Content Management Server: Functionality—for a Price

Content Management Server 2001 provides a structured approach to managing Internet and intranet site content.

The premise of a content management system for Web sites is simple: Make the external and/or internal message being conveyed by the organization consistent and easily managed. Microsoft’s Content Management Server 2001 (MSCMS) does this job very well for those organizations committed to Internet Information Server (IIS) and Active Server Pages to host their Web applications.

Not New, But Better
MSCMS isn’t something Microsoft developed; it’s the Resolution content management product developed by NCompass Labs, which Microsoft purchased. This means that MSCMS isn’t version 1.0 but actually is in its fourth release, with all the features and enhancements that come from years of development. In Microsoft’s case, acquiring NCompass got it a product that works very well in implementing a workflow to create, approve, manage and stage Web content. It also means that strides have been made in integrating MSCMS with at least some of the other .NET server products, particularly Commerce Server 2000 and SharePoint Portal Server 2001. Microsoft provides whitepapers on the MSCMS Web site ( to assist in integrating these products with MSCMS.

A Couple of Snags
The installation of MSCMS is well documented (and you need to follow the documentation here), but I did run across a number of snags. First was that the MSCMS Database Configuration Assistant (DCA) wasn’t able to enumerate a list of domains on the subnet, as the Windows Browser service on the MSCMS computer was a backup browser for its domain. The solution was to stop the Browser, although Microsoft’s Knowledge Base didn’t have any reference to this problem when dealing with MSCMS.

Second, the DCA was automatically invoked by the setup process, but the setup guide doesn’t deal with configuring a SQL Server until later, making the installation somewhat confusing. In the real world, I suspect that Microsoft Consulting Services or Certified Partners will be performing the install instead of the end-user organizations themselves. One other tip: Don’t skimp on the hardware, especially RAM.

Content Management Server
$42,999 per CPU

After installing MSCMS, you create user roles and assign users from one or more NT domains (trust relationships not required) or LDAP servers (such as Active Directory or Site Server 3.0 Membership) to the roles. Based on the role, users can create templates (the look and feel of a Web site, or part thereof); create content (folders); add resources to or create resource galleries; or configure channels (the process of staging Web content). The flow is largely predetermined by the objects created and rights assigned to roles on them.

Content Management Server
Figure 1. Assigning roles to users from one or more NT domains determines what they can do in creating, approving or managing Web sites and content. (Click image to view larger version.)

Now Here’s the Rub
I suspect that the biggest hurdle for implementing MSCMS in any organization will be its cost. Microsoft openly admits that, at $42,999 per CPU, this is the most expensive product it sells—and that’s before including the costs of SQL Server 2000, which is required by MSCMS, as well as Visual InterDev, training and other associated costs.

For organizations committed to .NET and needing a way to manage Web content, including content generated by Commerce Server 2000, SharePoint Portal Server and other .NET server, MSCMS is a great addition, but it doesn’t come cheap.

About the Author

Damir Bersinic, MCSE, MCDBA, MCSA, MCT, is an independent consultant, trainer and author.

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Reader Comments:

Mon, Feb 20, 2006 Anonymous Anonymous

Worst product I have came across. After struggling about 2 weeks with the sample site, I still couldn’t make a site a properly. The documentation is worse, a beginner like my self couldn’t figure out where to start.

Wed, Apr 6, 2005 Anonymous Anonymous

Horrible! How can MS put out such an unstable product and charge 43,000? MS at the enterprise level still has a lot to learn.
As an A student in Network Administration it took me 20 hours just to get a sample site up. No SQL docs!

Tue, Oct 7, 2003 ray london

This product may be MS's flag ship CMS product, but it sucks. Everything has to be built by code, and the .net integration opens up a new can of worms with even more code required to even get the bare bones system working with workflow.

Fri, Oct 4, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

If you ever worked with RedDot CMS, you will love MS CMS with the passion.

Wed, Mar 27, 2002 Ed Devlin London

This article is the wrong way round! MSCMS is relatively cheap compared to other CMS products, but it's *poor* on functionality. To configure workflow I have to write ASP code! To modify the API I have to write ASP code. To get it to WORK I have to write ASP code.
How can a content management product be called 'mature' that has no version control (except diff) or personalisation (without Commerce Server)?
Your reviewer should know better than to parrot the MS .Net label when this product has nothing .Net about it except the name on the box.

Thu, Jan 24, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

Sounds like a "pc" way to keep the marketing portion of an organization in the technical loop. Long term - I don't think it will have enough bang for the buck!

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