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We are a growing IT operation that continues to provide additional offerings and support to a variety of customers. As we continue to sustain this growth, we have found that we need to have easy access to information and documentation about our various systems and software within our IT teams. We have three primary functional areas within our IT group that include:

  1. help desk staff (Tier 1),
  2. developers and programmers, and
  3. system administrators/network administrators/secuirty analysts (Tier 2).

Currently we have information for Tier 1 stored wtihin a wiki that is based upon MediaWiki and that has proven to be very successful for the help desk team. The developers and programmers have moved to Redmine for tracking their projects, issues, and project documentation. The admins (Tier 2) do not have a centralized repository of knowledge and rely upon MS Word files that are scattered about on network drives, personal machines, knowledge that is only available to a particular invidual since they have not documented it anywhere, etc.

The challenge that we have now is that we need to have a centralized location to record information and documentation for Tier 2. However, we have two other systems already in place. We would, ideally, like to have a documentation platform that would at the minimum work for Tier 1 and Tier 2 with the possibilty of adding the programmers into it as well. This platform would need to have the ability to keep certain content seperate. For example, there is sensitive information (how we build our severs, possible usernames, etc) at the Tier 2 level that Tier 1 does not have a need to know. Additionally, Tier 2 should be able to have access to the information at Tier 1 and above. We thought about extending our MediaWiki installation for this but ACL's and the protection of information from wiki users seemed to be hack jobs that were not well supported and contrary to the spirit of open and easy access to information which is at the core of a wiki. I am looking for ideas and suggestions that meet the above listed criterion as well as the following additional objectives:

  1. Preferably free or open source software (and a web tool) since we do not really have a budget for this
  2. A platform that does not contain a ticketing element since we have a seperate system that handles this for Tier 1 and Tier 2
  3. A platform that does not need the capabilities of project managment for Tier 1 and Tier 2
  4. A product that is flexible, easy to add documentation to that includes tables, easy markup, syntax highlighting, images, network diagrams, etc.
  5. Full text search capabilities possibly with natural language capabilities
  6. The ability to support file uploads and downloads
  7. Potentially have RSS or Atom feeds and e-mail alerts of updates
  8. Allow for LDAP authentication to be able to be integrated into an existing SSO environment
  9. A platrform that does not require a lot of development time or a lot of custom code creation
  10. Access control based upon user, role, group membership, per individual documents/pages or a set of documents/pages such that if you do not have access to that section of the site/document/page/membership then you do not see the link or content
  11. Preferably have a built-in editor to help make data entry and posting of documentation easier
  12. Built-in version control and auditing would be preferable
  13. The ability to export pages or a collection or pages into a PDF file
  14. The ability to scale well should we continue to grow and expand
  15. Maybe support the ability to track usage or perform analytics
  16. Used for internal use only and will not be customer facing or accessible
  17. The ability to support managing snippets of information such as how-to's, procedures, solutions, projects, server builds, network documentation, etc.
  18. It does not need social integration capabilities
  19. Possibly support the ability to have or add to it inventory of systems (servers and client machines)
  20. Allow for the importing of the MediaWiki information if we have to switch platforms

Additionally, there are many places online that talk about expert systems that allow for the creation of troubleshooting work-flows similar to a flowchart or a step-by-step wizard. Is this something that we should consider having as an option within our documentation platform? How useful would this be and is this something that would help Tier 1 execute their job better? There is also some information online that talks about the differences between content management and knowledge management. Is this something that we should consider as part of the requirements of a documentation platform?

I know that this posting is a longer one and I appreciate the help and feedback that you can provide. I am trying to make sure that I ask the right questions and cover the bases to help make a more informed decision as well as implementing a solution that will be viable for the long term so that we do not continue to re-do the systems that we just implemented. Thanks again in advance and I look forward to reading what you share.

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9 Answers 9

up vote 13 down vote accepted
+25

I know that this isn't free, but I think the Altassian products could suit your needs. Specifically the Confluence Wiki could help with your documentation and the JIRA module could do issue/bug tracking.

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+1 we use confluence for wiki and JIRA for issue tracking/PM –  iainlbc Feb 2 '11 at 18:10
    
We have Confluence at work and I'm very fond of it (I also use it at home). It's a really great product, with lots of features (most of which satisfy your requirements) and with a rich catalog of plugins (many of which are free of charge). You should definitely give it a try (and +1 also for JIRA and GreenHopper, two other great products from Atlassian). –  dSebastien Jun 7 '11 at 23:35
    
I must say I am really not fond of Confluence after my experience with it. It lacks a lot of features, and the worst is you can't view and edit the source. –  einpoklum Mar 31 '13 at 18:31

Not to over simplify, but Sharepoint comes to mind.

