This discussion [webmasterworld.com]from last year caused a lively exchange of views. Quite a few recommended me to have a custom made CMS-system created, others recommended a variety of ready made CMS systems. I thought those who participated in the discussion might want to know what finally happened, so here goes:
With 33 150-page sites in 20 different languages and in 33 different domains, two items stood out as being absolutely crucial. License cost and getting the 5.000 pages of the existing sites automatically imported into a database. So we ordered a custom made system from an experienced programmer.
The system was delivered yesterday along with its complete imported database contents and it looks absolutely fantastic. The page contents have been broken down into snippets such as Title, Description, Meta keywords, Page anchor text, Header and Sub-header, Text paragraph(s), Special text alerts 1 and 2, a wide variety of product facts, location of images and maps etc. The English text is shown alongside each, making the translation work really user friendly and easy.
Any change to the English original pages will trigger alerts to the translators that work has to be done and where it needs to be done. These flags are added into one ToDo-list for each language and translator progress can be monitored very easily. There are four access levels with different login and password for each translator and duplicate back-up systems. Plus quite a few frills, including an online manual.
When a language version is completely updated, we simply click a button to ask the system to generate static html files and upload them to the server. The resulting code is extremely clean, relying on external style sheets without any styles on-page.
The cost? Just 21.000 Euros equal to about $30.500. We are only at version 0.98 Alfa as yet, but it already looks like money well spent.