A social intranet with more than 10,000 users, powered by WordPress

This is just a pre version. I will update an enhance this post soon. If you have any questions, leave a comment and I will answer or update the post according to your specific question.

At my former employer, I was able to launch successfully a social intranet, using WordPress. Before we where struggling over years, to modernize our intranet, which was based on Microsoft Sharepoint 2007. For me it was important to have an intranet which offers any employee to contribute content easily. But Microsofts social functionalities did not meet our requirements. We’ve evaluated Sharepoint 2010 and Sharepoint 2013. Another important requirement for us was a multilingual feature. The company I’ve worked for had more than 20,000 employees worldwide in more than 50 countries. Approximately 50% of the employees were working in the factories and did not have access to a computer. Features like multilingual, location based services and an easy interface were not provided by Sharepoint. Ok, Microsofts said: “We can do it for you”. But I don’t want to build essential functions from scratch.

Somewhen Microsoft announced, that in future versions they will remove the social functionalities. This was a deal breaker and made me angry. We’ve waited so long to hear that Microsoft revise its Sharepoint strategy totally.

The question was how to move on? I did not consider Jive, Yammer or any other cloud based solution, because the licence costs for these platform were too high in my opinion, compared to what we need and functionalities our employees really use.

Instead of waiting and evaluation I decided to go on with Open Source. After some tests and mockups, WordPress was the content management system of my choice. Here are some essential requirements which we had to cover:

  1. Single Sign On in a Microsoft Environment (Active Directory)
  2. Social functions (Liking, Commenting, Profile Pages, etc)
  3. Multilingual support
  4. Design and usability (frontend and backend)
  5. Performance & Stability
  6. Statistics

After some initial tests, this was the architecture of our system:

1. Single Sign On in a Microsoft Environment (Active Directory)

2. Social functions (Liking, Commenting, Profile Pages, etc)

3. Multilingual support

Mutlilingual support has been achieved, using the plugin WPML (https://wpml.org/). This is a very powerful plugin, letting you create multilinugual websites at ease. The only lack of WPML is the performance issue. Polylang (https://wordpress.org/plugins/polylang/) is much faster than WPML, and is challening WPML. I tried polylang, but WPML offers more features and WPML is longer on the market, has many contributors. Therefore I took the decision to stay with WPML, which is aware of the criticism of the performance and constantly inproves it.

Our intranet was available in 8 languages, when I left the company.

4. Design and usability (frontend and backend)

5. Performance & Stability

6. Statistics

To measure the visits of our users, I installed on the same server Piwik (https://piwik.org/). Piwik is another excellent example of a good piece of Open Source.

As already mentioned, we had more than 10.000 users, using the system. The intranet is the default page for all employees. Every time they open the browser, the default homepage is the intranet. On the average, we had 17,000 visits and about 65,000 page views a day.

The performance of the server was excellent. On average the pages where delivered in less than 2 seconds. The load average of the linux server was 1.0. At peak times, usually around lunchtime (central european time) was 2.0.

But of course, in the beginning the performance was not as good as thought. But by the time, we learned a lot and optimised all configuration, especially Apache, PHP and MariaDB. The biggest performance boost was to replace the Avada Theme.

Definitely, the system is capable to handle much more users without considering a cluster for Apache/PHP and MariaDB.

Conclusion

With WordPress and Buddypress plus additional plugins, you have so many opportunities and features to build a great and reliable social intranet. Of course it might be easier to buy something like Jive, but: this will cost you a lot of money. Yes, solutions like Jive offer you much more functionality, but the average employee only uses 5-10% of its capabilities. So, why you should pay a 100%?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *