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Major Sites and Intranet Upgrade for SEAS

School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University

Areas of Expertise

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CMS & Intranets


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Technology Used


The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University wanted to stay current in their website development to be able to offer their students and staff engaging and dynamic features. Education is only one part of how SEAS prepares their students to engage the community and help find solutions to the problems facing the world today. Their website helps to further their goal of helping students build relationships throughout the Harvard community. In order to continue to provide the best information for their school, SEAS needed to upgrade their content management system and prep the online environment for future development.

Six Feet Up partnered with SEAS to migrate their current environment to the latest release of Plone as well as review their code and provide recommendations to optimize their development and site traffic, leveraging Six Feet Up's experience in developing and hosting high traffic Plone websites.

They were looking to share information such as school facts, application steps, undergraduate and graduate programs, faculty acknowledgements, research interests, scholarship achievements, libraries, news and events (including school calendars, videos, and community programs), industry partners, and community involvement. They were considering a migration of subsites to Lineage, creating new department page templates, content tagging between news, press releases and faculty, developing a virtual tour and homepage improvements.

Additionally, SEAS wanted to provide a school community intranet offering critical communication regarding administration, academic and students affairs, human resources, information technology, office and services, and information security.

They asked Six Feet Up to analyze their existing setup and provide recommendations for improving the site. They were looking for a migration to the most recent version of the Plone CMS, along with all relevant add-ons. SEAS also needed ongoing Plone support after the site upgrades.

Implementation Details

As with any large project, SEAS' goals were translated into steps starting with the migration of all their site content to Plone 4.1. Before the migration could occur, some optimizations needed to take place.

The site's buildout and eggs were contained within the svn (a software versioning and revision control system), but the .pyc files and .egg-info folders needed to be moved since they change on a regular basis through the site's instance. Additionally, a few "eggs", "fake-eggs" and "downloads" folders contained within the svn needed to be ignored as they were being created automatically during the buildout.

All the SEAS site Plone add-on products needed to be pinned so as to prevent a site from breaking when the latest version of products are grabbed. We also removed unused products to reduce the chance of conflicting interactions with the remaining products and to make it easier to migrate to newer versions of Plone.

The Six Feet Up team developed a script to migrate SEAS' content to the new system. The upgrade needed to be done in steps. SEAS was at version starting back in April of 2011. In order to properly upgrade, the site needed to go through the correct order of versions to avoid any major code changes that were no longer supported. Plone version was released in 2008, so it was out of date to upgrade directly to version 4.1. SEAS site was first updated to version 3.1.7, including updating all add-on products to be compatible with version 3.1.7. After testing to confirm the site was functioning as expected, the second upgrade was done to version 3.3.5. The add-ons were also upgraded in this step to confirm compatibility. Once this upgrade was confirmed and the site was tested for functionality, the last upgrade to was completed.

Six Feet Up worked with the new Plone system to adequately test various aspects of the CMS including profiles, product dependencies and theming templates. The upgraded site was compared to the original for layout and function to confirm the site operated without error.

Once the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences main site was upgraded and working properly, Six Feet Up worked on upgrading the SEAS intranet.


The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences successfully upgraded their sites and intranet to the most recent version of the Plone CMS, which gave them access to recent developments, ideas and designs being developed within the Plone open source community.


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