Nobody really likes upgrading their website’s software. It can often be a huge pain, and sometimes things will stop working entirely due to incompatibility issues or problems that happen during the transfer of data. However, the time for migration is drawing near for Drupal users, and you soon may have to deal with the hassle of moving to a new version of the platform.
That’s because both Drupal 7 and Drupal 8 will be coming to their end of life phases. This will happen in November of 2021 for both software packages, and that means that support for these versions of the software will cease. So in this article, we’re going to explain the end of life process for Drupal, and we’ll tell you what it means for your website.
What is “end of life” in regards to Drupal?
Every software package has a shelf life. In most cases, the creator of the software will provide support for it for at least a few years. After that time though, people who are still using that software will not be privy to future updates or features, and that means missing out on major functionality.
End of life phases are used by providers as a way to push users toward new software versions. In most cases, these new versions will be faster and make better use of new technologies which are important for the growth of the platform and the websites that call it home.
While it’s still possible to continue to use Drupal 7 after this period, it’s not recommended. Getting updates or bug fixes for outdated software would require contracting an outside company to upkeep it for you. However, it hardly seems worthwhile to pay hundreds of dollars per month to maintain outdated software. Especially when a newer and better version has been released.
Why is “end of life” needed at all?
Technology is constantly changing, and for platforms to keep up, new versions must be released. This allows for upgrades in security and flexibility that would be missing if they just kept using the same software versions forever.
It also gets extremely difficult to provide support and make sure that other software is playing nice with every version of Drupal. So, culling older packages is how they deal with this. There’s simply not enough manpower available to continue to work on every version of the software, and so those older versions must be abandoned. This also helps developers to clean up the code and start with a clean slate for future developments.
Why should you upgrade your Drupal installation?
For starters, if you don’t you’ll be missing out on a lot of new functionality that makes Drupal that much better. However, you’ll also be needlessly endangering your website. Software that doesn’t have developmental support doesn’t get patched and bugs never get fixed once it reaches the end of life phase.
This could make Drupal 7 installations a prime target for hackers who are looking to take over websites or hold them for ransom. These types of attacks have been increasing in prevalence in recent years, and upgrading to the latest version of Drupal is the best way to protect yourself from these security exploits.
In addition to this, Drupal is also changing in a big way. Drupal is now a modern platform that’s capable of handling massive websites. This scalability is reason enough to upgrade, but the new Drupal will also inspire Drupal modular maintainers.
In the past, when a new version of Drupal came out they’d need to make a complete rebuild of their old modules. Now, this won’t be an issue thanks to backwards compatibility. This is a huge boon for module creators and website owners alike.
If you stick with Drupal 7 you may find that the number of modules which are available to you will begin to shrink. Eventually, very little outside software will be supported by this version, and you’ll need to create your own modules to continue using it.
Should I migrate to 8 now or just wait for 9?
You do, of course, have the option to wait for Drupal 9, but there’s a very good reason why you shouldn’t. Since Drupal 9 is being built inside of Drupal 8, the migration will be much easier than what you may have experienced in the past. Those who upgrade will also enjoy monthly bug fixes instead of having to wait years for an update as they did previously.
You’ll also be able to begin learning the functions and features of the new Drupal experience as you prepare for Drupal 9. This includes greatly enhanced ease of use thanks to great new features like the WYSIWYG editor and inline editing.
Drupal 8 is also fully mobile responsive. So, if you’ve been trying to get the perfect layout for your mobile site, this update can fix that for you. This mobile readiness also extends to the admin area, and it makes it much easier to manage your website on the go.
In closing, there’s no reason not to upgrade to Drupal 8 now. The amount of functionality you’ll receive for doing so is phenomenal, and when 8 is finally pronounced dead, moving to Drupal 9 will be an easy fix for everyone.
Migrating to Drupal 8 will require you to first create a clean Drupal 8 install. You’ll then need to move your content and configuration to this new site. You’ll also need to carefully inspect the upgrade paths to make sure that any modules you’re using can follow the automatic upgrade path. In some cases, you may to manually transfer some of these files.
Upgrading to Drupal 9 when it’s released will be a simpler matter. Instead of a major upgrade, it will be more like a minor upgrade. Though the deprecated code will still be shed, the backwards compatibility will remain. The Drupal team will have a clean slate to work with, and site owners will have an easier transition ahead of them for future releases.