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He did mention that they don't have a budget for it so Sharepoint is probably not optimal. If they're a Microsoft partner they may have some licenses available to them but possibly not enough to cover the entire enterprise. –  David Yu Jan 29 '11 at 1:26
8  
Windows Sharepoint Services is free. I should have specified that in my answer. –  joeqwerty Jan 29 '11 at 1:32
    
Are there any other ideas other than Sharepoint? We have not been too interested in that platform in the past due to the inaccessibility of your documents once they are locked into the Sharepoint platform. –  John Feb 2 '11 at 17:17
10  
How are the documents inaccessible? Even if every person in your organization refused to use IE, you can map a document library to a drive drive letter using webdav. There is even a free WSS template for Help Desk and bug tracking which include lots of functionality like charts, wikis and KB articles that can be linked to multiple trouble tickets (or the tickets cn be linked to KB articles). And you can also use SharePoint Designer (also free) to add workflows on top of this. –  Robert Kaucher Feb 2 '11 at 17:29
    
@Robert: +1. If I could "1 up" your comment more than once, I would. –  joeqwerty Feb 2 '11 at 17:46

Personally I'd go for a either a wiki (I like Trac), or Plone.

At a previous employer, we used Plone for an internal KB application whereby Support had certain r/w permissions, management had others, and development had yet another.

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Jira and Confluence are very interesting for this, as SLY mentioned. On the free end, you'd have Trac and it's relevant plugins which comes to mind as well.

Then again you are looking for a free Kitchen Sink, and none of those recommended so far will provide all of the desired functionality.

If you do have a few extra cycles you can free up for this, Trac is extensible via plugins so you may be add some of the functionality you need.

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I also see a wiki as being the best fit for your requirements. Wikipedia has a very good comparison of wiki software with features, target audience and licensing/cost etc., so you might take a look there in addition to the recommendations in the other answers.

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I'll bite.

I have had good luck with MoinMoin. It's a wiki engine that supports most of what you're looking for and is used by some large organisations including, Ubuntu, the Apache Foundation, etc. But it includes ACLs, LDAP integration, export of pages to PDF's, and WYSIWYG editor. In addition to the WYSIWYG editor it also supports a wiki markup language if you wish to edit pages using it. The WYSIWYG interface also supports copying and pasting from Word so that could help migrate your existing Word documentation over.

In the past I've used it as an inventory and system history platform using some of it's built-in macro's and templates to allow you to add new equipment and events to the wiki using a form.

The only issue I see that it may have with your requirements is importing data from mediawiki. A couple of scripts do exists but are a bit rough around the edges and are limited.

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Certainly it sounds like a Wiki is the right way to go. There are no end of products out there - but as you say, sometimes key functionality is somewhat ad-hoc in its implementation (e.g. the search doesn't know about the permissions subsystem leading to leakage of restricted info).

I use dokuwiki - which (like most wikis) ticks most of the boxes you've asked about, however it is very well intergated, and it also allows me to embed PHP on pages very easily (although for a system with a very large number of users you might consider adding a custom tag to reference scripts outside the wiki rather than provide direct access to the interpreter). It can certainly scale up to support huge numbers of users, but being based on flat files there is a limit to the amount of data it can store.

http://www.wikimatrix.org/wiki/comparison provides a quick way to check for features.

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I use wikimatrix.org/wiki/comparison in order to get the best wiki. Finally i've decide to take a chance with Mindtouch Deki Wiki sourceforge.net/projects/dekiwiki –  Matias Dominoni Feb 4 '11 at 22:12

Nuxeo has an open-source document management solution licensed under the LGPL.

The marketing blurb:

Nuxeo DM is a document management solution built with the flexible and robust Nuxeo Enterprise Platform technology. By managing and tracking the flow of content through the business cycle, Nuxeo DM addresses the common pitfalls of document duplication, lack of version tracking, time-consuming search and retrieval, and security and access issues. Why? Simply because document management goes beyond storing documents on a file server; it’s about managing the way your business interacts with content. Keep reading to find out why our customers tell us that Nuxeo DM is the best solution for their content and document management initiatives.

Alfresco also has a document management solution, but it is part of their enterprise offering, not the open-source community edition.

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Many of the desired features you are looking for can be found in Kablink Vibe.

http://sourceforge.net/projects/kablink/

http://www.kablink.org/

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