How to Choose the Right Wiki for Your Business’ Needs

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    I recommended the use of wikis as inexpensive collaboration tools for SMBs because they allow for inexpensive document storage, project coordination and online interaction among interdepartmental teams. These searchable content organizers can be set up rather easily, but may take some training to allow teams to feel comfortable using the tools. Before you can even consider all that, though, you must decide which type of wiki best suits your organization’s needs.

    Before I delve into several of the contenders’ details, I must explain a few questions you should answer first. Consider these points when researching your wiki engine in order to be sure you choose the right software and features to meet your organization’s needs:

    • How many users will be accessing the wiki (one department, several departments)?
    • Which OS does it require (Windows, MacOSX or Linux)?
    • Who will set up and administer the wiki (IT or a project manager or other manager)?
    • Where will the wiki be hosted (internal server or external host)?
    • When will you need the wiki up and running (weeks or months from now)?
    • What features do you need for it to provide (polls, images, PowerPoint presentations)?

    Having this information hashed out prior to researching types of wikis will make your search much easier. If a particular wiki engine doesn’t fit within your scope, mark it off your list and move to the next one.

    You can use many different types of wiki engines to set up your own wiki project. For smaller organizations that need to provide a simple, accessible area for documentation and some online collaboration, three particular wikis are most often used:

    • DokuWiki
    • MediaWiki
    • TikiWiki

    DokuWiki is most familiar to me because we used it at my previous place of employment. It is open source software with built-in access controls. No database is required, and it has fairly minimal system requirements. The DokuWiki community supports tons of customization options, plugins and extensions. Using this platform, users can upload or embed images and video into the pages, automatically generate a table of contents and even lock pages to prevent editing conflicts.

    MediaWiki will surely look familiar since it is the software behind the most popular online wiki, Wikipedia. This wiki software is free, but requires a server and was designed to be used for large-scale wikis that will serve extremely high traffic, up to millions of hits each day. It is a very robust, scalable platform that requires a database, such as MySQL, to store its data. It can also hold multimedia and image files. You can also add various extensions and skins to customize MediaWiki for your organization’s needs.

    TikiWiki is another free, open source platform for creating knowledge bases, collaboration areas, content management systems, websites or blogs. Its features are vast and optional, so choose what you need and change your wiki at will. The TikiWiki community actively updates and improves the wiki software, so new extensions and features often become available for you to audit or add. It requires a database, can provide polls and surveys, and supports images and calendars.

    Of course, if one of these three doesn’t fit your dream wiki project, it’s easy to find numerous other versions of wiki software that will work. Just be sure to have your list of requirements handy as you compare and contrast the variety of wikis to the needs and wants of your organization.

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