If you visit TechRepublic’s Web site regularly, you’ll notice that new content is displayed on a daily basis. Not only is new content added to the site every day, but the site’s front page also changes daily to reflect this new content. Unless you’re involved in Web development or in providing content for Web sites, you probably take for granted that the Web site changes so often.

As someone who owns several Web sites, though, I can really appreciate how much work goes into this updating. For instance, although I have tons of new content that I could post on my own Web site, it hasn’t been updated in about a year simply because I don’t have time to keep up with it. Recently, however, I was introduced to a content server from FatWire Software. As I’ll explain, FatWire’s Content Server is designed to meet enterprise-level document management and Web publishing challenges.

The old way
Whenever I want to add a new article to my site, I have to format the text size and font, manually build an empty page that has the same look and feel as the other pages, copy the article text (and images) onto the new page, update menus to reflect the new page, and then come up with a bunch of metatags for the page. Adding new content to the site involves a lot of work, and with all of my writing commitments, I just don’t have the time.

I did learn from my experiences, though. Last October, my business partner and I decided that our IT security-related Web site needed to be completely rebuilt. We paid a developer big bucks to build us a custom Web application that would upload a Microsoft Word document containing a new article. Whenever we upload a document, the application dynamically builds a Web page based on the document’s contents.

The system works really well, and it’s a huge time-saver. There are a few issues with it, though. First, the software cost us an absolute fortune since we had it custom-written. Second, the technology is completely proprietary and isn’t compatible with anything other than our Web site. Third, the software accepts documents in Microsoft Word format only. It will not accept PDF files, TXT files, or other common formats.

The FatWire advantage
One of the main benefits of FatWire’s Content Server is that it allows content to be posted with no regard to formatting. Those in your organization who are responsible for posting content can submit a document in straight text form. Content Server can then format the document to have the same look and feel as the rest of the documents on the site.

So how is this feature any different from what my Web site is already doing through the use of proprietary software? Well, my site formats the documents to be displayed only through Web browsers. Content Server can apply multiple templates to the same document, thus allowing the document to be displayed on multiple devices. For example, a document could be submitted once and automatically formatted for display through a Web browser, a cell phone, or even a pager.

Any file type accepted
Content Server allows documents to exist in a variety of formats, whereas my Web site’s proprietary software supports the extraction of text from Microsoft Word documents only. In larger companies, there’s usually little consistency among documents. Documents are typically stored in several file formats in a wide variety of locations. Typically, each department has its own way of producing and storing documents.

Content Server makes it easy to put all of this content on the Web, regardless of format or location. The software is designed so that each business unit can easily produce its own content-rich Web site or intranet site. When creating such sites, the developers don’t have to worry about manually creating static HTML pages because a site can be designed to link to existing content in its existing location and in its native form. Once the initial site and the underlying templates have been designed, Content Server will display documents within the appropriate template without requiring changes to the documents themselves.

Relationship management
Another nice feature of Content Server is that it allows you to create relationships between documents. Document relationships work much like online stores in that they display related items. For instance, you can set up a relationship so that if someone looks at a 2002 budget report, the site automatically provides links to the 2001 and 2003 budget reports as well.

J2EE runs FatWire
Content Server is powerful, but you might be curious about the underlying technology. Content Server relies on the J2EE architecture. In case you aren’t familiar with J2EE, it’s a model for creating Web applications in a way that avoids many of the problems and costs normally associated with Web application development. It also allows for scalability as the business grows.

Part of this scalability comes from the fact that J2EE applications are designed to run on J2EE application servers, such as IBM’s WebSphere servers. The problem is that most competing products rely on integration bridges to J2EE servers and therefore do not gain the full benefits of the J2EE model. Content Server, however, is designed to run natively on J2EE servers. This allows for greater out-of-the-box functionality and reduces the need for custom code.

Acquiring FatWire’s Content Server
Although there is no pricing information on the FatWire Web site, the site does offer a form that you can fill out if you want to be contacted by a sales representative. You can also contact FatWire’s sales staff directly at 516-328-9473, ext. 420.