware of is the difficulties in maintaining resources in formats such as HTML.  Using flat files and a CMS and/or database is a way of addressing this management issue. Whilst it is not an explicit requirement that projects manage their resources with a CMS and/or a database, if such tools are not used, the project must show how it intends to facilitate good management of its digital assets.

Further Information