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Drupal Commons 2.12

Version2.12 (18.01.2013)
Similar SolutionsIBM Connections, Jive Social Business Software

Drupal Commons is a free social business suite based on one of the most powerful content management frameworks Drupal, which is pushed by a huge open source community. Commons is a ready-to-use highly customizable solution for building both internal and external communities. Due to its open source license model (GPL v2) Commons is the most cost effective social business software compared to the solutions of other proprietary vendors. Trying to cover most of the common use cases of a community site, Commons by itself doesn’t include all possible functionalities, but its modular and flexible structure makes it easy for experienced Drupal administrators to extend the solution by leveraging the modules included in the distribution or some of the thousands available additional modules developed from the Drupal community.

Drupal Commons - Use Cases

Enterprise Communication

Commons strives to combine the functionality of social networking statuses and micro blogging presenting status updates with capabilities for mentions, likes and shares. A status update can consist only of simple text message, a link or an uploaded photo. Commons provides a per-user as well as a per-group activity stream. By following other community members, users can get informed on their activities in the community. The exchange of information within the company is facilitated by introducing blogs, wikis, discussions, Q&A and polls on a per-user or per-group basis and enabling users to comment on those content types.

Collaboration and Knowledge Exchange

Drupal Commons enables communities to organize into groups in which members can create content, from blog posts to documents (with attachments), discussions, wikis, polls, events, feeds and even status updates on the group home page. Those functionalities are implemented as features (apps), which can be enabled or disabled by the group administrator as needed. Community members can tag content, documents, as well as people and groups. To simplify content editing Drupal Commons provides a WYSIWYG-Editor and content version control.
Groups within Commons can be public or private, meaning that the content within those groups will be viewable to all other users or only to members of this group. Furthermore there is the possibility to make only certain posts within a private group viewable to all other community members and vice versa, or to publish content within several groups. Group administrators also have the ability to define the group membership type as open, moderated (with approval), only with invitation or closed (only administrators can add members).
Commons doesn’t support collaborative editing of files. It offers only simple file sharing without version control. File management is implemented as content type with the ability for attaching files. For more sophisticated document management capabilities there are several add-on modules, some of which enable the integration with existing enterprise document management systems like SharePoint or Alfresco via the CMIS protocol.

Social Networking and Expert Search

Drupal has long been a Web CMS leader in providing a powerful platform for creating and managing users, their roles & permissions. Commons extends those capabilities by providing rich personal profiles including profile picture, personal contact form and various user information fields (easily alterable by the administrator). Users have their own status stream, where they can publish status updates, links and pictures. Users can increase their exposure to other activities in a community by following other members. Commons also provides basic gamification mechanisms by introducing user points and badges. Users acquire points by publishing new content or commenting on existing one and can achieve badges (e.g. member, regular contributor, super contributor) depending on their achieved user points. Furthermore users can also be tagged, which facilitates the experts search. Commons provides a user listing with the ability to search for users by job title, location, tags or other filtering criteria.

Personal Information Management

Commons enables users to bookmark internal content and so maintaining a list of favorite articles or pages. Every user can maintain own personal blog or wiki.
Drupal Commons offers a personal dashboard for every user as well as the possibility to provide a dashboard for each group. The dashboard consists of various widgets, which can be easily reordered within the layout of the dashboard by drag and drop. The widgets can be selected from a widget pool and provide quick access to recent content from all subscribed groups, unread posts, upcoming events, as well as friend activity streams, friend listings etc.. Dashboard layout and widget pool are defined by the administrator. Further widgets can be easily developed.
Out of the box the platform provides a basic search across the whole site content or certain content types. Unfortunately the built-in Drupal search is very basic and does not satisfy the requirements of an enterprise search. The Drupal community overcomes this by integrating the open source enterprise search platform Apache Solr within Drupal. The integration provides faceted search functionality with possibility to filter the results by content type, tags, authors, publishing date, group etc. To simplify the Apache Solr integration Commons also offers the possibility to facilitate the subscription based Acquia Search Service- an even more optimized and functional hosted implementation of the Apache Solr integration. Acquia Search provides content recommendation functionality for related articles, search statistics, geospatial and cross-site search.

Project Management

Out of the box Commons doesn’t provide any project management functionalities. Thanks to the very flexible and modular structure of Drupal, a basic project management can be achieved by using Drupal’s custom content types and the views module to create project, task, ticket or other content types and then create listings of tasks as desired. These can be linked to Drupal’s sophisticated workflow and rules systems to go beyond simple listings if desired. Project management is also possible through project management modules from the Drupal community like Storm.

