Hannon Hill Cascade Server for Content Management

Hannon Hill has grown its content management application over the years so that today’s solution targets midsized organizations with a depth of functionality at an accommodating price point. Hannon Hill’s Cascade Server is frequently adopted within higher-education institutions (roughly 80 percent of its clients) but Hannon Hill has also maintained a focus on the public sector, health care, technology, and publishing industries.

This post will introduce you to Hannon Hill’s Cascade Server offering and some of the company’s initiatives. You can evaluate the product in-depth against your organization’s priorities using the TEC Advisor evaluation system or by reviewing one of our reports. We’re currently providing information on the recent release of Cascade Server based on our model of web content management (WCM) research, and we will have new data based on our model enterprise content management (ECM) research shortly. To evaluate Cascade Server for WCM in TEC Advisor, click here.

The graph below shows a high-level overview of where Cascade Server fulfills a level of functionality as identified in the TEC model of WCM systems. Obviously, the solution provides a lot of functionality for content authoring and acquisition, and the like. Functionality such as personalization management for visitors to a Web site is not a main focus for this product, as Hannon Hill integrates with other applications for that type of functionality.

Hannon Hill Cascade Server for Web Content Management

The soon-to-be released version of Cascade Server improves its focus on content portability. Organizations that need to make use of multiple instances of Cascade Server can easily provision out new sites based on the existing site.

One of the other newer developments (as of roughly a half year) that Hannon Hill offers is Cascade Server in a hosted environment. Hannon Hill’s clients now have the flexibility to use Cascade Server under either on premise or hosted delivery options. Vendors in the content management space increasingly offer hosting or software-as-a-service (SaaS) options. A few products are delivered purely in this manner. While it’s no longer surprising to see vendors offer hosted options alongside their on-premise options, it’s something that not every vendor will provide.

As you’d expect with a hosted service, Hannon Hill covers the installation and setup, upgrades, maintenance releases, and regular backups. The company limits neither the number of sites that can be managed through the hosted option nor the number of users. The monthly hosting fees can increase in certain cases where clients need to store larger quantities of data. Like any hosted or SaaS decision, there will be some trade-offs in cost from the on-premise version. For some environments, an on-premise implementation, though presenting a higher upfront cost, will be more advantageous over the long term. For other situations, the ongoing maintenance of the system and infrastructure that is mitigated by the hosted option will be a more attractive value.

Some WCM vendors have been integrating more features to assist online marketing activities with their products, while others prefer to keep these distinct. Hannon Hill took the distinct path and developed a service called Spectate, which is available bundled for its Cascade Server clients. Spectate provides stats and analytics tools to get insight on where traffic comes from, keywords, visitor profiling, prospect nurturing, e-mail marketing follow-ups, and related features. Some of the Spectate functionality will become more integrated within the upcoming version 7 of Cascade Server. For example, Hannon Hill is making it possible for users to easily insert forms from Spectate into content within Cascade Server’s editing panel. This functionality works on Cascade Server’s connector interface, which is what Cascade Server uses to add other third-party functionality to the CMS.

In the higher-education market, Hannon Hill has spread itself throughout the United States, much of Canada, and is working to expand these borders. In recent years, this has been a bit of a struggle as the recession (in the US particularly) has really impacted university budgets. Even as Hannon Hill finds itself competing with companies such as Terminal 4 or Ingeniux in this market, it has managed to continue expanding.

Cascade Server has never been at the high end of the cost spectrum for the content management market. Hannon Hill’s pricing strategy has evolved somewhat over the years to one of the relatively simple models, repeated among a number of CMS vendors. Rather than base its on-premise licensing costs on number of users, quantity of content, or number of sites, clients pay a license fee based on the number of servers running the system. I’d expect that this is probably attractive to organizations concerned more with the quantity of content and users than with server loads. Additionally, at the time of this writing, Hannon Hill’s annual maintenance fees run at an unsurprising 20% of the license.

Hannon Hill does some nice things to inform its clients with practical know-how. The company hosts a series of instructive webinars on its site that go in depth into how particular clients completed projects with Cascade Server. For example, recent webinars featured the College of William and Mary on how it developed responsive Web design for its home page; and the University of New Brunswick’s project to provide visitors to its site with a more intuitive, direct experience for obtaining information about its programs.

These webinars let developers, designers, and business users get a good idea of how to make use of the product based on actual projects. Hannon Hill has a significant quantity of these client-led webinar tutorials. I’d say that these are not only a useful resource to the vendor’s community, but also could be reviewed by anyone evaluating the product for additional insight during the selection process. If you’d like to evaluate TEC’s current research on Cascade Server in the WCM space, click here.
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