How are people using Confluence to generate content for a restricted access customer knowledge base / wiki

I am in search of a product to produce technical documentation and a knowledge base that will be accessible as a Wiki by external customers.

I need to restrict access to the Wiki to our customers only, which of course means authenticating them.

Basically exactly what is discussed in this post - https://answers.atlassian.com/questions/156962/confluence-ondemand-as-customer-facing-but-authenticated-knowledgebase

Confluence is a perfect fit for building such a Wiki but the need to have a paid user license for every customer to provide authenticated access, rules out using it directly (assuming you have more than ~50 customers).

So my question is, how are others utilising Confluence to generate product documentation/ knowledge base content and then publishing it to the web outside of Confluence with authenticated access.

Are people just exporting as HTML and uploading to a webserver and putting an authentication front end on the web server? This of course means you lose all of the advanced features of Confluence and turn your documentation into a lifeless HTML snapshot. Plus need to re-export everytime content changes.

If using the "Downloaded" on premise product is it possible to put an authentication mechanism (outside of Confluence) in front of the server to provide authenticated access to the "anonymous user" role?

I do not think I am alone in wanting to use Confluence like this, so I am hoping the gurus on the forum have some words of wisdom :-)

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Stefan.

Thank you for the follow up reply. I actually think the scenario I am trying to satisfy is fairly straight forward, it is just made complex because of the licensing model of Confluence.

I do appreciate everyones feedback but although Confluence is a great product, it seems that it is not the solution for my specific application.

My comment may be oversimplistic, but I share this experience. I think Martin s desire can be accomplished if you create collective users with dummy names, and then create groups formed by one or more of these collective users. Then you provide the specific communities with the collective username and password that you establish for each of them.

Do you think that helps?

Thanks to Atlassian Answers and its coordinators for having the opportunity to share.

Sergio Storch, Brazil

Hi Martin,

we use Confluence 4.2.7 but we don't export anything. Must of the stuff (macros, layouts) is usually broken and taking 'snapshots' of dynamic content does not seem to be very useful. Our Confluence instance is living in a VPN, so nobody can access it, if he/she is not inside the network. That means, that you can not access it from your computer at home, for example.

The benefit is, that you can use the Active Directory, which your company probably uses to organise groups of employees. You could create a new group for your customers and allow this group to access the content they are interested in. Hope that helps!

Cheers

Stefan

Agree with Stefan, Confluence is for direct web-access mainly - all export have issues, missing functionallity or breaks sooner or later I think.

The licenses issues often comes up, I assume Your customers must not see each others documentation.

As Stefan stated, VPN can partly be used, or just VPN and the accessing as anonymous.

Normally, using an intelligent/scripted traffic/content Manager in front, filtering on IP or handling authentication, and hence gives access to part of the backend will work.

This is not easy done with Confluence, as pages and blog posts with special chars have URL's like https://confluence.fdqn.dk/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=49840201 instead of nice ones like https://confluence.fdqn.dk/display/spacename/Meeting+Notes

And same for Edit of pages - so the Confluence Authentication will be hard to bypass fully...

So I think You will need at least 1 license pr. Company almost nomatter what, or fewer based on level of security and content "share" among companies.

BR,

Normann

Thank you to all who replied.

Based on the responses, Confluence is probably not the ideal solution for my application. Although the process of creating documentation is a perfect fit, I feel the possible ways to control access outside of Confluence make for a less than ideal access control mechanism and add to the complexity.

To clarify my application, it is not so much about one customer not seeing anothers documentation, more about the general public and competitors not having access to detailed product information. We want to be able to control on a person by person basis who has an account to read documentation.

Thank you once again for taking the time to read my post and to reply, I will keep an eye on the forums over coming months in case something new is introduced.

Regards

Martin

Hi MartinT,

if you hide your Confluence instance by placing it in a VPN, you will get exactly what you want. We use Confluence for internal and confidential information. Confluence is accessible from everywhere, but just via the VPN. In other words: You have to have internet access and then you have to connect to the VPN. Everybody who is not in the VPN gets a 404.

Best regards

Stefan

Stefan,

Thank you for your follow up reply. I understand how the VPN prevents access but I am not sure I understand how you are proposing that external customers gain access, are you suggesting that each of them has to connect via VPN use credentials defined in Active Directory to authenticate the VPN tunnel?

Unfortunately a VPN approach is not practical with 1,000's of customers.

So, maybe you should get rid of your customers. :)

Or forget the VPN, avoid public access in Confluence and all spaces. Create user accounts and groups for your customers in the Active Directory or directly in Confluence. That should be no problem. If you have so many customers, think about how to cluster them. Maybe by company, status, region, importance, I don't know. Depends on your customers. Then put the users into the groups. You can toggle access to spaces by these groups. And you can use the user-group-reporter of the CustomWare Reporting Plug-in to generate fancy overviews of your existing groups. Otherwise you'll get lost in chaos. But that's not a matter of the CMS. You have to many customers. :)

What you need is a good concept. You can have a public space with public content. Here you can create content modules with the Multi Excerpt Plugin, templates with Scaffolding, etc. That way you can inherit public information to private spaces and create your docs. It's a complex topic. I need several months to understand which plug-ins are useful for what. Confluence may be the right system for you, but you need a very good concept, because you have a very complex situation. I'd recommend to you to use a consultant.

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