Introducing Alfresco Content Management System — Personal Space for Document Management & Workflows
Content causes chaos when stored in multiple places — on laptops and USB sticks, in email, network drives, and across various file-sharing sites. These mismanagement of content drains business productivity and increase security risks. To prevent content loss and security breaches we have the need of installing a Content Management System (CMS) where all your significant data is stored in a centralized application.
Now when it comes to Content Management Systems, the most integral part is how the document is being stored in it and how easily can the user be able to retrieve data. Hierarchical design of the contents also plays a key role in managing your organization’s content. When thousands of content are uploaded to a CMS, an appropriate architecture should be there so that the user could be able to easily redirect to their content within the CMS.
When one speaks of content management on the internet, there are alot of CMS that are being used by multiple giants, among them is Alfresco CMS.
Alfresco is an open-source Content Management System that provides a complete application for an organization to store there content in a properly organized architecture. With Alfresco, you can manage content from anywhere, connect information with users everywhere and deliver apps to any device. Alfresco enables businesses to increase worker productivity, govern valuable information and deliver exceptional customer experiences.Alfresco can be installed on Windows and Linux operating systems. Alfresco also have a mobile app that is available on both Android and iOS platforms.
Lets look up to key features of Alfresco, which makes it worth it to be among the popular CMS on the internet right now.
Features of Alfresco:
Alfresco has multiple key features, which enables users to manage their content accordingly to their organizational document hierarchy. Lets look into the detail of the features of Alfresco.
When a user login to the Alfresco, user will be redirected to its own personal Dashboard where user will see multiple options and dashlets regarding to multiple functionalities. Default dashlets are already configured and displayed for the user, which displays basic information of the CMS related to the user, however the user can customize its own dashboard and set other dashlets realted to different features.
Now when I login from the Administrator’s credential into Alfresco, this is what my user dashboard will look like..
Alfresco has this amazing feature which enables users to create a separate personalize space inside the system.Lets suppose the user belongs to a Human Resource department of an organization and wants to store the department’s content in a separate personalized space for the HR department’s users.
Alfresco allows the user to create a separate site for your content, so this user will create a site with the name of “HR Site” and add respective members of the department to this site,now site’s users can upload all the departmental content in this site. Through this, it will be easier for the users to redirect through their concerned department sites and upload or find their content inside their site. All the content of the organization will be stored and organized accordingly with respect to its department. User can change Site’s visibility that either the site is Public or Private. Public sites will be visible to all the users in Alfresco and Private sites will be visible only to site members.Think of these sites like e a personal or private group on Facebook where all the content is uploaded and shared related to the group.
Folders and Roles & Permissions:
You can create or upload Folders inside the CMS. Every folder can be created or edited with detailed description and the user can also add custom tags to the folder. User can upload or create as many folders in the CMS.
User can assign permissions to folder that who can access these folders and what actions the user can perform inside these folders. Alfresco has default permission roles with their respective access rights. By default, Alfresco has four permissions role i-e Manager, Collaborator, Contributor & Consumer. Each role has its pre-defined access permissions. Users assigned with these roles can only perform actions which are allowed in these roles. A user with the role of Consumer cannot upload or delete a document since the role of contributor has read-only permissions and thats how every role has it own set of permissions in Alfresco. User can create a custom role with the help of an xml since Alfresco is open source. The permissions and actions for default roles can be seen below.
Content Preview and Details:
In Alfresco, user can preview uploaded content and see the details associated with it.
When a content is previewed there is a lot of relevant information displayed with it like the created/uploaded date of the content. date when the content was modified, Creator of the content, Modifier of the content (if some other user edited the content in CMS), Version History and the list of Workflows ran on that content. Now when you will scroll down to the webpage you will see the content details.
Alfresco enables users to version content. If the user want to update a content that is already stored in Alfresco,the user will click on the Uplaod New Version button and specify that if the change in the content is either major or minor and after that the user will upload the updated content.
Now the updated content will be overwritten to the old content with new version. All the version of the content are accessible. User also have the availability to download the old version of the content.
Alfresco has this amazing workflow architecture for users. Users can assign task to a different user or a group of users. Alfresco provides workflow in two separate ways, one is Form Based Workflows and other one is Folder Based Workflows.
Form Based Workflows are different forms of workflows. These workflows are mainly designed on the Activiti workflow engine in Eclipse. There are few types of user default workflows present in Alfresco, in which you can attach any content and also have the features like where you can set due date, priority of the workflow and much more.You can also create your custom workflow in Activiti workflow engine in Eclipse and install it in Alfresco.
