Alfresco and ECM

Alfresco Team – do SMBs innovate?

jun 21 2011

Categories : Notes

Alfresco just released Alfresco Team It fills a gap between the unsupported Community edition and the for SMBs rather expensive fully supported Enterprise edition.
It is a release with lots of new features, you can read all about them on the team site. This is instead about the limitations put into this release.

As an open source company you always have to walk the fine line between just releasing everything for free and getting organisations to pay for your work and generate revenue. This is where Alfresco Team is important, small business customer now actually can pay for what they use, instead of just use the Community edition. But my initial reaction is that Alfresco has set the limits to tight, that it may not encourage a switch from Community to Team, and I will explain why.

The license is that you pay for the number of users. That is all fine, and the more users, the more you pay. But there is also a limit on the number of documents. From 10-100 users there is approximately 30000 docs, from 125-200 it is 60000. That limit should actually scale more linear, so the more users, the more documents. And it should start at a much higher number (if there should be a limit on number of documents at all). I can understand that the there is a cap so that servers do not get overloaded and generate for Alfresco costly support. But 30000 documents seems quite limited for even the smallest organisation.

But my biggest concern with the Alfresco Team release are the non existent possibility to customize. Jeff Potts recently published a post about With Commercial Open Source Innovation happens everywhere. It is all about how Forums, Open Issue tracker, Code contributions and more centered around Alfresco Community and Enterprise edition creates innovation. I mostly agree, but here is where Alfresco Team apparently do not fit. Because Alfresco has put a limit customizations you can make. To summarize, you can change css style sheets, and install dashlets, but that is pretty much it!

What, you cannot install a custom model with custom forms? Create a custom workflow? No, those are explicitly listed as no can do. And that is usually one of the first things you end up customizing. I guess this can be fixed by Alfresco by adding a built in content modeler and forms configurator, but still, if you can not have custom models in a content management system, why should i use Alfresco Team and not or Google Apps?

And you are not allowed to use the repository tier, or the Repository page in share. And not do any integration work “for a custom content-centric application”. So if you are an innovative SMB, dont go for Alfresco Team, use Community, because Team edition just don’t fit with being innovative, due to limits set by Alfresco.

I have run my business Loftux for about a year now, and worked with about ten different clients, all of them on Community. And I have helped them create many innovative things, things that would not be allowed in Alfresco Team. My hope was that I could now convert some of the to use Team, and since they are mostly small business, Enterprise is not an option. They will now remain on Community, as long as these way to hard limitations remain. Jeff Potts explains Alfresco view in a post on why they have put these limits: “It’s really about keeping support costs down due to the lower price point”. I think there must be other ways than putting such a hard limit on how you can use the Alfresco Team edition.

Maybe these limits are a non-issue, that I just meet the SMBs that wants customizations, and all the rest out there run out of the box installs. And understand me correctly, this is not a post about getting things for free. I get paid by my clients for customizations, I just wish I could still do that, and my clients will pay Alfresco for support. For now, if I recommend Alfresco Team, I will turn away my own business. And to answer this post topic, SMBs do innovate.