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You Could Slash Your School's Website Budget in Half

If your school district is using a proprietary school content management system with large recurring fees each month, there is a better way. School districts across the country are migrating away from proprietary and expensive content management systems and choosing free open source based content management systems to power their district's online presence.

The School District of Newark New Jersey has over 40,000 students and 75 websites. According to their Sr. Manager of Website Technology, Cameron Barrett, when Newark Public Schools migrated away from a proprietary school website system vendor they were able to cut their yearly recurring costs from $59,000 per year to $7,200.00 per year.

The Janesville School District in Janesville, Wisconsin has over 10,000 students and 27 school websites they maintain. In 2009, Foremost Media helped migrate the School District of Janesville to an open source content management system and trained district staff on how to maintain the site moving forward. Janesville is still using open source today with the newest mobile friendly revision launched in the spring of 2015.

With open source code base, your district no longer has to pay high fees for the right to use proprietary software or even higher fees to pay that same vendor to write custom code for their software. You will also be able to choose from a large pool of qualified developers that work on open source software to help design and build out any custom functionality your site might need. This competition between developers, combined with free open source content management systems code base, can save your school a considerable amount of money. Open source software can also be hosted on a wide variety of servers creating competition and savings on the yearly recurring fees needed to keep your site active online.

What Is Open Source?

Generically, open source refers to a program in which the source code is available to the general public for use and/or modification from the original design free of charge. Open source content management software is website management software that is available for use and modification by anyone. With open source software your district has full access to the source code (the code behind the website) and can freely modify and change how the program works on their own or hire out specific tasks to any developer they choose to use. Proprietary software programs on the other hand, typically require you to pay a licensing fee to use the software and additional fees for source code customization directly to the company that owns the software. Modifications and updates on proprietary software are often expensive since there is no competition between companies to keep the price low. Open source software gives your district complete control over who can modify the code and where the site is hosted.

What Open Source Website Software Should I Use for My School?

There are many different open source content management systems available to schools these days. WordPress is a popular choice for many webmasters and we have built many sites in that platform. For schools wishing to delegate website maintenance to many different school staff members we highly recommend the DNN platform. DNN, or DotNetNuke, allows site administrators to set up editing permissions to individual users on entire sections of the site or even just parts of a specific page.

My School District Doesn't Have a Full Time Web Developer. Can We Still Use Open Source Software and Save Money?

Over 50% of websites online today are powered by open source content management systems. What that means for your district is there are lots of developers out there that can help you with everything from migration to customization. Lots of competition between developers also means better pricing for your district when hiring a web development company to help you move from a proprietary content management system (CMS) to an Open Source CMS.

Choosing the Right Content Management System.

The first step is choosing the CMS you wish to use for your district's website. As mentioned above, here at Foremost Media we have had great success with the DNN, or DotNetNuke, community edition platform for school district websites. We have also developed several great low cost modules specifically for schools. One module displays all of your different Google-based school calendars in one location and allows the user to sort by school or event. The module also allows school admins to easily update the website by just updating their respective calendar. Another great module for schools is our staff directory module, which sorts by school building and subject and is easy to maintain without technical knowledge. Other alternatives to DNN would be WordPress or Umbraco. All three of these platforms are very mainstream which means there are many developers who can help you work on them and there are also a lot of places you can host them. Competition is good as it keeps your costs low.

Still Have Questions?

Like the Home Depot slogan suggests, "You Can Do It, We Can Help."

Here at Foremost Media, we have a proven track record of helping schools save money by migrating away from proprietary school website systems to a lower cost open source platform. Feel free to give us a call with your questions, or needs, today and let's start a conversation. Call Jon Ballard at 608-314-2050.