DotNetNuke (DNN) is a popular open source content management system written in ASP.NET with Microsoft SQL Server as the back-end. I’ve been using it for a number of years on sites of mine like davemackey.net. I’ve been a fan of DNN for a number of years for a few reasons.:
- Open Source – I’m always a fan of open source projects, not just b/c I like a free lunch as much as the next guy but also because it allows for the project to continue on beyond the lifespan of a given individual or company.
- ASP.NET – Its only been within the last several years I’ve really begun messing around with LAMP, and for the longest time I loved ASP and then ASP.NET. Now I’ve been swung to the dark side recently, though I still find Microsoft‘s development tools to be leagues beyond the open source competition (for speed of development) and still prefer developing in a VB.NET-like syntax to C#, PHP, etc. But, this habit must die…b/c everyone else is going LAMP.
- Simplicity – Compared to Joomla or Drupal, DNN is a breeze. Within minutes of installing the application you can have a full featured site up and running.
That said, I’m now leaving the DNN community (I’ll get to what I’m moving to in a few moments). Here are the simple reasons why:
- Cost – While DNN itself is open source, the Microsoft ecosystem as a whole is much more oriented around cost-based. This especially holds true for the DNN third-party ecosystem of modules and skins. Both of these would have some commercial items in a similar LAMP based project, but there would be loads of free modules/skins. Not so of the DNN ecosystem.
- Development – Feature development in DNN seems to go at a much slower pace than equivalent open source projects (though this may change with the venture capital infusion DNN recently received). One significant example is the forums module which has been without an update for well over a year and has several show-stopping bugs in the current production version.
- Openness – While DNN is an OSS project, the sharing of news about what is happening internally as far as development as well as the ability to get the latest snapshot download to run on the bleeding edge is extremely limited.
So what am I moving to? Good question. Its not Drupal or Joomla. I find both of these overly convoluted (here come the haters). Instead I’m moving to WordPress. WordPress while initially designed as a blogging platform has extended itself significantly to include most functionality that a user could want from a CMS in the core install. Thousands of free extensions make up for whatever WordPress lacks at its core. The development pace is rapid and even minor versions include massive updates (e.g. 2.7 is awesome!). The skins/modules are free, free, free and if one module isn’t receiving development there are dozens others that are.
That said, I’m not abandoning DNN completely just yet. It works well enough for davemackey.net, ocddave.com, and a few other sites. At this juncture the cost to move them over to WordPress (in time and energy) is greater than the lost features (since these are essentially static content sites, they aren’t missing out on much). I plan to in the future – as the need arises.
Its not uncommon for me to get asked, “What web host would you recommend for me to use when building a new website?” I figured now would be as good a time as any to post about one of the hosts I utilize. This host is great for beginners and advanced users alike. That said, I’ll also note right at the beginning that the instigator of this post was actually a server outage on Bluehost‘s part. Yesterday I was writing a review of the movie Amazing Grace (don’t worry, I’ll rewrite it soon) when the Bluehost server went down. But no host is perfect and this is one of only a few times I have experienced any performance problems from Bluehost’s service.
First, lets talk about Bluehost from a beginner’s perspective. If you are looking to create a website or start a blog there are a few easy ways to get started. One is to hire someone to assist you in doing so (you can always hire me). Another is to utilize any of a number of free services that allow you to create sites/blogs easily – for example in the blogging arena one can get free accounts from blogger and wordpress. The third option, and the one I personally prefer, is utilizing a shared host. This scenario gives you the most flexibility. When determining what sort of host you should utilize ask yourself these questions:
- Do I enjoy technology? (If no, hire someone).
- Do I want to learn more about web-based technologies? (If yes, utilize a shared host).
- Do I have time to expend on learning new technologies? (If no, hire someone or utilize a free account).
- Do I want a professional presence? (If yes, either hire someone or use a shared host and expect to spend a significant amount of time learning and experimenting).
Should you decide to go with a shared host you face one additional large question: Do I want a Windows or a Linux environment? If you are new to technology generally, I recommend Linux. In fact, unless you already utilize web-based technologies that are Windows specific I recommend Linux. Why? Because its built around a nice word – free. There is one exception. If you want to do custom product development rather than just building a straight-up site, you may want to consider using Windows for your development environment. Microsoft’s Visual Studio is pretty kick-butt. I really enjoy ASP.NET and think it is great for developing applications in.
Okay…So we’ve decided to go with a Linux host. In that case, open an account with Bluehost. Here’s the main factors I consider killer about Bluehost:
- $6.95/mo. What? Yes. $6.95/mo. We eat that at McDonald’s in one lunch! That includes a free domain name (e.g. yourname.com), which is pretty huge since these usually cost around $10 in and of themselves.
- Unlimited Hosting/File Transfer. You can store as much data as you want on their servers (okay, there are some exceptions, but generally…you’ll never run out of space) and you can also transfer as much information to and from the server as you want (again, some exceptions…but mainly apply to people who are trying to abuse the service).
- Free MySQL Databases. MySQL Databases (or PostgreSQL) are the backbone of most modern web applications. They store data in a way that makes it extremely easy and quick to retrieve.
- SimpleScripts. Allows you to within two minutes deploy popular web applications including WordPress (blogging), Joomla (cms), Drupal (cms), phpBB (forums), Zenphoto (photo gallery), Roundcube (webmail), and WikkaWiki (wiki) among many others. Seriously – two minutes.
- Bluehost includes lots of other standard features like FTP, email, free advertising credits (Google, Yahoo, Miva), and automatic backups.
So what are you waiting for? There are no contracts. Even if you just want to familiarize yourself with some web-based technologies – open an account, use it for a few months, and then cancel. Its a great learning tool. No, it won’t run the next Google, but once you grow big enough and learn enough you can move to a larger host (we’ll talk about them in another post) who can handle your highest demands.