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Plone vs. Drupal

written by thomas on Wednesday November 17, 2010
Comments | Filed under: ,

Note: a more recent comparison of Plone 5 and Drupal 8 was completed in the Fall of 2016.











Who doesn't know about Drupal, one of the "top 3" Open Source CMS? Every day, we hear about multi-million Drupal deployment for major corporations, associations, or administrations. How could we not try and take a look at Drupal to see how it compares to Plone and what we can learn from it?

Comparing Plone and Drupal isn't trivial. They are definitely not fit for the same use case and I simply cannot mention a few categories and announce a winner. Instead, I tried to think from a non-technical end user prospective and take note of what struck me when deploying a Plone/Drupal website.

My first steps as a Plone developer started about a year ago, so I still remember my first deployment, the documentation I could find, the parts of the user interface (U.I.) I found intuitive, but also the major difficulties and issues I faced.

As for Drupal, I just finished a dozen hours of discovery, during which I got to play with many features and customizations we use in Plone on a daily basis.

The following questions appear to me to be of importance when comparing Plone to Drupal:


  • How long does it take to find and download a distribution?
  • How easy is it to configure your computer to run the distribution?
  • How simple is the installation/deployment process?
  • Is there easy-to-find and easy-to-follow documentation to guide inexperienced users?

Want to know more?
Read "Plone vs. Drupal: Installation"

Out of the Box

  • Is the U.I. intuitive, how long to get used to it?
  • What features come with the out-of-the-box distribution? what is badly missing?
  • How "fast" does the site respond with no content?

Want to know more?
Read "Plone vs. Drupal: Core Features Comparison"

Adding Products/Modules

  • Given a feature that requires an add-on, is the product easy to find?
  • How long does it take to install a new add-on? many new add-ons?
  • If an add-on is out of date, what to do?
  • Are the add-ons easy to use, documented, and tested?

Adding Content

  • How long for non-technical people to be ready to enter content?
  • How "fast" does the site respond with thousands, millions of items?
  • Is it easy for an administrator to manage users, permissions, workflows, and notifications?

Source Customization

  • What is the rate for 1h of development?
  • How easy is it to find developers?
  • What level of expertise does source customization require?
  • Is there good and easy to find documentation about it?
  • How does framework extension work?


  • How many pre-made themes can I download, how easy are they to install?
  • Is theme customization though the U.I. available and easy?
  • How to build a theme from scratch?

Upgrading and Migrating

  • How long does it take to migrate customized code vs. create it?
  • How is data migrated


  • How much does it typically cost per month per instance for professional on-site hosting
  • How many companies have expertise and proficiency in hosting this CMS?
  • What are my "cloud" options? How hard is it to deploy and how cheap does it get?
  • What are the solution stack requirements? How is the documentation about it?

Load and Availability

  • What are my caching and proxy caching options?
  • How much of it can be made through the U.I.?
  • How easy is it to implement clusters for high-availability and load balancing?


  • What is the history in terms of security cracks and how critical were they?
  • How much maintenance time has to be spent to keep the security up to date?


  • Who owns the trademark?
  • How many contributors out there? Who are the top ones?
  • How long has the platform been around?


Thank you Roberto Allende, Youenn Boussard, Mikko Ohtamaa, Petri Savolainen, Christopher Warner, and David Whelan for your contribution!

My objective is to investigate as many of these points as possible and post the findings on this blog. To be continued...

Do you see a critical question I forgot to ask? Do you have the answer to some of them? Have experience with both Plone and Drupal that you can share? I will make sure to use your input for the coming posts!

