If you’re an Ektron user, by now you’ve realized that the sky has not fallen, your website still functions, and if you call up Ektron, someone still answers the phone. While there are plenty of people out there warning of the urgency to switch platforms or find a new partner to help you avert a looming disaster, most of these folks have an agenda. They want your business. Fair enough. It’s a free market, and searching for a sales opportunity is perfectly acceptable and expected. But when it’s your site and your investment, it’s important to separate reality from speculation and facts from sales hype before making any long term decisions.
Here is where things stand today: the merger between Ektron and EPiServer is essentially complete. They are still in the get-to-know-you phase of bringing the two halves of the company together, but both platforms continue to be supported, and clients have been largely unaffected. While the dual-product line support will continue for some time, the engineering team is hard at work creating a next generation product called the Digital Experience Cloud. This will, at its core, be a combination of the best features of both Ektron and EPiServer, but with more functionality and a broader embrace of true digital marketing and digital commerce. Although the name Digital Experience Cloud implies a cloud-based deployment, the strategy is a cloud first approach with continued support for on-premises installations.
As this vision comes closer to reality, all current Ektron users are faced with four options: 1) Do nothing, 2) Migrate to EPiServer now, 3) Migrate to the Digital Experience Cloud when it’s ready, or 4) Find another platform altogether. Let’s look at these options and our recommendations for what to do if you’re considering any of them:
The simplest option at this point is to continue using Ektron. While the product will no longer receive version updates, any current installations should theoretically continue to function for years. While this option is definitely feasible for at least the next year or two, beyond that, too many other variables will come into play that make continued operation inadvisable, if not impossible. Security vulnerabilities will emerge, server technology will evolve, hidden bugs will be uncovered, and the lack of support will eventually render the platform unable to adapt, ultimately causing it to cease to function. But in reality, doing nothing and staying with the status quo is never a good digital strategy, no matter what the situation is. The pace of technological change is quick, and failure to keep up means you and your digital strategy will be left behind.
Our recommendation: Doing nothing is OK in the short term, but only to buy some time before deciding on next steps.
Migrate to EPiServer Now
If you’re currently on Ektron and weighing your options, migrating to EPiServer now can be an effective intermediate step in building a robust, long term digital marketing strategy. Beyond basic content management, where Ektron and EPiServer have more similarities than differences, EPiServer has a more mature and comprehensive digital marketing approach, including content personalization, deep analytics, SEO tools, and marketing automation integration. This approach is the foundation of the development of the Digital Experience Cloud. Migrating to EPiServer today will put you further along the path of true digital marketing and allow you to quickly take advantage of the enhancements and new features that will be unveiled in the future release.
If you had been planning on migrating to EPiServer before the merger, it’s still a good idea to continue moving forward. If your digital strategy was built around leveraging EPiServer, there is no reason to put that on hold while the development of a new platform is underway, especially when its release is optimistically a year away. Your users and your business will keep moving forward, so there’s no reason why you’d want to freeze your digital strategy and growth potential awaiting an uncertain delivery date.
But regardless of where you are in the decision making process, when the new Digital Experience Cloud is released next year, the word is that current EPiServer users will find the platform quite familiar and will have an easier time transitioning their sites. The core technology will heavily leverage existing EPiServer functionality, making an EPiServer to Digital Experience Cloud migration feel more like an upgrade rather than a rebuild.
Our recommendation: If you had been considering a switch from Ektron already, or if you think you will undertake a major digital strategy overhaul in the next 12 to 24 months, switching to EPiServer now is a good intermediate move.
Wait and Migrate Directly to the Digital Experience Cloud Next Year
If you had no plans (or budget) for a large scale re-platforming project this year but are interested in the benefits of a robust digital marketing ecosystem that the Digital Experience Cloud will provide, waiting until the release next year and migrating your Ektron site directly is a perfectly fine option. The interim time can be spend building your strategy and understanding your users and the key performance indicators that will define your success. A successful digital marketing strategy should be well thought out and must go beyond the implementation of systems. It should include an evaluation of your organization’s culture and how well prepared you are to support a modern digital marketing strategy, one that emphasizes creating quality content, looking at analytics, and understanding your users’ individual needs and habits.
Our recommendation: If you’re all-in for digital marketing, but don’t have the budget or internal support to make an intermediate jump worthwhile, it’s a good move to wait for the release of the Digital Experience Cloud and focus on preparation in the meantime.
The trajectory of Ektron over the past several years has seen a steady increase in functionality, flexibility, and cost. What was once a fairly straightforward, inexpensive platform focused on creating and managing content evolved into a digital marketing suite of tools geared more toward the enterprise market and not small to mid-size organizations with more limited needs and budget. For some Ektron users, the platform has simply outgrown their needs, and migrating to the even more robust EPiServer or Digital Experience Cloud doesn’t make a lot of sense or just isn’t feasible. For these types of websites, a move to an open source platform makes the most sense. A platform such as WordPress can provide all the basic content editing and management functionality of Ektron’s core product, as well as a foundation for a limited digital marketing strategy. Keep in mind that while WordPress itself is free, there are costs for implementation as well as any customization or integration of third party components necessary for more advanced functionality. There are many other open source platforms available that are comparable to WordPress, but none are as widely used or have the vast options and flexibility that WordPress provides.
Our recommendation: For smaller informational websites where cost is a limiting factor and a robust digital marketing toolset is unnecessary, WordPress is a good solution.
A Final Thought
The options above are simply our platform recommendations, but they are by no means the only options available. As a partner of both Ektron and EPiServer, we understand and appreciate the value that both platforms have provided to their users, and we eagerly anticipate what’s to come with the Digital Experience Cloud. However, our job is to provide digital solutions to our clients that meet the needs of their audiences and deliver measurable results. In the end, whatever platform you choose is only as good as the implementation and the strategy behind it. That is where our partnership comes into play. We will listen to your needs and concerns and work collaboratively to create the best possible digital experience, regardless of what tools are selected to do the job. The uncertainty and confusion caused by the Ektron/EPiServer merger has led to a feeding frenzy of other CMS platforms and digital agencies all vying for your attention and your business. Our goal is help you differentiate the chatter from reality and stay focused on building the right solutions to meet your goals.
If you’re still trying to decide how to proceed with your online strategy, please contact us to speak with a Solutions Engineer, and we can give your more information about your options and work with you to determine how to get the best ROI for your website. If you have any other questions about the future of Ektron, EPiServer, or the Digital Experience Cloud, please feel free to leave a comment below.