Is Hannon Hill's Cascade Server Right for you?
August 27, 2014
Is Hannon Hill's Cascade Server Right for you?
Score 7 out of 10
Overall Satisfaction with Cascade Server
At our college we use this CMS for our main website and a few smaller sites. We have been using Cascade Server since 2004. We were one of Hannon Hill's first customers. Cascade Server runs the college's main website. With any organization we have business problems that need to be met. The biggest is having a large number of users that work in different departments on campus that need to update their department's site. These users do not have coding experience. Cascade has a simple solution to do this by using your standard WYSIWYG editor. To add to this we are also able to add student interns into the mix of using Cascade Server by using "workflows". This allows a student to make changes to a page. Once the page is submitted it goes to someone higher up in the chain for approval of that page. If the page checks out okay it gets published. If changes need to be made it gets rejected and sent back to the student. Cascade has answers for our biggest hurdle of having so many users that need to update the site.
- One thing that is nice about Cascade Server is it sits on a different server than where it publishes to. The thought process behind this is if you ever need to upgrade or do maintenance or if your server running Cascade Server crashes, your site will still be live because the content that gets published sits on a different server. Unlike a CMS like WordPress. If WordPress crashes, your site crashes.
- Another awesome thing the Cascade Server does very well is they offer great customer service. You can give them a call at anytime and speak to a user support specialist who will walk you through a problem. You can also expect an email back within the day if you chose to send an email to user support instead. You might not even have to send an email if you search through the very well organized knowledge base they have on their site.
- Hannon Hill specialized in higher education. So being in Higher Ed, it makes it easier on both the college and Cascade Server to troubleshoot/compare/contrast with other colleges.
- Hannon Hill does have a handful of sites that they run that are not Higher Ed sites. So if you aren't in Higher Ed I wouldn't let that scare you away.
- One major thing that I would like to see differently is how often a new version gets rolled out. Recently, they decided to start rolling out a new version every few months rather than just having one big rollout once a year. It sounds great on paper that they are making so many improvements. But to gather the time it takes to upgrade Cascade Server at a particular time when it isn't affecting a ton of users across campus is tough. This usually ends with me being in my office upgrading Cascade at 3am every few months.
- Going based off of my last example, they have a remedy for this but it's a costly one. They have service plans that include Hannon Hill doing all of the hosting instead of you having Cascade hosted in house. With this plan they will upgrade Cascade Server whenever an update becomes available. Once again, sounds great on paper but it comes with a heavy price tag that makes it not affordable to do.
- Being web based makes for some clunky user interaction. It is a very robust system. With it being web based it makes it hard for Hannon Hill to make it portable. If you had a quick change to make on a page I wouldn't suggest trying to conquer that task on your phone. A tablet even is pushing it. Also going off of usability, it is very friendly in all browsers. Works wonders in Chrome and Firefox, works not so hot in any other browser.
- For all of their backend functions, they use Velocity. Which is a Java based language. It is very similar to your typical languages but to do anything other than your basic functions you need to know Java in order to accomplish something.
- I provide the Support on campus for Cascade Server. If I ever get an issue that cannot be solved I know I can easily contact Hannonhill and they will get my issues solved. For this my customer service on campus has greatly increased and makes it easier for me to troubleshoot.
- MS SharePoint,Drupal
We selected Cascade Server because it manages users more easily. It also requires less coding skills than MS SharePoint does. Drupal on the other hand is freeware so your user support for Drupal is what you would get for not paying for something. Cascade Server dumbs it down for everyday people with no coding experience to make changes on sites and not just wording changes. They can change the way a page is configured, completely change everything on the page and republish it in a matter of minutes. It is that simple.
We have an ongoing relationship with Hannon Hill. We were with them from the ground up and were able to see where they were 10 years ago and how they have grown now. They have exploded in the Higher Ed world. I believe they are only just beginning and many great things are still ahead for Cascade Server.
Cascade Server is a robust system. For smaller companies with very little users in the CMS I would not go with Cascade Server. If you have a bigger company with a large number of backend users updating pages; then I would really consider Cascade Server. If you don't have a web developer or webmaster in house it might not be best for your company either. If that is the case you might be spending a lot of time with Hannon Hill user support.