CATEGORY: Portals

REVIEWER: Tony Middlebrooks, president of M2 Web Solutions.

BACKGROUND: M2 Web Solutions (M2), based in Conyers, Georgia, defines and creates business models and methodologies for clients in a variety of markets by industry vertical. M2's business strategy is to resolve its clients' business process challenges through the use of technology without large capital expenditures. With M2, clients are offered an assortment of Web-based products and services that are cost-effective and easily customized and deployed.

PLATFORMS: M2 is a Microsoft- based development shop and currently uses a Microsoft NT platform and a SQL database server for the company's technology needs.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Increasingly, clients approached M2 about creating Web portals. Although the specific needs varied by company, most had a strong desire to get these portal sites up and running quickly and at a reasonable price. To meet high client demand, M2 began researching Web management solutions with a plan to purchase a solution relatively quickly. After conducting research on a variety of products, we discovered a new Web management/rapid application development product, Octane8, which is manufactured by Octigon, LLC. M2 wanted a Web management solution where it could control the code base and was looking for a flexible product that could be modified to fit the wide range of vertical markets. In addition, the product had to run on a Microsoft Windows NT platform. After comparing Octane8 to other solutions, we decided that Octane8 was the solution that best fit our long-term strategy. M2 chose Octane8 not only for its initial performance, but because of a clear result after performing a cost/benefit analysis relative to other content management products. Other comparablypriced solutions on the market either did not have the customization capabilities or only possessed additional customization features at a significantly higher price. In addition, the ramp-up time for other products was much longer.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: M2 began using Octane8 in late 2001. Although Octigon offers implementation assistance, we decided to implement the product ourselves. The implementation process was straightforward for our seasoned Web development team. In fact, we were fully functional ahead of schedule. This ease is a true testament to the strength and quality of the product. While other products on the market may have taken months to deploy, Octane8 was ready in a matter of days. This literally enabled us to start building portals for clients immediately.

STRENGTHS: Octane8's greatest strengths are its flexibility and ease of use. Octane8 did not require months of training; and the quick implementation meant M2 was building portals sooner and serving more clients immediately. We were able to realize a return on our investment (ROI) sooner than other products. Because Octane8 runs on a standard Web browser, M2 can now build and manage portal sites from anywhere, and the instant publishing function allows us to spend more time focusing on mission-critical IT issues. The product is customizable so we can make the sites as complex or as simple as desired.

WEAKNESSES: Octane8's weakness, from an architecture standpoint, is its inability to integrate a Web site builder application more efficiently. M2 has a Web site builder application, but it cannot run on Octane8 due to the platform's rigid directory structure. Another hopefully temporary weakness is the necessity to customize certain code and provide a virtual duplicate site in order to run on alternate browsers such as Netscape.

SELECTION CRITERIA: In addition to Octigon's Octane8, M2 researched other products from well-known vendors but determined Octane8 was superior because it has a code base that can be controlled, offers a quick start-up that requires minimal training and was by far the most cost-effective. In addition, Octigon's staff was knowledgeable and provided personalized service.

DELIVERABLES: Octane8 allows us to build portals at a rapid pace. The greatest savings have been in employee productivity. In addition, Octane8 has allowed M2 to expand its menu of service offerings, allowing us to diversify our customer base.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Although Octigon is small, they are highly professional and take the time required for support of their clients. We look forward to continuing our work with them as we upgrade to the next version of the product.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation provided to us by Octigon was clear, detailed and concise. It was easy to understand, and this saved us from many headaches and typical installation problems during the deployment.

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