(Last updated: Feb 2022): The Drupal 7 platform is due to reach End of Life (EOL) in the near future with a date currently set of November 2023. At this point, Drupal 7 will no longer be officially supported by the Drupal community.
For anyone currently with a Drupal 7 website, the recommendation from both ourselves and the Drupal community as a whole is to aim to move to Drupal 9 when time and budget allow. Despite the date having been twice extended, first to 2022 and then to November 2023 (and possibly beyond), we know that a move to Drupal 9 is perhaps a lot easier said than done for many organisations that will need to find the necessary budget, time and resources to complete the project.
Here we look at some of the most commonly asked questions so far about Drupal 7 reaching its End of Life, including what's involved in moving to Drupal 9 and also what it's likely to mean to those still on Drupal 7 when it reaches EOL.
Drupal 7 End of Life (EOL) means that this version of the platform will no longer be officially supported after November 2023. This means there will be no further security updates, enhancements or improvements released for that version of Drupal. This date could be extended further but, as things stand, this is the date that the Drupal community as a whole are working towards.
The good news is that anyone still using Drupal 7 when it reaches End of Life will not see any immediate difference, from the front-end perspective at least. Crucially, neither will your site visitors/users. Your website won’t suddenly stop working or become an immediate security risk once the EOL date is reached.
In administration areas of your Drupal site, the platform and modules will begin to display as “Unsupported” but everything will still continue to work as before at that point.
It is also highly likely that Adaptive may be to continue to support Drupal 7 websites in some capacity beyond End of Life where needed as there will continue to be some critical security updates for Drupal 7 core and certain modules under the “Drupal 7 Long Term Support (LTS) program”. This will be similar to the LTS service that there has previously been for the Drupal 6 platform. This will continue to ensure that vital security updates are made available ongoing for any major security issues that are identified.
However, over time, you’re likely to find some key disadvantages to remaining on Drupal 7 long term, such as:
- A lack of any new features or functionality being available
- Less overall focus on Drupal 7 means that not all potential security issues may be identified or rectified
- Further increased security risks as the platform is likely to need hosting on servers running older software versions which, themselves, may not be supported
- An increase in the amount of time/cost required to continue supporting a Drupal 7 site long term
Ours and the Drupal community’s recommendation for Drupal 7 website owners is therefore to ideally make the move to Drupal 9 if time, resources and budget allow. If, however, this may not be possible for any reason, then be reassured that your Drupal 7 website will still continue to function beyond its official End of Life date.
Unfortunately one of the key hurdles in moving on from Drupal 7 is that there is no direct upgrade path from Drupal 7 to Drupal 9. This is because the two platforms are structurally very different from each other so it’s not possible to simply upgrade from one to the other sadly.
It therefore means that a new website needs to be built in Drupal 9 and all content/functionality from the current Drupal 7 either migrated to the new site or rebuilt.
This is not a simple undertaking for most websites and needs planning in advance from various perspectives, not least of which is budgetary. Early consideration should therefore be given to planning the redevelopment of your website in Drupal 9.
The new version of the Drupal platform, Drupal 9, launched in June 2020. Any new Drupal website projects are therefore most likely to be developed in Drupal 9 from now onwards.
The Drupal 8 version of the platform has already reached End of Life as it effectively 'evolved' into Drupal 9, rather than being a completely different beast as Drupal 7 is. As a result, is a much more straightforward process to upgrade Drupal 8 sites to D9 than it is for Drupal 7. See our recent blog post for more details on the smooth transition expected from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9.
