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San Francisco State University moves to Drupal

What is a website? For colleges and universities everywhere, a website is an opportunity to tell a story.

Thanks to this opportunity, schools depend on websites more than ever to deliver rich, engaging experiences. When looking for a CMS capable of delivering this experience, schools naturally look at Drupal. Today, about 30 percent of colleges and universities in the United States use Drupal to power their main .edu site.

It helps that Drupal has the flexibility to be used for any site a campus needs -- recruiting, admissions, development, general outreach and much more. In fact, at Acquia, we’re seeing schools begin to leverage Drupal for community and learning sites, but that’s a topic for another blog.

One school that has made the move to Drupal in a big way is San Francisco State University. What I’ve found most interesting is how the talented team there is leveraging Drupal’s multisite capabilities to make great strides in accessibility, reliability and site conversions.

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Here’s the conversation that I had with Joellen Fung, Senior Director of Strategic Technology at San Francisco State University about their recent shift to Drupal and Acquia.

Q: San Francisco State University is a large, public institution with strong graduate and engineering programs. What were the critical factors that helped SFSU determine that Drupal was the best CMS platform for its web needs?

A: There were many critical factors that helped San Francisco State choose Drupal for its CMS platform. Drupal provides templates with Accessibility Compliance, it follows security best practices and there’s a centralized web platform for web templating and future mobility support. Drupal will also allow us to easily provide changes to those web templates and mobility support. But the biggest part of Drupal that helps us is the fact that it’s open source with a large community and documentation database to support it. Because of this, the active Drupal community is helping us make the decision to adopt Drupal for other web projects.

Q: Can you provide a high level overview of some of SFSU's digital strategies and how is the migration to Drupal has helped the institution drive these strategies forward?

A: Success is measured by end user feedbacks. The majority of the site owners feel it’s easier to keep their websites up to date and accessible which is a success point for us. Because of this, we’re seeing an increase in the number of site conversions, site response and uptime.

Q: How is Acquia partnering with SFSU to support the institution's Drupal initiatives? What were the critical factors that led SFSU to partner with Acquia?

A: SFSU has experience hosting Drupal sites on campus. However, some of the factors that led SFSU to partner with Acquia are:

  • Expertise in Drupal hosting and support
  • Proactive monitoring as well as the ability to provide high availability and a scalable platform
  • Guaranteed maintenance of infrastructure and a high level of security
  • 24/7/365 support for critical issues

Q: Are there any lessons learned that you share for other schools that are embarking on - or considering - an open source web project on their campus?

A: Open source CMSs are great for websites. There are no license hassles and sites are relatively easier to maintain. However, if they aren’t set up right, they can result in huge efforts in end-user support. We also recommend other campuses to utilize Features (a Drupal module) to standardize content types, views and functionality across multiple sites to reduce maintenance and end-user support.

With the help of Acquia and Drupal, San Francisco State University is poised to deliver accessible, content-rich websites at scale while minimizing maintenance and operating costs.

That’s a story I can get behind.

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