Since the early 2000s, Drupal has evolved from humble beginnings to being one of the most powerful and versatile open-source content management systems (CMS) in the world of web development.

That said, what is Drupal exactly? And how can it be used by enterprises?

To answer the question of what is drupal, let’s take a brief look at the history of this CMS.

What is Drupal? From message boards to global appeal

In the year 2000, Dries Buytaert, a young and visionary computer scientist, created a simple message board for his college dorm. This humble beginning laid the foundation for what would become one of the most influential content management systems in the digital world. In 2001, Buytaert decided to release the software behind the message board as an open-source project, a move that would prove pivotal. This decision opened the doors for developers around the world to contribute, expand, and enhance this platform. Over the years, the Drupal CMS has undergone continuous updates and improvements, each version bringing new features and capabilities. This journey of growth and adaptation has led to the current iteration, Drupal 10, which embodies the culmination of two decades of community-driven development. Each milestone in Drupal’s history reflects a commitment to open-source principles, collaboration, and the pursuit of a platform that can adapt to the ever-changing landscape of the internet.

With this knowledge, it’s easy to understand how the question “what is Drupal” is more complicated than a simple dictionary definition. Let’s try to boil down twenty plus years of development into a few sentences.

What is Drupal: Drupal is an open-source content management system (CMS), which stands as a pivotal tool in the web development landscape. It offers a robust platform for building and managing websites, ranging from personal blogs to large corporate portals.

What is Drupal used for and how is it used?

Drupal 10 (the latest version) is used for a wide range of web development projects. Drupal web development is known for Its flexibility and scalability, making it ideal for creating complex websites and applications, such as e-commerce platforms, social networking sites, intranets, and community portals. It is particularly favored for its ability to handle large volumes of content and high traffic, making it a go-to choice for enterprises, government entities, and universities. Moreover, Drupal’s strong security features and its ability to integrate with various third-party applications and services further broaden its use cases, catering to the needs of a diverse range of digital experiences.

**Drupal’s building blocks can be broken into the following: **

Nodes: The basic content units in Drupal. Themes: Define the visual appearance of a website. Modules: Extend functionality, similar to plugins in other CMSs.

At the heart of its functionality, Drupal 10 operates on a modular architecture, which is key to its high adaptability and versatility. This architecture is centered around ‘nodes,’ the fundamental content units in Drupal, which form the building blocks of the content structure on any site using Drupal web development. Complementing these are ‘themes,’ which are crucial in defining the visual appearance and aesthetic appeal of a website, allowing for a range of creative and brand-aligned designs. Additionally, Drupal’s ‘modules’ play a pivotal role in extending the platform’s functionality, akin to plugins in other content management systems. These modules enable users to add a variety of features and custom functionalities to their websites, making the Drupal CMS a highly customizable and flexible tool for web development.

This combination of nodes, themes, and modules makes Drupal 10 a powerful and efficient solution for creating and managing dynamic websites.

What is Drupal’s impact on enterprises?

A natural starting point in the discussion about Enterprise IT considerations at DOOR3 is the use of open-source solutions and how Drupal fits into the conversation.

Drupal for Enterprise

Based on its strong technical architecture, feature set and the strength of its developer community, DOOR3 recommends the Drupal CMS for enterprise design and development.

When placed in comparison with other popular content management systems, Drupal distinctly stands out, particularly for its adeptness in handling complex websites. Drupal web development is inherently suited for sites that require intricate structures and multifaceted content organization, making it a preferred choice for large-scale, content-heavy websites and applications. This is where a Drupal developer shines, as they can offer a level of depth and complexity in its customization capabilities that is often unmatched by its counterparts. This translates to unparalleled flexibility for a Drupal developer, allowing them to tailor the CMS to the specific needs and nuances of each project. Drupal’s robust framework supports a high degree of customization, from its core functionality to its extensible modules, empowering developers to craft bespoke solutions that go beyond the standard offerings of a typical CMS. This level of customization and suitability for complex site structures is what sets the Drupal CMS apart in the landscape of content management systems, catering to a niche that demands more than just out-of-the-box solutions.

