Book Review for "Plone 3.3 Site Administration: Manage your site like a Plone professional" by Alex Clark.
This book is written for the person who has to set up and run a Plone site. It's not a development book-- it doesn't show you how to write software, rather it shows you how to acquire, install, and configure software components that will greatly enhance your Plone site. It covers a lot of ground, but much of it is covered in only the barest detail to instruct you in how to add a feature to your site. It doesn't devote much text to explaining what the add-ons do, only how to get them and how to integrate them into your site. There's also a lot of good general advice for a web-site administrator.
Here's a rough run-down on the contents of the book:
What you'll need to run a Plone site (computer and basic tools, like a text editor) and installation procedures.
Is titled "Site Basics" and covers the use of Buildout, which is a framework for installing add-ons in Plone. Buildout is very important for a Plone administrator, so it's nice to have coverage of the tool. Truth be told, I wish there was a little more material on Buildout in this book, but this is enough to get you introduced and the web can tell you the rest. To the book's credit, it uses a hands-on approach and immediately instructs you on how to use Buildout to change the default portlet navigation feature of your site and how to add blogging capabilities.
The third chapter is about appearance, so it covers themes and changing the way your Plone site looks. As with much of the book, there isn't a lot of introductory overview, just step-by-step instructions on how to accomplish some given action. (In this case, the action is changing the look of your site through a new theme.) Buildout is used, of course. Also covered here are some handy tools for examining the things that make up a 'theme' and how to make your own theme. In making your own theme, the book instructs the user on the use of ZopeSkel and Paster, two tools important to Plone development. Again-- the book covers very little "Here is a tool, this is what it does, here's a nice diagram", rather there is "do this, do that, run this script, see how it changed your site".
This is the administration chapter. The first topic covered is one that confused me on my first Plone site-- how do I add a user account without the requisite mail account? The author covers this topic well, I'm sure it will be appreciated by many Plone tire-kickers. Next, the book gives us the low-down on Zope 2 administration as a prerequisite to user and group management in Plone. (By the way, the CMS application Plone is running on the Zope application server. Sort of like the JBoss administration console is a feature-rich JEE application that runs on top of JBoss, for you Java-types.) The chapter concludes with a very nice section on using Plone with LDAP, which I'm sure is going to be a real-life concern for many corporate Plone users.
The next chapter is the "Deployment and Maintenance" chapter. It covers such necessities as backing up and packing Plone's underlying database. It also covers log rotation and automation of tasks through mechanisms like cron and windows task scheduler.
Chapter 6 is the Optimization chapter. It starts with some good advice about keeping Buildout configs (of course!) in source control for managing production deployments. From there, the book gets a little recommendation-happy as it shows how to install and configure several caching components (choosing which is best for you is left as an exercise for the reader), a couple of load balancers and a process supervisor. Front-end HTTP server configurations are covered, again in the usual "You'd better know what you want, but here's how to configure a few" style. Lastly, performance monitoring and viewing is given good coverage.
This chapter is the 'security' chapter, and it carries some valuable tips. The first is how to restrict TCP/IP access to your host, then you are told how to effectively manage user permissions. Application of patches in Plone is covered, which naturally comes with some good advice about your buildout configuration files. There's also a section about using Apache Cassandra for monitoring user permissions-- in typical fashion, this side-topic is given little material outside the instructions on how to install and configure it. (Figuring out what Cassandra is, how it works, why you would choose it, etc. are left for you to figure out.)
The final chapter again offers advice on using zc.buildout effectively, this time in the context of upgrading to future versions of Plone.
This book is difficult to categorize. On one hand, it often shows the reader how to install an add-on with precious little instruction on exactly what it is you're installing. On the other hand, it does provide very good instructions on how to get those add-ons downloaded and configured for your site. For readers unafraid to augment the book's material with a web browser, there is a lot of valuable insite here. (But for readers who like nice high level diagrams and introductory text that gives you some hint about products you're about to introduce to your environment-- this may not be your favorite book.) I think there is a lot of knowledge about use of buildout here, the reader certainly has enough examples that it will be a familiar friend by the time you're done with the book. There's also a lot of good advice about administering a production CMS site in general. Use of cache products, version control tips for configuration, ongoing maintenance, etc. are all covered. The back of the book states this book is meant as a resource for Plone administrators and content editors. For this audience, I think the book hits the mark well. For others interested in Plone-- i.e. developers who don't have a production site to run-- the book may not feel like such a good fit. All things considered, I think this book is a good resource for the Plone administrator, it's stated target audience.
The book can be found here