Websites for MSPs - Drupal

Scott Calonico

Drupal for MSPsThat funny looking guy over to the left there might be funny looking, but as we all know, looks can be deceiving.

That cuddly face belongs to Drupal, one of the most powerful and flexible CMS (Content Management Systems) available on the web today.

And the best part?

It's absolutely free.

If you're looking to create a powerful and feature rich website for your MSP or IT Support Provider, you'd be hard pressed to find a better tool than Drupal.

SITES THAT RUN DRUPAL

Here's just a small sample of some popular websites that run on Drupal:

Take a look at some of the features incorporated into those sites, and think about how you could incorporate them into your MSP website.

DRUPAL INSTALLATION

The setup requirements for Drupal is much the same as with Wordpress (You can read our article about setting up Wordpress here). You'll need a hosting provider that allows you web space and access to an MySQL server.

After your server is setup, you download the latest release of Drupal, unpack it, and upload it to the website with an FTP program. You'll then need to create a database table for Drupal to use. Even if you don't know your SQL DROP from SELECT, setting up a database on MySQL is easy enough by using the phpMyAdmin software. Some providers will even have a web based MySQL setup interface that's even easier than phpMyAdmin.

Once the database is ready to go, all you need to do is to open up a web browser and navigate to the Drupal installation. Plug in the database name and user name, make s few configuration selections from a menu and - BAM - your Drupal is up and running.

CONFIGURING DRUPAL

The default Drupal system comes with a default theme and features, but, you'll probably want to add a few bells and whistles.

This is done easily enough in Drupal with the addition of modules. These are user contributed packages that allow you to add all sorts of features to the Drupal base core, such as Social Network integration, calendar features, multimedia and just about anything you can think of.

The basic look of Drupal can also be easily modified through the use of themes. Drupal keeps a theme repository on their website, or you can purchase one of thousands of pre-written themes available on the web. Since you're a computer-type person, you can even configure your own theme from one of the easy to modify base themes that Drupal provides.

MAINTAINING DRUPAL

One of the major drawbacks to Drupal is the cumbersome updating process. Unlike updating a Wordpress installation, in which you click an "Update" button and everything is done for you, bringing a Drupal installation up to date is a task that requires attention (although, apparently this is changing in Drupal 7.0).

The first step in any Drupal update is to backup all your important files. Luckily, there are a number of Drupal modules that make this a fairly easy process. Then, you need to switch to one of the Drupal provided base themes to avoid any conflicts. The old files to be updated need to be removed and then the new files uploaded. Once the update has finished successfully, you can then switch back to your original theme and make any changes as necessary.

DRUPAL.ORG

Another reason to use Drupal as a CMS for your MSP is support resources and available at drupal.org. There's a wide variety of experts, coders, developers and Drupal users out there who are suggesting new ideas and more than willing to help newbies with installation problems and issues. 

IS DRUPAL RIGHT FOR YOUR MSP WEBSITE?

If you're looking for a website that will grow with you and allow you to add content-rich areas and features, such as polls, comments, and Social Media integration, then Drupal will have what you need. On the other hand, if the goal of your website is to just be a business card on the web that lists your mobile number, you're probably better off using a Dreamweaver template with a static HTML page.

INSTALLING DRUPAL VIDEO

If you're more of a visual kind of person, this short video on Drupal installation will give you a good start on getting a Drupal template up and going for your MSP website.