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What is DNN (DotNetNuke)?

Created in 2006, DotNetNuke (commonly called DNN) is an open-source content management system designed for the Microsoft web environment. Focused on simplicity, highly customizability, and third-party extensions, DNN is used to create and manage hundreds of thousands of sites across the Web.

DNN is self-described as the "leading open source web content management platform (CMS) in the Microsoft ecosystem"  

One of the most popular ways to handle website creation and content production on the web is to use a content management system (CMS). These applications are often template-based and focused on ease of use, giving you the tools you need to create and customize a professional website quickly.

If your site is hosted on a Windows server, you may want to take a look at a free, open-source CMS application known as DotNetNuke (DNN). Unlike many other CMS solutions, DNN is designed and optimized for Windows, and requires Microsoft's Internet Information Services (IIS), MS SQL (Structured Query Language), and the Microsoft Windows Server operating system (OS) to function.

About DNN

At its core, DNN is a three-tier application, with the CMS component running atop the Web application framework and Microsoft's ASP.NET, .NET, IIS and Windows Server OS. The project was created as a portal application for the .NET framework by a company called IBuySpy Workshop.

However, the functionality of it came to rival that of similar platforms PHP-Nuke and PostNuke which use different technology, and thus the Nuke term was added to the platform's name. In 2008, a partner corporation was founded and the ecosystem for plugins grew rapidly.

DNN is modular. It's basic functionality (content management, multimedia support, etc.) can be expanded with modules (add-ons and plug-ins, either from the extant library of modules provided by DNN, or via third-party creators).

The DNN community is very active, and its “DNN Forge” contains an extensive list of add-ons, extensions and other modules to customize your site for eCommerce, blogging, community forums, and more. Modules & themes can be installed and configured directly through the platform, generally without any changes at the code or database level.

Features of DNN

To list all of the features of DNN would be tremendous, so here is a higher level summary:

  • A Rich Text Editor for Content
  • File & Image Management
  • Cloud Ready & Microsoft Azure Compliant
  • Mobile-Ready Site Features with Mobile API
  • Core Platform written in C# and highly extensible
  • Single installation can handle multiple site portals
  • Modern Web Tools, CSS3, HTML5, JQuery
  • Bulk email management tools
  • Deep security & administrative protection

DNN maintains a Security Center with bulletins and patches, as well as email support. Like many popular CMS solutions, DNN is community focused, they want to see their userbase run a successful website. Access to the CMS's core code can be found on CodePlex, Github, and their internally run DNN Forge maintains a reputation points system that rewards Module developers who update regularly.

Installing DNN

DNN is available from many hosts as a one-click install via their hosting control panel. It's also available as a free download from both the DNN website and the community website. Either way, the software is open-source and free, and so shouldn't add any additional cost to your monthly hosting budget.

It's important to remember, though, that DNN is Windows-only, so if your site runs on a Linux server, you'll need to look elsewhere. For those looking for an enterprise-level CMS solution, DNN also offers a commercial product known as Evoq. This edition is more streamlined and optimized for mobile and multi-user, interactive sites.

Pricing varies based on configuration and scale. One of the advantages to paying for Evoq over just using the open source DNN, is that DNNsoftware will provide tools that increase search performance and increase the interactivity with what they call "Advocacy Marketing."

Evoq has expanded functionality from the core CMS - and is geared towards analytics and real-time tracking as a means to discover what is motivating site traffic and finding ways to increase it. This includes strong integration with third party tools, including the popular Marketo.

There is also a set of Gamification features, which encourage site visitors to  stay more active - with tools such as quizzes, leaderboards, badges, reputation points, and user dashboards.

Comparison Against Competitors

DotNetNuke claims to have over 750,000 sites using their platform. Newer but similarly popular tools like Umbraco and Orchard have comparable but somewhat lower numbers.

A platform shouldn't be judged based on it's number of users though, but rather on how well supported it is and what desired site functions are needed. It is best to pick your platform based on what features are most important, then pick the tool that handles those functions the best.

  • Wordpress - if you're looking for a well supported CMS, this is the monolithic giant. It runs on PHP though, which can be run from IIS, but generally relies on Apache.
  • Umbraco CMS - a well updated, modern, open source .NET CMS which is widely used, very flexible, and easy to extend.
  • Orchard CMS - another open source .NET CMS - with a focus on being more customizable at the code level than Umbraco.
  • .NET CMS - The CMS platform for the .NET framework which came after dasBlog, it has support for modern responsive sites, and has strongly validated third party tools.

Q & A

Q. Who should use DotNetNuke and for what goals? A. DNN is a great tool for any group that wants to use the .NET stack, and needs a strong need for quick customization through modules. Overall, the marketing tools in DNN are arguably have more focus than other .NET CMS solutions, so any groups with a desire to boost traffic may want to use DNN.

Q. What are the requirements for hosting a DNN site? A. Any Windows server that can run IIS 7 or higher and a SQL database. Any .NET hosting provider should be able to accommodate and many might even have one click installs.

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