Drupal’s open-source nature has enticed hundreds of thousands of Drupal developers to actively support the Drupal community by contributing, supporting and evolving thousands of modules, which consist of pre-developed code, to solve for any number of functionality needs across applications in the Drupal developer community. Where a company needs custom code, of course custom modules may be added to a Drupal web development solution. Open-source solutions relieve dependencies on edition upgrades and high-cost licensing fees. And again, Drupal is well supported and constantly evolving.

But what about other popular CMS platforms, like Wordpress?

Drupal vs Wordpress

When comparing Drupal vs WordPress, two of the most prominent content management systems (CMS), it’s important to recognize their distinct strengths and ideal use cases. WordPress, known for its user-friendly interface and ease of use, is a popular choice for bloggers, small businesses, and those new to web development. It offers a vast array of themes and plugins, allowing users to easily create and manage websites without needing extensive technical knowledge. On the other hand, Drupal, with its robust and flexible architecture, is better suited for complex, large-scale websites that require a high level of customization and scalability. While Drupal has a steeper learning curve in the Drupal vs Wordpress debate, it excels in handling intricate data structures and offers superior capabilities for user permission and access control, making it a preferred choice for enterprise-level websites and applications. The choice when discussing Drupal vs WordPress ultimately depends on the specific needs and skills of the user: WordPress serves those seeking simplicity and ease of use, while Drupal caters to those needing a more powerful and customizable platform for complex web development projects.

Drupal Features and Benefits

Some additional enterprise features and benefits include:

Dynamic Content Management - Drupal is able to support Enterprise Content Management with CMIS.

Multilingual “out of the box” for a global site – It is easy to install a multi-language module to your Drupal site to support not only content publishing across languages, but also multiple views of your application with multi-language navigation and unique content choices based on language or geography.

Enterprise Database Compatible - While Drupal is commonly used with MySQL, a database that can be scaled for enterprise use, it is also able to use any number of enterprise databases, such as an existing Enterprise ERP or CRM. Database integration into existing systems is also fairly straightforward leveraging Drupal web services, if you work with experienced developers that approach the platform correctly. It is also easy to integrate Single Sign-On and leverage OpenID for security.

What else can it do? Leverage geospatial data. Index file attachments. Provide faceted, Enterprise search. Broadcast content broadcasting using push notifications, RSS, email and SMS. Ease introduction of social media and community components, such as user logins and profiles as well as integration to social media platforms via API. Take advantage of multi-site capability to launch multiple brand sites on a common CMS. Create a quick, cross-platform mobile view. Create unique views / sites for different users in different languages.

Drupal’s open-source nature means that if someone has wanted to complete a specific task, there has probably been a plug-in developed for it. That being said, open-source isn’t always what a company is looking for.

What is Drupal’s downside?

I asked someone recently why he said his company would never consider open-source for its website, intranet, CMS or e-commerce solutions. The answer I got was surprising to me. He said it is reassuring for his company to know that if and when they ever need to call a software vendor to complain about a problem, they would be on the line to fix it (because of the expensive licensing arrangement and accompanying paperwork). He figured, since they paid a considerable sum for the license, someone would come and fix a problem if it occurred. Apparently in his mind, the bill that comes with licensing is reassurance that the software company behind the solution will provide support and carry the blame if something goes awry.

So then I asked, “Does that happen”? Do you get solutions, free from blame, and quick fixes from the vendor when things go wrong?” The answer was, of course, no. In truth, they could hire that vendor for costly hourly professional services to fix the problem, or hire outside consultants.

I had to ask why not take the cost-free license and find or build a team with the money saved in licensing costs, a team that is dedicated to your business? I guarantee you can get a lot from an internal support team or contract consultant in exchange for the savings in licensing fees. And that real person may even make you laugh one day or buy you a coffee. Who knows what the answer is – the point is, the Drupal CMS is worth consideration for enterprises.

DOOR3 has worked on a wide variety of Drupal solutions for the enterprise, ranging from an internal content management systems, to an advanced social networking communities, to B2B and B2C e-commerce and marketing sites. Enterprise companies using Drupal include Pfizer, Price Waterhouse Coopers, Thomson Reuters, Time Warner, Coty, Inc., Sony, Warner Brothers, AOL, Yahoo, Adobe, etc. Learn more about our Drupal development services!

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