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Rice U Powers Web Site Development with Ektron

Rice University is launching Internet and intranet sites at the pace of three a week, the Houston institution said this week. To develop many of those sites, the 5,000-student university has become a big proponent of Ektron, a company that sells an enterprise Web and digital content management application.

Most of the Rice sites are developed by Web Services, a campus service provider within the university's IT division specifically dedicated to design, Web, and development work.

The group's services include handling Web-oriented work, including design, technology product selection, Web hosting, podcasting, events management, database services, documentation and training, and other functions. It uses a cost-recovery model, typically billed at $80 per hour to cover expenses related to the projects it undertakes for university clients.

The school began using Ektron's products in 1998, just shortly after the company launched. Currently, it has 400 active installations and 1,500 users acting as content providers.

According to Jeff Frey, assistant director of technology solutions, Ektron products have been used in 200 external production sites and more than 200 internal sites. That use "gives us predictable project management, speeds up training, allows easier code sharing and review, and provides a consistent and flexible user experience," he said. "We're launching Ektron-related projects at enterprise-scale, an average of three a week."

"We use Ektron more like an application development platform. It's something that we can link into, something we can build on with our own code, .NET user controls, and SQL Server hooks," noted Frey.

Although Frey said Rice hasn't upgraded through every release of Ektron's software, it's currently running the latest, CMS400.net version 8.6, released in June 2012. The company offers modules for ecommerce, mobile, and others, Frey added. "We are really only using their core system, and since we have so many good developers here, modifying and adding code in and around the system to be able to customize it the way we want."

Frey pointed to the use of Ektron in development of the site for the George R. Brown School of Engineering, which has 22 sub-sites, each sharing content as needed, some material left untouched and some modified for specific purposes. Other Ektron-based sites integrate e-commerce aspects or have completely unique looks and avoid Rice branding altogether. The university's Recreation and Wellness Center site is one of the most recent, launched in March 2012.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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