A note before looking at the end-stage installations of each CMS: If you don't want to worry about the installation, there are many ways you can install any of these three platforms on a Web server. Many Web host providers offer the option of selecting from a menu of CMS servers that can be directly assigned by the host provider to the domain or sub-domain you specify. No muss, no fuss. All you have to do is select what options you want, click a button and in about 15 minutes, you'll have a freshly installed WordPress, Joomla or Drupal server on your domain, ready to configure.
Another option is use a service like Bitnami, which provides open source servers for installation on native devices, virtual machines or even cloud-based servers using Amazon's Web Services. I have used Bitnami servers in all three situations, and the installation is flawless every time.
Of course, you have to install it on the right machine. For this article, I opted to use a straightforward LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySql and PHP) server, as plain vanilla as I could create.
Specifically, this was an Ubuntu 11.04 with Apache 2 and MySQL 5.5 installed. I used PHP 5 and installed a MySQL module for PHP too. I also had FTP server software installed on the same machine, as all three CMS platforms need FTP to upload and install add-ons such as plug-ins, modules and themes.
Once all the software was in place, I had to perform the next step: Create a database with MySQL with which the CMSs would communicate. If you're familiar with the command line on Linux, this is not hard to do, and indeed it's not hard on Windows, with plenty of documentation out there to walk you through the process. The important thing to do is make sure that your CMS has the right permissions on the system on which it's residing. Without those permissions, trying to upload files into the host file system from within the CMS can fail spectacularly.
Once the LAMP (or WAMP) server is configured and the MySQL database is prepped, much of the hard work is done.
For this article, I installed the latest stable versions of the platforms: Drupal 7.7, Joomla 1.7 and WordPress 3.2.1. Here's how each system's installation compared.
Pushing out a Drupal site was a little harder than launching the Joomla and WordPress sites, though not by much. There were actually fewer steps, but sometimes it was not entirely clear what the system was asking for. At my level of expertise, it was always a matter of "Huh? Oh!" and off I would go. Less-experienced users might get hung up by the requests for database location and usernames, though.