Posted by Roberto Allende on Nov 17, 2010 11:17 AM
Who owns the copyright and trademark in each case ?, Who are the top contributors ?, Who provide services based on each ?. Although these aren't technicals stuff, they might be critical in many scenarios. Kind Regards r. --
Posted by Mikko Ohtamaa on Nov 17, 2010 12:12 PM
Theming is the critical customization which must be performed basically for every site.
Posted by Christopher Warner on Nov 17, 2010 01:39 PM
How does it currently fit in my Solution stack whether it by LAMP or other and how difficult is it to administrate.
Posted by Petri Savolainen on Nov 18, 2010 02:23 AM
In addition to mere customization, how does the framework support development of new or extended functionality? Does the framework expose itself well by design, so there's no need to hack it or add monkey-patches? Is extending the framework understandable to "average programmer", documented and stable? How about extension migration? How do the framework extension story & community support, encourage or even enforce development of extensions that play well with the framework and one another?
Posted by youyou on Nov 18, 2010 03:12 AM
- Rules for proxy cache ? UI configuration for that ? Good documentation for that ? - Cluster mode ? Is easy to create an cluster ? Is it easy to add a new node ? Can we have an HA system ? - Architecture for HA, is there reference document about that ? - Single point failure of the system ?
Posted by David Whelan on Nov 18, 2010 04:08 AM
I've just installed Drupal 6 and it's interesting to see how different it is to administer it from using Plone's Site Setup or ZMI. It might be worth looking at how easy it is to create users, assign rights, manage workflows, and do other actions that a typical content owner wouldn't do in each system. I'd second Mikko's comment on theming: what's available as an add-on, what can be done with templating "proxies" (if that's the right term?) like Deliverance and whether they're necessary.
Posted by Thomas Besluau on Nov 18, 2010 06:19 AM
This is now corrected. Thank you for bringing this up!
Posted by Thomas Besluau on Nov 18, 2010 06:38 AM
That's a lot of new questions! They will be treated in their own section "Load and Availability". Thank you for your help!
Posted by hennaheto on Nov 19, 2010 09:58 AM
Even the best CMS in the world is useless without documentation and an active community behind it. One of the things I struggle with Plone over is the lack of up to date, accurate, helpful documentation. Many times I have struggled with the documentation on only to find when I ask on IRC the documentation is wrong.
Posted by Youenn Boussard on Nov 25, 2010 03:55 AM
Another part important for me is how CMS deal with authentication and user sources and how to plug this with ecosystem of firms. So question could be : how integrate users from external sources ? Is there solutions for standard user repository (ldap , database , file ..., openid ...) ? Is it easy to develop an exotic authentification ? how to deal with sso (ntlm , kerberos and so on) witch architecture for that ? is it easy ? Is there documentation for that ?
Posted by Alejandro Garza on Jan 18, 2011 01:32 PM
I wish you would've compared against Drupal 7, which was just released and includes an *extremely long* list of improvements: better admin usability, simplified installer, updated jQuery+jQuery UI, native fields and image scaling/uploading, and much more. It represents over 2 years of work of more than 1,000 contributors. Hope you can at least give it a try.
Posted by Thomas Besluau on Jan 19, 2011 09:34 AM
I went to the Drupal Indianapolis meetup two days ago, and learned (amongst many other things) that Drupal 7 was released a few weeks ago. It was after I started writing this series however, so I'm not sure I can suddenly switch gears and talk about Drupal 7, but I'll definitely try and take a look at it, and potentially mention improvements over Drupal 6 as I continue the series. Thanks !
Posted by Ken Wasetis on Feb 08, 2011 02:04 PM
Nice effort in providing a comparison of Plone and Drupal. Hopefully, others can chime in with input on their experiences too! As noted above, Drupal 7 is out, but as this CMSWire article notes, there aren't many top-tier add-ons compatible with Drupal 7 just yet. Speaking of Drupal 7, one thing I didn't notice on your list yet (but perhaps I missed it?) is the upgrade/migration path. We've upgraded Plone sites from version 1.05 to 3.3.5, from version 2.1 up to 4.0. In some cases these upgrades across multiple versions were done through a SINGLE CLICK script that ships with Plone! :) To my knowledge, Drupal doesn't provide such an easy path (or an automated one at all) to upgrade a site from Drupal 6 or earlier up to Drupal 7. If that isn't accurate, please do correct my post. It seems like this would be one of those 'value-add' 'enterprise-y' services that Acquia would provide, if nobody else beats them to the punch.
Posted by Ken Wasetis on Feb 08, 2011 02:05 PM
Sorry - here is the CMSWire Article link: I am not affiliated with CMSWire in any way, by the way.
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