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Drupal: Govt Grade Power for Your Site

Industrial strength. The logic goes: If it has been forged under the most demanding conditions, then it will be more than sufficient for my needs. Using Drupal to power your site means benefitting by drawing from the distilled excellence that has been created to serve the most rigorous requirements.

Government Technology published an article on the popularity of the Drupal content management system for government websites – from whitehouse.gov to local government sites. Among the various advantages it notes for using Drupal, it includes a number that I have long mentioned to my clients: flexibility & modularity; the value gained through the shared efforts of an active, open source community; and security.

From the article: “Drupal powers more than 150 sites for the federal government, including the White House; the House of Representatives; NASA; and the departments of Education, Energy, Commerce, Health, Defense, Justice, Transportation, Homeland Security and Agriculture.”

Flexibility & Modularity

What the diverse array of local, state and federal bodies are finding is that Drupal functions beautifully as a framework with which to build custom sites that vary greatly in scope, focus, and budget. While Drupal is capable of doing the heavy lifting required for high traffic, complex sites, it’s also perfectly suited for much smaller sites whose objective is simply to communicate in a nimble, organized fashion. It achieves this by using a modular approach that keeps the core software lean, while opening it up for integration with a collection of thousands of contributed modules. Additionally, Drupal has focused on site building approach that utilizes a common pool of standard tools to piece together widely varying functionality based on how the parts are configured. All together, these things mean that you aren’t using a “small site” CMS to stretch and do heavy lifting it may not be suited for, and you aren’t using a “big site” CMS to cram into a solution for something more modest. You can enable and integrate functionality on a purely as-needed basis, and know that your CMS is able to flex with your needs.

Standing on the (Open Source) Shoulders of Giants

Another point that was raised, which I have long mentioned to clients, is that by utilizing a popular open source system, you realize the benefits of all the brilliance and hard work being contributed back into the common pool by users large (such as the US Federal Government, large entertainment companies, and Ivy League schools) and small (brilliant, dedicated coders who make their living implementing Drupal). Open source software grows through the contributed work that the project (Drupal in this case) community puts back into the project. Contributors are motivated to put their work in because the whole open source model is based on the idea that if you put something in, other people will too, and all boats are lifted by a rising tide. While this may sound altruistic or like it promises more than it delivers, the proof is in the pudding. The fact that so many high profile sites are built using Drupal attests to the quality of the platform.

Government Grade Security

The Government Technology article quotes one of the contractors thusly: “Possibly the biggest hurdle to Drupal adoption in government – security – has all but eroded, said Jeff Walpole, CEO of Phase2 Technology […] With the White House’s adoption of Drupal, questions and criticisms around security and compliance no longer hold much sway.”

A common (and reasonable) concern that businesses have is the security of their site. When using a CMS, they now have an additional software layer that could also be vulnerable to malicious intent. This is another area where open source shines by making all code available for anyone who wants to look at it. This means that all of the coders all over the world who are using Drupal are able to report any issues they find and the enormous team of people contributing code (roughly 18,500 according to drupal.org at the time of this writing) are able to craft solutions.

Additionally, Drupal has a community formed around a model of centralized module distribution. This means contributed code is distributed from drupal.org, and not from individual, private websites where you may or may not know who the purveyor is or what their intent is. The Drupal project also employs a dedicated security team which actively reviews and issues security fixes for all code distributed through drupal.org. This goes one better than just the standard open source promise of having lots of eyeballs looking at the source code. It’s also something that sets Drupal apart.

All said, if sites from whitehouse.gov to fastcompany.com trust it, can’t your business?

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