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(For more resources on Alfresco, see here.)
The Alfresco stack
Alfresco software was designed for enterprise, and as such, supports a variety of different stack elements. Supported Alfresco stack elements include some of the most widely used operating systems, relational databases, and application servers.
The core infrastructure of Alfresco is built on Java. This core provides the flexibility for the server to run on a variety of operating systems, like Microsoft Windows, Linux, Mac OS, and Sun Solaris. The use of Hibernate allows Alfresco to map objects and data from Java into almost any relational database. The databases that the Enterprise version of Alfresco software is certified to work with include Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, PostgresSQL, and DB2. Alfresco also runs on a variety of Application Servers that include Tomcat, JBoss, WebLogic, and WebSphere. Other relational databases and application servers may work as well, although they have not been explicitly tested and are also not supported.
Details of which Alfresco stack elements are supported can be found on the Alfresco website: http://www.alfresco.com/services/subscription/supported-platforms/3-x/.
Depending on the target deployment environment, different elements of the Alfresco stack may be favored over others. The exact configuration details for setting up the various stack element options is not discussed in this book. You can find ample discussion and details on the Alfresco wiki on how to configure, set up, and change the different stack elements. The version-specific installation and setup guides provided by Alfresco also contain very detailed information.
The example description and screenshots given in this article are based on the Windows operating system. The details may differ for other operating systems, but you will find that the basic steps are very similar.
Additional information on the internals of Alfresco software can be found on the Alfresco wiki at http://wiki.alfresco.com/wiki/Main_Page.
As a first step to getting Alfresco Records Management up and running, we need to first acquire the software. Whether you plan to use either the Enterprise or the Community version of Alfresco, you should note that the Records Management module was not available until late 2009. The Records Management module was first certified with the 3.2 release of Alfresco Share. The first Enterprise version of Alfresco that supported Records Management was version 3.2R, which was released in February 2010.
Make sure the software versions are compatible
It is important to note that there was an early version of Records Management that was built for the Alfresco JSF-based Explorer client. That version was not certified for DoD 5015.2 compliance and is no longer supported by Alfresco. In fact, the Alfresco Explorer version of Records Management is not compatible with the Share version of Records Management, and trying to use the two implementations together can result in corrupt data.
It is also important to make sure that the version of the Records Management module that you use matches the version of the base Alfresco Share software. For example, trying to use the Enterprise version of Records Management on a Community install of Alfresco will lead to problems, even if the version numbers are the same. The 3.3 Enterprise version of Records Management, as another example, is also not fully compatible with the 3.2R Enterprise version of Alfresco software.
Downloading the Alfresco software
The easiest way to get Alfresco Records Management up and running is by doing a fresh install of the latest available Alfresco software.
The Community version of Alfresco is a great place to get started. Especially if you are just interested in evaluating if Alfresco software meets your needs, and with no license fees to worry about, there’s really nothing to lose in going this route.
Since Alfresco Community software is constantly in the “in development” state and is not as rigorously tested, it tends to not be as stable as the Enterprise version. But, in terms of the Records Management module for the 3.2+ version releases of the software, the Community implementation is feature-complete. This means that the same Records Management features in the Enterprise version are also found in the Community version.
The caveat with using the Community version is that support is only available from the Alfresco community, should you run across a problem. The Enterprise release also includes support from the Alfresco support team and may have bug fixes or patches not yet available for the community release. Also of note is the fact that there are other repository features beyond those of Records Management features, especially in the area of scalability, which are available only with the Enterprise release.
Building from source code
It is possible to get the most recent version of the Alfresco Community software by getting a snapshot copy of the source code from the publicly accessible Alfresco Subversion source code repository. A version of the software can be built from a snapshot of the source code taken from there. But unless you are anxiously waiting for a new Alfresco feature or bug fix and need to get your hands immediately on a build with that new code included as part of it, for most people, building from source is probably not the route to go.
Building from source code can be time consuming and error prone. The final software version that you build can often be very buggy or unstable due to code that has been checked-in prematurely or changes that might be in the process of being merged into the Community release, but which weren’t completely checked-in at the time you updated your snapshot of the code base.
If you do decide that you’d like to try to build Alfresco software from source code, details on how to get set up to do that can be found on the Alfresco wiki: http://wiki.alfresco.com/wiki/Alfresco_SVN_Development_Environment.
Download a Community version snapshot build
Builds of snapshots of the Alfresco Community source code are periodically taken and made available for download. Using a pre-built Community version of Alfresco software saves you much hassle and headaches from not having to do the build from scratch. While not thoroughly tested, the snapshot Community builds have been tested sufficiently so that they tend to be stable enough to see most of the functionality available for the release, although not everything may be working completely.
Links to the most recent Alfresco Community version builds can be found on the Alfresco wiki: http://wiki.alfresco.com/wiki/Download_Community_Edition.
The alternative to using Alfresco open source Community software is the Enterprise version of Alfresco. For most organizations, the fully certified Enterprise version of Alfresco software is the recommended choice. The Enterprise version of Alfresco software has been thoroughly tested and is fully supported.
Alfresco customers and partners have access to the most recent Enterprise software from the Alfresco Network site: http://network.alfresco.com/. Trial copies of Alfresco Enterprise software can be downloaded from the Alfresco site: http://www.alfresco.com/try/. Time-limited access to on-demand instances of Alfresco software are also available and are a great way to get a good understanding of how Alfresco software works.