The CellStream Intranet Story – Visitors Welcome!

Many of you associated with CellStream already know that we have been busy over the past several months renovating our web presence by adding the CellStream Intranet site. I thought I would write a few lines about it so folks would know what has been going on, become aware of great new information available, and even copy our approach for their own businesses.

Let’s start with the selection of methodology and a little history. CellStream was an early adopter of the Microsoft SharePoint system originally released back in 2002. We left a web service called Intranets.com and built our entire intranet/extranet around MS SharePoint 2003. We were anxious when SharePoint 2007 was released for the expected additional features. Our bubble was quickly popped when the upgrade was, well, full of seams, procedures, and required that we buy a $50 Microsoft book for the procedure. Nonetheless, the upgrade worked. About a month later we found that the upgrade has a few dozen really nasty strings attached, and further updates to our Windows 2003 Server kept causing our intranet/extranet to fail. Subsequently we halted all updates, the displeasure offset by our general happiness with SharePoint. Seeking advice, we were told that the move to Server 2010 was not possible without risk of loosing everything we had built. Support from Microsoft went unanswered. This made us huddle and reevaluate our position.

  • Option 1 was to build a new Server 2010 and rebuild our backoffice and sideoffice databases in SharePoint from scratch. There were a dozen or more consultants ready to bill hourly rates to accomplish this. We guessed the cost would be a round $20,000.
  • Option 2 was to evaluate the developing CMP (Content Management Platform) software available for free at our web hosting partner. None of us knew much about Joomla or Drupal, and we had no idea what effort it would take to rebuild our services. None of the consultants we spoke to about the SharePoint effort offered any sympathy to these tools, which raised our curiosity to say the least.

There seemed to be little risk in checking out the Joomla and Drupal platforms, so we loaded them from our web site control panel and began to play. After several days playing with these tools, we really appreciated the interface and usability of both platforms. Both are powerful and flexible with many options. That said, the preference was Joomla for its easy interface.

With the selection made we began to experiment with the amount of information we could replicate from our SharePoint site. Shared Calendar – check, in fact even better. Shared file systems – check, just as nice. Shared Project areas – check – in fact even better. A little side note here: we had actually left SharePoint for an online service called Basecamp. We liked Basecamp a lot, but it was not cheap. On Joomla, we use ProjectFork – which we absolutely adore – it contains files areas, time logging, bulletin board note tracking, auto emails, and much more built right in.

At this point we were committed. We moved articles into the site, added FAQs, moved many things from our public web site such as course listings, consulting service and learning services descriptions, News, Events, and even our favorite list of TED.com videos! It was all easy and super fast. The process continues! We are so happy with Joomla, ProjectFork and other tools, we have sent our contributions.

So what is the bad news? We have yet to replace the “list” function of SharePoint. This function essentially created Access/Excel-like databases for us to customize-ably track a myriad of information. We continue our efforts to replace this function. This downfall in the project has been offset by the more robust features of Joomla and the add-on’s we have used so far. If you know of a way to replace this capability, let us know!

Tell us what you think of our new Intranet/Extranet venture! We would also love to hear about some of your favorite Joomla add-on’s.

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