Wednesday, January 6, 2016 - 9:40am

Adoption of the Drupal Content Management System for websites continues to expand at the UI, and getting diverse units onto the same technology yields a host of benefits: cost savings, enhanced security, greater expertise, and sharing of custom-developed modules.

Many units have used Drupal for years, including the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Nursing, Dentistry, Grad College, Information Technology Services (ITS), and several others. Several more recently announced plans to move from existing systems to Drupal: the Tippie College of Business, College of Education, and UI healthcare (UI Hospitals and Clinics and the College of Medicine).

“One advantage of a consistent platform is increased depth and breadth of knowledge with regard to best practices in development and maintenance,” says Romy Bolton, an IT director who oversees the Web Services unit in ITS. “Another, arguably more valuable benefit, is the potential for us to share custom UI modules to add functionality.”

A good example of a Drupal module developed locally and currently used in ITS and potentially widely across campus is an integration with the campus maps. This module allows the customized UI campus maps used at http://maps.uiowa.edu to be included for websites to show locations of buildings.

The move to Drupal saves the UI money in a couple of ways. Because Drupal is open-source software created by a community of Web developers, there are no licensing fees. Additionally, the UI recently decided to move its Drupal site hosting to a cloud-based provider, Acquia. Hosting in the cloud, rather than on campus, cuts down hardware and software maintenance costs.

Decreased security risk is also an incentive. Acquia handles behind-the-scenes security maintenance and patching for sites it hosts. With a team of experts dedicated to the infrastructure behind the sites, they are well equipped to prevent threats, and can quickly detect/combat a cyber attack.

To facilitate the move of UI Healthcare, Education, and Business, Acquia held a weeklong jumpstart training in early December to assist developers with planning and executing a new Web presence in Drupal. In addition, ITS is partnering with each group to help with architecture design, automated content migration, and development practices.