Overall Satisfaction with Cascade Server
Cascade Server is the web content management system used throughout our organization to maintain the official college website. It's used to solve countless business needs, including admissions marketing, fund-raising, news, events, photo galleries, staff directories and job openings. It's also used by the central marketing department to improve search engine optimization and accessibility, and manage a mobile-friendly website (Kurogo).
- Cascade Server comes with several avenues of support. The main resource is help.hannonhill.com, where all support requests are handled by staff but other users frequently contribute. Other avenues include the annual user training conference and the "Idea Exchange," where users vote on new features.
- Because Cascade Server is XML-based, it can ingest any XML-formatted feed (e.g. RSS) from external platforms like Flickr, Tumblr and WordPress. Conversely, content can be published in multiple formats, following the "Create Once, Publish Everywhere" (COPE) strategy. For example, a single page, published as a traditional HTML file, can also be published as a mobile friendly page and PDF document. Similarly, a groups of press releases can be published as an RSS feed and a group of website pages can be published as an XML Google sitemap.
- Cascade Server user interface is customizable for different content types. We've created custom interfaces for admissions open house pages, job openings, staff directories, events and press releases.
- One of the drawbacks of being an XML-based content management system is that any text entered, that isn't XML-compliant, triggers an XML error and the content can't be saved. The company seems to be working on this, as it recently released a new feature allowing content to be saved as JSON and CSS, which don't have to be XML-compliant.
- There is room for improvement when working with images. While the company has made improvements to the image editor and recently added the ability upload images via "drag and drop", the system can't save multiple versions of uploaded images automatically (e.g. original, medium, thumbnail).
- While Cascade Server's push architecture offers performance and security benefits, it can make maintaining a large website challenging. For example, the only way to re-publish template-specific pages is by writing your own web services application in either PHP or Java.
- Our biggest return has been in allowing us to transfer content maintenance tasks to other offices. This has freed up our marketing and communications staff to focus on strategic marketing goals.
- While we have yet to fully embrace Spectate, an inbound marketing tool that accompanies Cascade Server, the ability to measure the ROI of our content has made a positive impact in how we strategize our content. We've experimented with A/B testing and conversion tracking so far.
- CMS customization must be done by in-house developers or be out-sourced to a Cascade Server partner firm. While Hannon Hill has launched http://www.cascadeserverexchange.com, a "plugin" repository that provides code solutions to common business needs, a technical person is still required to customize the plugin based on each client's setup and the specific business requirements.
Cascade Server is well-suited to teams that are comfortable with XML. Fortunately, clients no longer have to rely on XSLT to format content in the system. Developers can now use a more powerful and intuitive scripting language called Velocity. In terms of system administration, clients can now pay Hannon Hill (the parent company) to have their Cascade Server hosted in the cloud. This might be preferable for clients who don't want to worry about hardware purchases, installation or upgrades, or rely on their organization's IT department.