Tuesday, May 15, 2007

ArchivalWare vs. CONTENTdm

Someone left a comment on this post and also send me an e-mail message. Her message said in part:
I was very happy to find your blog and other resources about digitization and wondered if I could ask for some advice.

We are a public library in Australia wanting to purchase a digital archiving system. The initial use will be for Local History material and our Museum's collection. We are a longstanding customer of Dynix (nowSirsiDynix) so we would like to get ArchivalWare from PTFS. It looks very suitable for our needs and we can afford it. The vendor has told us that this product is much more feature-rich than Unicorn's Hyperion (Sirsi's product), but we have not evaluated any other products such as CONTENTdm or DigiTool.

I saw that you have been getting familar with these products at various conferences and demonstrations.

I suppose my questions are:
  • It is easiest for us to just go with the Dynix-partnered product (at a very good price) as we liked it, we trust the vendor and their support but would you consider this a mistake?
  • Would you consider that all 3 products have basically similar features and functions?
Here is my response. If anyone has additional advice or ideas, please leave a comment. Both she and I would appreciate it.
ArchivalWare and CONTENTdm are frequently the final two products a project will review before selecting one. ArchivalWare claims that it handle textual documents better than CONTENTdm. The reality is that any product will have its pluses and minuses. PTFS has said that in head-to-head comparisons, their product comes out better than CONTENTdm. That is their point of view. I've not seen an independent test of the two products.

I believe that SirsiDynix announced some changes in February/March, so first I would ask that you contact your SirsiDynix rep and find out the status of the products you're using. I don't want you to select ArchivalWare, if a change at SirsiDynix makes it then a bad decision.

Many of the organizations that I know who are selecting CONTENTdm do so because of (1) others around them are selecting it, (2) they know/assume it will work with other OCLC products, and (3) they believe/trust in OCLC. Of course, the features matter, but then you must look at the "other stuff." I think you're following the same logic. ArchivalWare should integrate with your other SirsiSynix products. You already are using SirsiDynix and trust them (hence you trust their partners).

Feature-wise, every product is similar yet different. Since it will be unreasonable for you to install and try the three products you mention, I would suggest that you look at projects that have used those products and perhaps speak to (e-mail) the people involved. For example, http://www.hrvh.org used CONTENTdm and http://soda.sou.edu/ used ArchivalWare. (I know there are many others, but those two came to my mind quickly.)

You might make some inquiries on library-related discussion lists to see what other opinions are out there. I'll post this notes in my blog and maybe some people will comment there.

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Anonymous said...

We ended up selecting SirsiDynix's Hyperion since we were switching our ILS to Unicorn and a) what we saw looked good and b) we got a good package deal. As Jill mentioned in a previous post, it's very difficult to do a true comparison of the various digital object management packages available. After the fact, Hyperion ended up being a terrible choice. We're switching to ArchivalWare, and I'm hoping it will be better. From what I've seen, it should be. The alternative to switching to AW from PTFS through Sirsi would have been to fight for a full refund on Hyperion and start over with something like ContentDM, something I wasn't particularly keen on doing.

Anonymous said...

CONTENTdm is a serious problem at my organization. The Project Client for building and transferring collections to the application server is fairly buggy in version 5.2. Handling of the OCR licenses (ABBYY Fine) is inflexible. Transfers to the application server, so that collections may be viewed on the web, are nearly interminable due either to connection issues at the OCLC server host, or bugs in the Project Client. Documentation is scanty, at best, scattered throughout several "how to" guides, tutorials, and webinars.

While customer support is generally professional and responsive, it's hard to make up for a combination of flawed product and flawed hosting service.

Unless you're planning to turn over all aspects of creating the digital collection to OCLC, and at some seriously stiff prices, you may find wrangling with this software/service a headache that eats up a lot of time and resources.

You should give CONTENTdm and associated products and services a very thorough and diligent test drive before making the investment.

85% of the functionality of this software can easily be delivered by Adobe Acrobat and Apache, for a fraction of the cost.

Anonymous said...

I have worked with Archival ware for a few years now and I will not recommend it to anyone. Apart from their support cost which is truly atrocious, the support itself is not that great. They have an online support system which should work great but it all depends on who you get on their end. It is hard to use and unless you have strong technical skills and a good knowledge of Dublin Core, please don't go with it. The public interface is not as attractive as its competitors. ContentDM has had its own share of woes so I am looking at other alternatives. While no software will fulfill all the requirements, I want to go with the one that I can maintain without relying too much on the support that these companies tout about. I hope this helps you decide.