Making the case for using drupal as a university-wide content management system

kim-day's picture

The university I work for (approx. 12,000 students) is currently evaluating web CMS's to replace an older, cutom-built CMS in use across campus. Use of this new CMS would be supported and available for anyone at the university but not mandatory. I am a developer in the School of Medicine where in the past year we have rolled out over 20 drupal sites and have become enthusiastic drupal evangelists in the process. As a member of the campus-wide committee that is evaluating various CMS's, I would like to make a good case for adopting drupal as our new university-wide CMS.

I've been asked to find someone to present to the committee on how drupal could be implemented on this scale at our university. We already have Acquia scheduled to present but the committee would like to hear from another university that has implemented drupal in this way.

Contact me or respond to this post if you have suggestions or ideas.


Oregon State University

gchaix's picture

The majority of Oregon State University's web presence is running Drupal. For example:

While I was not personally involved with the decision or rollout by our Central Web Services team, some of us at the Open Source Lab here have helped them out with it from time to time. What sort of information are you looking for?


Thanks Greg

kim-day's picture

I appreciate the info. We're currently investigating the CMS options and need someone to present to the committee on how drupal could be implemented here and address some of the infrastructure / architecture concerns around whether drupal would be a viable option for what we need. For instance, we have vendors coming to present/demo their products, so for drupal (since it's open source), how do we find an expert to make the case for whether drupal could be rolled out here university-wide? I realize Acquia may be the best answer but I know from experience that Acquia has a hefty price tag and don't want drupal ruled out for that reason either.

University of California, Merced

redndahead's picture

We have most of our websites using drupal. We have approximately 98 sites and more on the way. We moved from a custom cms also and will be happy to give you any information you would like.


kim-day's picture

I definitely want to know more about your setup.

Here is a quick run down

redndahead's picture
  • Multisite setup with no shared tables
  • CAS for authentication
  • Custom script that creates new sites. My shell command looks like -n dbname "Site Name" "user1|user2|user3"
  • Everyone shares a common set of modules. Which I add on to as I feel is needed. I mainly work with them to add features and not modules.
  • Users mostly maintain their site with content, theme choice, block layout, menus, etc. Most everything else I've found it to be too difficult for them to grasp in the time I have to teach them.
  • Unless they have worked with us to add a custom theme they have a choice of 3 themes. I have heavily added features to the theme settings page so they can customize almost any color, add header images, or even add a custom css file. They have been happy with this, but sometimes the feel of freedom makes them want to be able to customize the littlest detail. I usually just point them to be able to add a custom css file.
  • The multisite installation is maintained by me. I have one coworker who works on designing templates when a client wants a custom template. This works out to about 10% of her time. Communications helps people with their content. I would suggest having at least 2 people to work on this if you are going to have a significant number of sites. You'll quickly find out there are a significant number of sites that can use custom content types and views. Another person that can help with those items with clients would be a great help for me. Every time I do one it is a big win for the customer.
  • I have a large collection of tutorials that I have written in the advanced_help format. I'm happy that I did this before launch. This has really reduced the number of support calls/emails. I would suggest doing it before launch of any big project like this.

I'm just finishing a large project and the next thing I'll be looking at implementing is Aegir. Hopefully that will help me with the deployment/upgrade process.

If you have any other questions feel free to ask. You can also email me at amoore5 at ucmerced dot edu

Almost the same workflow but

btopro's picture

Almost the same workflow but I have a module /console that performs those tasks that he's doing via a shell script. This way I can delegate even that part out to others to do things like setup their own sites. We never make a new site, we always clone off of another database so we have about 4 other people capable (permissions wise) of cloning off new sites so they always just make one based on one that they like.

"Plaguing the world with Drupal; One Plone, Moodle, Wordpress, Joomla user at a time since 2005." ~ btopro

@redndahead 98 sites? I

kepford's picture

@redndahead 98 sites? I thought UC Merced had 9 sites. Wow!

100 sites now

redndahead's picture


We're not a centralized

btopro's picture

We're not a centralized university roll out but clusters based off our formula are popping up around campus (PSU's a bit big for a full central roll out of many CMS's let alone Drupal). Our infrastructure currently has one implementation running at our college that has about 30 sites on it and another college on campus (using our architecture setup) had 50 10 months ago so they're probably closer to 75+ now.

We're also setup in a Virtual Hosting environment so we never run into issues of scale going forward and there are no backup / redundancy issues. You may also want to contact ASU because they are doing something similar where people can log into a console and opt-in for a Drupal site and have one created for them.

Want to talk more just drop me an IM

"Plaguing the world with Drupal; One Plone, Moodle, Wordpress, Joomla user at a time since 2005." ~ btopro

Thanks for all the good info!!!

kim-day's picture

It sounds like redndahead's system is very similar to what I have currently at the School of Med. I'm glad to hear that it is scaling fine. I don't have the custom script to create new sites yet but I've thought about how I would implement that (hope to use Aegir soon). Thanks for the tip about using Advanced Help for the tutorials, that's a great idea.

@btopro - you mentioned ASU as another university using drupal, is that Arizona State University? Does anyone here know any of the drupal developers there? I'd love to know more about exactly how their setup is architected.

Arizona State U is correct,

btopro's picture

Arizona State U is correct, I have a few contacts there. Jeff Beeman is the first person I talked to from there (he was at Drupalcon DC and talked about it a little bit in our BoF). Here's his username --

Have only seen some of what they're doing at a high level but I also want to go out there and talk consortium / architectures at some point cause everything looks pretty impressive to me thus far.

"Plaguing the world with Drupal; One Plone, Moodle, Wordpress, Joomla user at a time since 2005." ~ btopro

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