Drupal Commons - Technology and Product

Operational Flexibility

Drupal Commons is an open source distribution and has no license fees associated with it. Organizations can deploy Commons on their own servers in their own data center, do their own self-support and use Commons free of any cost. Compared to some other proprietary solutions Commons is fairly easy to deploy. Drupal Commons can be hosted as on-premise solution at your company server or as SaaS on the Acquia Cloud. As a PHP-based solution Commons supports Apache, Nginx and Microsoft IIS as a web server, MySQL or PostgreSQL for database server and all established operating systems (Linux, Unix, Windows). The architecture of the system is completely modular and developed by the huge Drupal community. Integration and interaction with other systems can be achieved by facilitating the services module. Drupal core modules are translated into more than 55 languages, while own translations for several additional modules might be necessary. Due to its flexible modular structure and thousands of contributed modules to extend the functionality, as well as its theming flexibility (template system based on HTML/CSS/PHP), customization and extensibility in Commons is much more powerful and easy in comparison to some other tools.

Customization & Extensibility

Drupal’s Theming layer can be used to add branding elements, make modifications in page layout, information architecture and presentational layer. Out of the box Commons provides several themes. Furthermore the Drupal community offers more than 190 contributed themes. Drupal presents the concept of sub-theming. Any theme can be used as a base theme and a starting point for a new theme (sub-theme), inheriting in that way all parent theme features. This can save a lot of time and resources when customizing the look and feel of the platform.
Beyond the ability to modify the UI, you can easily incorporate new functions by installing and configuring any of the over 5,000 add-on modules available for Drupal. If none of those modules meet your needs, you can leverage Drupal’s built-in extension points to write custom modules of your own. Custom modules work using Drupal’s APIs and hooks for intra-site functionality. Furthermore companies can use Drupal’s web service interfaces (from the build-in XML/RPC support through the capabilities given by the services module to direct SQL access) to link Drupal Commons with other sites or existing enterprise applications, business intelligence systems or custom databases. Many contributed modules provide further integration points introducing internal APIs, which can be used by custom modules to interact with those.
From users perspective customization is facilitated through the dashboard functionality and the ability to add new widgets.

Data & Security

Because of its extensive use across the Internet, the Drupal community has extended Drupal’s ability to leverage nearly any user authentication mechanism around. To support other authentication mechanisms, additional modules must be installed. For internal communities, Drupal supports the authentication against an LDAP-Server. For externally-facing communities Commons can utilize OpenID. Commons itself doesn’t provide backup or recovery functionality, but the Drupal community has a wide variety of backup/restore schemes available, as well as a community-wide set of knowledge about how to handle these aspects within the constraints of varying business requirements/tradeoffs. Archiving of content is also not supported. Commons offers a revision control for textual content, but no versioning for files. Publishing workflows are possible through the installation of additional module.
The permission model of Commons is role-based, meaning that permissions are defined per role and roles are assigned to users. Since the architecture of Drupal is completely modular, each module specifies the possible permissions for its range. Groups introduce additional access control layer with the definition of private groups and membership management possibilities. Unfortunately the permission management within groups is not granular enough.

Vendor Position

In year 2012 Acquia was ranked as the No.1 Software Vendor and as the No.8 overall of the 500 fastest growing private companies in the US in the 31st annual Inc. report. Drupal Commons is Acquia’s open source alternative to proprietary social business software and is therefore more cost effective than the solutions of proprietary vendors. Commons is entirely based on Drupal and inherits its fully modular and open architecture, making the solution flexible and highly customizable. Drupal has a large and still growing developer community, which develops and maintains the thousands additionally available modules. Drupal Commons is relatively new in the social software field, but has already been successfully deployed for external as well as internal communities for customers like Twitter, Mercedes-Benz and eBay.
The current version of Drupal Commons 2.x is based on Drupal 6. The new version of Commons 3.x, expected earlier this year, will be based on Drupal 7 and introduce much more flexible and granular permission control within groups, better mobile support with responsive design out-of-the-box, optimized layout adjustment, recommendations for interesting/active content, spam moderation etc.

Support & Service

Drupal has extensive online documentations and a powerful issue queue/ticketing system. In addition Acquia offers free webinars, white papers and case studies. The large Drupal community of thousands of members helps with the support of core and contributed modules. For enterprise customers Acquia offers a paid support subscription (Acquia Network Enterprise Subscription Level) which includes 24x7 support by phone, tickets or e-mail, optional hosting in the Acquia Cloud and access to the Acquia knowledge database.

2 comments for “Drupal Commons 2.12”

  1. New: Evaluation of Drupal Commons 2.3 | on 22. December 2011 12:36

    [...] have a new member in the matrix! Drupal Commons was a long term member in our rising vendors section. Due to Drupals progress in market penetration [...]

  2. juliangb on 8. October 2013 16:06

    I notice the Storm module being mentioned in the “Project Management” section above.

    Drupal Commons is now based on the latest version 7 of Drupal.

    For Drupal 7, the Storm module has been replaced by the module “Project Management”.

    Downloadable from .

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