The biggest step in creating an in-house blog is deciding how you'll use it. But once you're over that hurdle, you've still got to wade through all the available options to find a technology platform that's right for your business. Should you license software and run it in house, or sign up for a hosted service? Is open-source software the way to go or would proprietary tools be a safer choice?
What to consider
The right answer will depend on an individual company's needs and desires, according to social-media industry experts. When evaluating blogging software, small and mid-sized businesses need to consider their budget, in-house technical skills, how much use a blog will get and how large it could grow, says Paul Gillin a new media consultant and author of The New Influencers. In addition, Gillin and other industry experts suggest that companies consider:
- Location -- The biggest decision a company has to make is whether to host a blog in-house or use a Web-based service. There's nothing inherently better about running blog software in-house, it's more a question of corporate policy, the type of information that'll appear on the blog, and whether a company has employees who can maintain the hardware and software, according to Anil Dash, vice president of evangelism for Six Apart, maker of Moveable Typeand TypePad blogging software. 'It really has to do with your desire for control,' he says.
- Portability -- The day may come when a company wants or needs to switch vendors, so make sure you create can be easily exported to a new platform, says Lee Huang, head of the New York City chapter of the Internet Strategy Forum and former digital strategy director at Nielsen Business Media.
- Customization -- If you opt for a hosted service, find out how much you can customize it to suit your special needs and if additional plug-in functions are available.
- Vendor expertise -- The biggest vendors of blogging software aren't necessarily the ones with the most experience, according to the experts. Evaluate vendors by looking at their track record, customer base, support from developers, and the type of training and support that's available directly or through developers and other users.
- Simplicity -- 'Any kind of technology gets left behind if people find it too hard to use,' says Dash, of Six Apart.
SIDEBAR: Blogging Software Vendors
Blog technology comes in as many flavors as ice cream. Some of the better known technology providers are:
- WordPress -- This free, open-source blogging software from WordPress.org can be hosted on any computer server running PHP version 4.2 or later or MySQL version 4.0 or later. WordPress.com is a website that hosts free blogs written in WordPress.
- Blogger -- The latest version of the free, Web-based blog service fromGoogle supports multiple authors, allowing for group blogs.
- Movable Type and TypePad -- Movable Type is Six Apart's blog publishing platform. Prices for the MT Enterprise Solution start at $295 for a five-user license. In December 2007, SixApart introduced the beta version of a free, open-source version of Movable Type called MTOS 4.1. TypePad is Six Apart's free, Web-based blog service that's based on Movable Type's publishing platform.
- Joomla -- Version 1.5 of this free, open-source content management system (CMS) debuted in January and includes blog software along with forums and chat software and many other features.
- b2evolution -- This free, open source CMS supports multiple blogs, news feeds and other social-media features, and runs on Web servers with PHP and MySQL.
- Roller -- Version 4.0 of this Java-based, open-source blog software from Apache Software Foundation debuted in December 2007 and includes upgrades such as custom blog themes.
- Blogtronix -- This enterprise-level integrated social media platform can be used to create text, audio and video blogs, plus wikis, RSS, and networked communities on Microsoft's .Net 2.0 platform. Blogtronix offers a free 25-user Express version with limited functions and paid support, and a 30-day free trial of its complete enterprise platform.
- SuiteTwo -- Another social-media platform bundle that includes technology for blogs, wikis and other applications from Intel, SpikeSource, Simplefeed, Moveable Type, and others. Prices for software only or a hosted version start at $990, and for a hardware/software suite at $2,495 for a 10-user license.