Alfresco is one of the best open source Enterprise Content Management tools I have seen. It offers many of the features of Sharepoint such as sites, lists, workflow, document routing / collaboration / repository, wiki features and a whole lot more. The software is completely free and is constructed on an open source foundation including MySql (including the innoDB storage engine), Apache Tomcat and the Spring Framework (a Java application framework). If you want support however opt for the enterprise edition. This article looks at installing the community edition on Windows 7.
As a side note and with this being a BPM centric blog, I should mention that Bonita Open Solution, a free (and very good) BPM tool includes a built in Alfresco connector which allows connection to an Alfresco repository from a business process. For more information on Bonita Open Solution, click here.
The Alfresco installation can be very simple if you do not choose to customize your server (as we will in this walk though) as it installs all of the required components, automatically installs Tomcat and MySql and sends you straight to the Alfresco Share login page when the installation completes. The MySql database is configured and the database schema is built as you use Alfresco for the first time (an empty database is created during the install) – this being the case you may find that it takes a while to load the Alfresco Share Login page for the first time.
Walking through the installation
The first step is to obtain the installer from the Alfresco website. Once you have the installer, run it. The first port of call is to select which additional Alfresco features you wish to have installed. By default, the installer will create a MySql instance and install the windows process with the name alfrescoMySql, install the Java runtime files, install and configure an instance of Apache Tomcat (with a windows process called alfresco Tomcat) and finally install all the necessary core Alfresco components. These are all key parts of the install so of course you cannot un-select these (explaining why they are greyed out in the features list).
Alfresco supports the Microsoft Sharepoint protocol allowing MS Office integration and also supports Open Office integration. Records management is a separately licensed feature, so unless you have a license, untick this option.
Once the required features are set, click ‘Next’ to progress the installation. The installation path now needs to be set and by default this is C:\Alfresco. The installer will not allow you to install to the ‘Program Files’ directory because of the space between Program and Files so leave this install path as it is.
Following the installation path, you can specify whether you to use an existing database on an existing MySql instance or the bundled database installed as part of the installer. Installing to an existing database you setup on a MySql instance requires additional configuration before you run Alfresco server for the first time, including obtaining the MySql Connector/J .jar file and adding its location to %CLASSPATH% windows environmental variable. For information on installing to an existing database visit the Alfresco Wiki. Here we will use the bundled database.
Next, select the TCP port which will be used by the MySql server for remote connections. The installer takes care of enabling TCP connections during the install to ensure remote clients can manage the MySql instance. The default for MySql is 3306 so let’s leave this as it is.
You will now need to set the MySql root account password. The root account is the sys admin account that can do everything on the database. For simplicity of demonstration I will be setting the root account password the same as the password I will set for Alfresco administration.
Now we need to configure the Apache Tomcat port details. The Tomcat service is installed to C:\Alfresco\tomcat\bin\tomcat6.exe and will operate over several TCP ports. Unless they are otherwise used by another serving application (e.g. Apache over 8080), it is best to leave these values as they are. The web server domain IP address simply refers to the local host.
Next we need to set the Alfresco administrator account password. The administrator account user name is ‘admin’ and you will need to login to Alfresco for the first time with this account so that you can configure spaces and sites and set-up other users. I will be using the same password used for the MySql root account.
Following this, the installer asks for the port number for the Sharepoint protocol, by default this is 7070. This is very useful for integrating Microsoft Office applications with the Alfresco server (note there are known compatibility issues with Alfresco and Windows 7 and Server 2008 installs). We chose to install this for demonstration purposes, but unless you are going to integration office applications such as word and excel, leave this un-ticked in the features list. Further to this, the installer needs to know how to start the alfresco Tomcat service. This is entirely your choice, but I chose manual as I won’t be running Alfresco as a production server. Choose automatic if you want the service to run as the server boots into Windows.
Thats it. The configuration is done. Click ‘Next’ to start the Alfresco installation. It will take about 3 to 5 minutes to install depending on your server performance, but when done, you should be staring at the following screen. Leave ‘Launch Alfresco Community Share’ so we can login.
By clicking ‘Finsih’ the installer window will close and your default browser will open up to the Alfresco Share address (http://127.0.0.1:8080/share/page/site-index). You are presented with the login screen. Use the user name ‘admin’ and the password set during the installation.
Successful login will take you to the Administrator dashboard. Further information on how to configure Alfresco and how to set up sites will follow in future posts.