Folder Based Workflows are triggered on folders.When a specific action is done in folder like some one created/uploaded,deleted or edited a content in a folder, a workflow will be triggered. User will have a Approve and Reject option in the content in the folder where workflow is triggered. On User’s approval the document will be moved to another folder to which the other user will have only access and than the other user will approve the content and so the content will move to another user’s folder. The movement of content on Approval and Rejection can be easily configured in Rules of the folder. That rule will trigger the workflow when a content is created/uploaded,edited or deleted in that folder.
Full Text Search:
Alfresco uses a separate engine for content indexing i-e Solr. What Solr does that it not just create indexes of every content, it create indexes of every single word in a content, which enables the users to do Full Text Search for their content in Alfresco. Lets suppose the user want to search contents with the word “candidate” in them, User will just type candidate in search bar & Alfresco will list all the contents with word “candidate” in them. Full Text Search is an amazing feature from Alfresco which helps in quick document retrieval when there are thousands of organizational contents stored in CMS.
Alfresco provides the availability of OCR (Optimal Character Recognition) in the CMS. The full text search feature only works for the text and word/excel files in the CMS but what happens when there are PDF files and images in the system and the user wants to search these PDF/images with just a word in them. To solve this problem, Alfresco has the feature of OCR although OCR is only available in Enterprise version of Alfresco but don’t worry, you can install your own OCR in the community version of Alfresco and it works just fine.However the working of the OCR in community version of Alfresco depends upon the quality of the scanned content in Alfresco. The better the quality of the scanned content, the higher the performance of OCR is.
Every Site in Alfresco has its own dashboard. User with Manager role in the site can customize Site’s Dashboard with default Dashlets present in the Alfresco. There are multiple dashlets that displays site details in their own creative and simple way like Site Activities dashlet in which all the site activities are audited and listed. The users can add their own Custom Dashlet in Alfresco if they want some other preferred data to be displayed in dashlet in their site. There are number of other efficient custom dashlets created by other users present on Alfresco forum and many of them are being used in Alfresco. The more accurate dashlets your site has, the more stats user will be able to view about the site.
Active Online Support and Community Forum:
Alfresco has this huge platform with millions of users connected on a single community platform known as Alfresco Hub. There a plenty of users that are actively contributing to to Alfresco since Alfresco is written in Java. Features regarding User Interface, Backend, Security and Architecture of the system are updated by the experts on the community forum. Moreover users can post different Alfresco issues they’re facing in the forum and the experts would help them fix their issue, every question posted in the forum is answered within hours.
Custom Reports & Other Packages:
Since Alfresco is open-source, Users can deploy custom reports and other packages with their concerned functionalities to CMS. A lot of Alfresco professionals and experts are uploading custom features and packages for the alfresco users on their community forum so that the users can get the most out of the system. Auditing and Reporting Packages are available for the representation of more detailed audit data present in the CMS. These features are updated in a form of plugin known as AMP and the users update these amps as “Add-ons”.
Regarding the matter of Security, Alfresco Governance Services provides the security models, audit trails and roles you need to protect business-critical content and records, and confidently demonstrate compliance, based on a rich security feature set developed throughout years of work with government and intelligence agencies. Every uploaded content and index is encrypted in the file system. Users cannot edit the content from the file system since the content is encrypted. Only the users registered by Alfresco Administrator can be signed in to the system. LDAP can also be integrated with Alfresco and all your LDAP users can be synced to Alfresco. After successful integration, users will be able to login to Alfresco from their LDAP credentials.
Organizations Using Alfresco:
Alfresco powers the daily work of more than 11 million people at industry-leading organizations in more than 190 countries worldwide.Alfresco helps more than 1,300 industry-leading organizations, including Cisco, Pitney Bowes, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, US Department of the Navy, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and NASA, be more responsive and competitive. There are number of Huge Companies related to IT Industry who became the partner of Alfresco in last year. Some of the giants of using Alfresco are shown below.
Alfresco proves to be a rock solid platform for all the publishing companies as well and is capable of catering all the problems associated with it. It not only automates the entire process but also helps to keep a record of all the changes so as to who and when was it done.Thus Alfresco proves to be the best Content Management System for an organization because it not just handles the Content Management needs for an organization but also handles the organizational document flow through its workflow architecture.
As per my experience using Alfresco, I deployed Alfresco in a production environment for a local organization with millions of documents that were managed and stored physically on a paper. Our team made them paperless and all their document flow and organizational document architecture was digitized on Alfresco. Alfresco had all the features that the company needed to become paperless. Alfresco being an open source tool , I was able to fulfill all my client requirements, some features were already available and some features were developed and deployed for them in Alfresco to fulfill their needs.
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