Smartwebs Hosted Content Management for SMBs

By Michael Pastore | Posted August 27, 2003

With the economic and technical benefits of hosted software catching the eye of small businesses, the latest firm to debut a hosted, subscription-based content management system is one that knows a little something about small business.

Boston-based Smartwebs unveiled its Smartwebs IRT (stands for "in real time") this week, and while there isn't much about the product that's revolutionary, it's easy to use, scalabale and reliable. And coming from a company that itself employs just nine people, that's quite an accomplishment.

Smartwebs IRT can be used to power both public Internet and private intranet sites. In addition to the hosted, subscription-based model, Smartwebs will also do licensed installations for customers that require them.

According to Smartwebs President and CEO Chuck Murphy, the new product is aimed at small businesses and the department level of larger organizations. At the department level, the money for implementing a hosted content management system comes from the department budget, and not IT, and Murphy cites this as one reason for Smartwebs' success in this area.

In order to keep individual departments happy and costs down, Smartwebs employs modules with the IRT product that focus on the tasks of individual departments. Among the modules available now from Smartwebs are those for events calendars, news, press releases, forms, job openings, polls and document management.

In addition to the modules and the content manager itself, there's also a Site Builder component (shown below) that lets users control everything about a site from creation of new pages to creation of new content areas. A Developer component allows users to create and customize standalone sub-sites and allows higher-level control, such as style sheets.

By mixing and matching components and modules, users can develop a system that is fairly customized and can be updated with little or no programming knowledge, hardware or installed software. According to Murphy, the typical installation consists of Site Builder and a couple of modules.

"We've taken the modular approach," Murphy said. "It's very rare someone buys just one. They usually buy three or four."

While most Smartwebs' clients start using the product for public Web sites, they soon expand its use. Right now, Murphy figures about 40 percent of users use Smartwebs' product for intranets, and 60 percent use it for public Web sites. As for scalability, AMICA insurance uses Smartwebs to power 63 intranets and more than 250,000 pages.

Most organizations employ hosted software so they can forget about the technical side, but there is one important technical distinction between Smartwebs and competitors like Atomz and CrownPeak. Murphy calls the Smartwebs approach "bake and deliver," which means the system updates the pages and sends them over as a flat file. Because it's not directly connected to the database, Murphy says this system faster and results in higher uptime.

Reliability is one of the major concerns that has kept hosted software from dominating the small business landscape, but Murphy isn't phased. He uses the move by Quickbooks, perhaps the biggest name in small business accounting software, to release a hosted version, as an example.

"It used to be build versus buy," Murphy said. "Now it's a buy versus rent scenario."

Smartwebs future plans for IRT include adding more modules and integrating new technologies such as its Word Clean tool, which keeps the formatting from Word documents when they are pasted into the Smartwebs templates.

On the business side, Smartwebs is employing a re-seller model to expand its reach into other cities. The company is targeting small Web development shops that can't keep up with the demand for custom content management solutions. Pricing (shown right) varies with the size of thewebsite and the number of modules required.

Adapted from Intranet Journal.

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