Open Source

New Joomla release warrants second look for CMS deployments

The newest release of the popular open-source CMS package Joomla is a more robust fit for enterprise content management than solutions like WordPress, concludes James Sanders.

Joomla 3.4
Image: Chiara Aliotta and Helvecio Da Silva via Joomla

Joomla! is a highly-extendable content management system (CMS) licensed under the GNU GPL written in PHP that readily scales from small websites to large projects. Joomla was designed with extensibility in mind — a wide variety of extensions are available for the needs of the audience. Importantly, Joomla can be easily adapted to a wide variety of use cases, including as for a corporate intranet, as an e-commerce platform, or for web presence and information, as is the case for the Guggenheim Museum website, which runs on Joomla.

Understanding the differences between Joomla and WordPress

Perhaps the most important thing to be mindful of about Joomla is that it is not WordPress. There are a remarkable number of similarities between the two systems: both are written in PHP and run on a typical LAMP stack; both have a robust extension and theming system; and both can be deployed from cloud hosting providers such as Rochen. This is where the similarities end.

WordPress is designed around the paradigm of blogging; it works exceptionally well for that purpose, and can be easily extended out to serve static supporting content that adds to the value of that blog. It can support multiple users and roles for small to medium organizations or projects with ease. The ubiquity of WordPress has made it a frequent target for attackers, though the use of sensible security settings and mindfulness about upgrading to the latest available version for security patches make it a perfect solution for websites such as Extra Ordinary.

Joomla is not designed in the same way as WordPress, however. The back end for user management, permissions, roles, and group membership is substantially more robust than in WordPress. Joomla allows for proper business solutions — inventory control, business directories, ecommerce, reservation systems, and the like — to be integrated into public-facing services on a given website, in addition to online publishing components. As an example, the website of the restaurant IHOP (built using Joomla) provides interfaces for buying, delivering, and checking the balances of gift cards. This is not a task that, even with the use of extensions, would be a sensible integration to WordPress.

What's new in Joomla 3.4?

The big additions to Joomla 3.4 are significant improvements to composer, and the ability to edit modules on the (live, public-facing) front end, making design and updates far easier to manage. Also added is new reCAPTCHA to reduce the interference of bots and scripts, and moving Weblinks from the main codebase and putting it into an extension. A full list of bug fixes is also available on GitHub.

Deploying and accelerating Joomla in the cloud

Various cloud providers such as Rackspace and Rochen provide cloud hosting specifically for Joomla. Seasoned AWS users can use a LAMP stack CloudFormation framework on which to deploy Joomla, or it can be deployed on EC2 using automation scripts from JumpBox. Or, for more traditional off-premises means, Joomla can be downloaded and installed manually on a dedicated server or VPS. For shared hosting providers, Joomla can also be installed via Softaculous.

For users running Joomla from a dedicated server for VPS, reducing the load of the production server and producing high performance and quick page load times is an important consideration. NoNumber Software provides an extension that aids integration with content delivery network (CDN) operators such as Amazon CloudFront or CDNify to lessen server load.

Getting started with Joomla

The Joomla Administrator's manual provides a ground-up explanation of how to use the core features of Joomla after installation, as well as finding and installing — or, alternatively, developing — plugins and themes for deployment on your website. The Beginners guide also provides information on installation and content management.

What's your view?

Do you use Joomla in your organization, or do you rely on blogging software such as WordPress or Movable Type? Or, do you use alternative CMS software such as Drupal? How satisfied are you with the security of your blog or CMS package of choice? Share your views in the comments.

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About

James Sanders is a Java programmer specializing in software as a service and thin client design, and virtualizing legacy programs for modern hardware.

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