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In my previous post I introduced a new tool we’re working on here at TheFARM called Snapshot which is a content export engine for Umbraco.

When doing that post I knew that I was going to have to write this one anyway, people were inevitably going to ask “But why?”

I was hoping to have time to do it before anyone did, but alas I was wrong :P.

Here’s a few scenarios which Snapshot aims to be useful in.

The “We Don’t Need a CMS” client

We’ve all had these, it’s “just a small site”, “we don’t change content”, etc. But in the back of your mind you know they will change content and if it’s a static site you’ll have to get the devs to do it. Well with Snapshot you can create a CMS but the client doesn’t have to know.

Shared hosting, virtual folders and medium trust

Yes Umbraco can run in Shared Hosting, yes with 4.1 it can run in a virtual folder and medium trust. But 4.1 isn’t out yet. So you could look at the medium trust patch for 4.0.3, but you may not be comfortable with running a custom version of Umbraco, it does mean that upgrades are off the table.

Since Snapshot generates an ASP.NET site from within itself there’s no need to worry about Umbraco restrictions like that, it comes down to how you’ve coded your site.

Database-less websites

Not every website needs a database, but unfortunately Umbraco requires one even when you’re not editing content. You may not be aware but when you work with the Media API (either via the umbraco.library methods, or though the Media classes) you are going into the database. Yes there are projects which simulate a media cache you can even do this with Examine.
But you’ll still have to have your web server talking to a database.

Snapshot doesn’t require a database form the web server. We’ve got built-in Media caching, a Media API and even replace the umbraco.library XSLT methods so that the Media interaction in an XSLT doesn’t require a database!

Security

Umbraco is reasonably secure, but wherever you have a login you have a vulnerability, it’s just the way of the web. A Snapshot site has no login, has no database, thus it is more secure (yes yes, famous last words :P). With Snapshot you can put your CMS inside your DMZ and never have it expose itself to the outside world. You can then get Snapshot to generate a site from the CMS and you just deployed the generated files.

Speed

As fast as Umbraco is (and the backed just got faster) there’s always room for improvement. When writing Snapshot we came across several places which were not as good as they could have been within the Umbraco API. Take umbraco.library for example. You interact with static methods on the type in XSLT, but for every XSLT macro an instance of the class is created. This means that it can’t really have request-level caching of what you’re interacting with.
Or take NodeFactory, it doesn’t have caching of the node(s) you’ve tried to access; you get a new instance each time.

Now I’m not having a go at Umbraco’s API on this, just pointing out some facts.

In Snapshot we have much improved caching. Since we’re using Dependency Injection (via Autofac) we only create a single instance of our umbraco.library implementation, we also do the same for our ContentService (the NodeFactory replacement) and MediaService (media API replacement).
These have caching built into them as well, so you hardly ever create objects, you get back previously created ones.

In future posts we’ll look more into the new API’s and just how sexy they can be ;).

Because we can

Really, does there need to be any reason other than this! :P

 

 

Hopefully this gives some insight into what we’re trying to achieve and shows you how it could be viable in your scenarios. Keep in mind this isn’t all you can do with Snapshot, it’s just some of the most common reasons why.