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5th Feb 2021

Drupal migration: things to consider

Whether you’re looking to migrate from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 or 9, the fundamentals still apply. Migrating from Drupal 7 is a large task, and it’s supposed to be the last of the disruptive updates. If your site was on Drupal 8, upgrading to Drupal 9 would be a minor update, whereas going from Drupal 7 to 8 or 9 is a migration and for many, an opportunity to rebuild. With that in mind, migrating from Drupal 7 shouldn’t be taken lightly. Here are our thoughts on what you should be considering once you’ve decided to migrate.

Why migrate from Drupal 7? 

If your site is working fine and it’s getting traction from your target audience, why bother upgrading from Drupal 7 to a more recent version? Whilst the impact of Drupal’s 7 end of life isn’t difficult to manage now, in a year’s time, it will likely be a different story. 

Security support 

Drupal 7 has been around for over a decade, and with that comes a sense of trust and loyalty from developers and users. That trust and loyalty is also due to Drupal’s high standard of security, but with end of life approaching in 2022, Drupal 7 site owners have reason to be concerned. 

In February, Drupal confirmed that once Drupal 7 is decommissioned, there won’t be any official support from the community or Drupal Security Team, which includes regular security fixes. A lack of security patches will leave your data vulnerable, meaning a higher risk of succumbing to hacking and user data being compromised. 

The other issue with a lack of security support is that your site may be flagged as untrustworthy. If 3rd party elements aren’t being monitored for vulnerabilities, your user’s security can’t be confidently assured. For this reason, it will likely be harder to gain ‘secure’ status for your site, which will have an outward impact on traffic, SEO and rankings. 

Although these potential issues are more likely to occur closer to 2022, it’s important to note that support will start to become scaled back long before the intended end of life date. With more websites migrating from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 or 9, you should be prepared for the inevitable reduction in support.

Module updates

Security won’t be the only support that's scaled back. As Drupal stated, the support community as a whole won’t be working on providing assistance to Drupal 7 anymore. This means that features like themes and contributed modules, which are created by the Drupal Community, will no longer be updated or enhanced. You may not feel the immediate effects of this lack of community support, but it’ll mean you won’t be able to improve your theme or contributed modules to keep up with industry changes. Equally, if any issues arose, there would be little room for manoeuvre to remedy them. There’s a danger that your website could end up seeming aged, as recommended best practices for site features, functionality and UX will be hard to implement. 

Missing out on new features

With the emergence of Drupal 8 and 9 came improved flexibility, functionality and speed. It’s built around new technologies like Twig (a template engine used for coding efficiency) and Symfony (a framework to increase flexibility for customisation on your site), which provide the fuel for reliable, powerful solutions. There’s even increased multilingual and multiregional compatibility and features to make technical usability easier. The inclusion of these upgraded features isn’t just to show off Drupal’s shiny new updates, it’s to make working with Drupal more efficient and productive.

If losing out on Drupal Community support and security fixes isn’t enough, missing out on the newest features is certainly a point for reflection. Whether you upgrade to Drupal 8 or 9, making the most of the newest technology and improved Drupal Community modules is an investment worth making.

Considerations when migrating from Drupal 7 

Unfortunately, migrating from Drupal 7 isn’t a one size fits all approach. In the same way each site is unique, migration plans should also be bespoke. The most important step you can take is to plan. Accounting for customised modules, contributed module migration (or lack thereof) and themes require forethought for a hassle-free Drupal migration. Here are some considerations to review during your planning stage: 

Drupal themes

When migrating from Drupal 7, you’ll need to consider your plan of action for your site’s theme. Themes can’t be migrated from Drupal 7 to a higher version, but there are a few options available. You can find a similar theme in Drupal 8 or 9 which suits your requirements and matches your brand aesthetics. Alternatively, Twig can be used to re-design a theme for a bespoke template, tailored to suit the needs of your business and its target audience. Equally, you can update the PHP template, however, this option should be carefully considered as it’ll require an experienced developer to ensure it’s done correctly. Whatever you decide to do, it’s worth consulting an experienced Drupal development agency, like Versantus, to make sure themes are implemented correctly, saving you time and hassle in the long run. 

Module compatibility 

Drupal 7 modules don’t have guaranteed compatibility with Drupal 8 or 9. With contributed modules in particular, you’ll need to review what the options are for migration. When using contributed modules, you should always make sure they’re trusted and well-reviewed so your site isn’t unnecessarily exposed to malicious third-party tools.  

As part of your data migration, go through your site’s modules and review which ones need carrying over, whether there are any Drupal 8 or 9 alternatives you can use to make the process easier, or whether you should build custom modules to suit your requirements. This will give you a clear plan of what is and isn’t being kept in your Drupal 8 or 9 site, so nothing will be inadvertently lost, or incorrectly carried across in the migration process. 

Migration over rebuild

For a simple site, configuration migration and content migration shouldn’t require extensive tweaking. However, for large, more complex sites with customisations and added functionality, Drupal 7 migration can be a large task. With this in mind, it’s vital all your options are considered before you jump into action. Whilst migration can take a lot of planning, work and time, it could be just as cost and time effective to rebuild your website. Modules, themes, content types and configurations will need to be reviewed and analysed to see what’s needed, what isn’t and what will require bespoke development. Rebuilding will ensure all the right configurations and content are applied to your Drupal 8 or 9 site, with the potential for even more relevant functionality. Although it can seem like a daunting task, rebuilding your Drupal site can bring your digital presence up to date and account for additional required functionality. 

The realistic scope of work

Whether you settle on a straight migration from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 or 9, or decide on rebuilding, you should establish the scope of work from the outset. As both options require planning, to avoid issues further down the line, you should work with an experienced Drupal agency to set out what’s required to successfully complete the project. 

Elements, like content types, modules, UX, back-end usability and CRO, should be considered as part of the scope of work. For a straight migration, content can be migrated through the use of migration tools, but it will still require an experienced developer who has undertaken migrations in the past. To make the whole process easier, go through your site with a fine tooth-comb and consider the role of each element. Understand why certain elements are needed, brainstorm whether they could be improved and discuss if it would be worth redoing an element completely. This step will inform how much time and budget you’ll need, so you can build a migration or rebuild plan accordingly with all the variable factors included and considered.

Preparation is key

The key to a successful migration, or rebuild, is preparation. Preparation and planning will keep your team on the same page and reduce ambiguity on what will be left behind, carried forward and customised. 

Get in touch

The benefits of migrating your Drupal site to a higher version outweigh the initial costs, but if you’re unsure on the best route to take or need some guidance, feel free to get in touch with our expert team. We put our clients first, so the recommendations you receive are the ones that best suit your business and your goals. Whether you need a Drupal migration or a rebuild, our team can help you get from A to B, and create a bespoke solution.

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