This section of the Drupal website explains what can and can’t be migrated programmatically from Drupal 7 to Drupal 9. In summary, it explains that it should be possible to use Drupal’s Migration suite of modules to migrate the following from an existing Drupal 7 website to a new Drupal 9 site:
- Content Types and the field configurations within these
- Taxonomy including the category configuration and the terms within each category
- User accounts and user profile structure/data
- Most of the existing content
- Some module configuration (depending on the modules in question and their availability/structure in Drupal 9)
- Some multilingual translation settings and translations themselves
However, the following areas of your Drupal 7 website cannot be automatically migrated:
- Your current theme (ie the design of your site)
- Drupal Views configurations (which is typically used heavily for any pages/sections of a website containing multiple pieces of content)
- Any custom functionality on your existing site such as integration with other third party websites/services/systems
- Functionality delivered by contributed modules used on your current site which don't have a release compatible with Drupal 9
There will therefore always be an amount of redevelopment work needed to create your new Drupal site in addition to utilising Drupal’s Migration tools. In our experience, the migration tools can also sometimes be a little hit and miss in terms of their effectiveness and completeness so, for some requirements, we are likely to recommend alternative options.
As with any website build project, we typically follow our standard project processes. This involves first carrying out a Discovery project to identify all the requirements for the new website before commencing the development. Read more about this process here.
When you’re rebuilding an existing website, the Discovery process is typically slightly different to that for a brand new website as you obviously have an existing website as a starting point for discussions.
When rebuilding your website in Drupal 9, you may decide, for simplicity sake, to simply rebuild like-for-like compared to your current Drupal 7 site, in which case the Discovery process is relatively short.
However, many organisations prefer to take the opportunity of a new website build to make changes and improvements to their website in the process. These may include:
- Creating a brand new design for the website, or at least making changes to the current design
- Looking at the current content/navigation structure to see if this should be amended in any way
- Improving existing functionality or adding brand new additional functionality
- Reviewing any content or functionality that may no longer be required on the website
In some cases, the amount of development work required on the new site build may be very similar, or even reduced, by making changes to the new site compared to the previous version. It’s always worth considering and discussing possible changes in more detail early on in the project so these can be evaluated and incorporated as required.
This can sometimes be a tricky one and needs discussing on a case-by-case basis. Key considerations though should include:
- What are the realistic timescales for starting, and launching, your Drupal 9 rebuild?
- What is the size/cost of the development(s) planned for your current site?
- How reusable is the planned development work likely to be on the rebuild site?
There are some developments which may well be transferrable to your new Drupal 9 website, or at least a good stepping stone in terms of covering off a chunk of work that would be otherwise needed on your new site.
For example, content restructuring on your current site is work which will transfer directly to a new site and will save you the time in having to consider this aspect as part of the rebuild.
Having a redesign to your current website would be less technically transferrable as the theme would need rebuilding for Drupal 9, but the initial work on discussing, agreeing and creating the new visual design would be time which wouldn’t need to be done again for your rebuild.
Another consideration, particularly for any larger or standalone new requirements, could be to build these separately from your main site on a new Drupal 9 site. From a visitor perspective, this could be achieved in a way that the transition between your main website and this new piece of functionality feels seamless but, from your perspective as the site owner, you’ve made your first step towards Drupal 9 and have functionality which won’t need to be rebuilt in the future. You can then look to move more and more of your main website content/functionality over from Drupal 7 to the new platform over time on a phased basis.
Adaptive are happy to offer best advice on a case-by-case basis on any proposed development work for your current website to help you decide if/how best to proceed in view of a potential upcoming move to Drupal 9.
While the decision to rebuild your Drupal 7 website in Drupal 9 is most likely primarily driven by security and performance factors, you can also expect a number of additional benefits from rebuilding your site on the newer version of Drupal. These include:
- Easier-to-use, more flexible content authoring/management tools
- Improved media management – organise and reuse your images and other media more easily throughout your website
- New Layout Builder tool for creating more flexible and attractive pages
- Mobile First theming creating both a better experience for mobile users and key SEO improvements
- Improved content moderation tools for a better editorial workflow and control
- Better translation tools and integration for multilingual sites
- Smarter integration with other platforms and services
Hundreds of new features and improvements are available in Drupal 9 compared to Drupal 7 so, in addition to ensuring the security and performance of your website remains stable into the future, Drupal 9 can also present many other benefits over a current Drupal 7 website too.
Durations and costs for rebuilds in Drupal 9 can vary significantly depending on your requirements, current site complexity and numerous other factors.
As the process of moving from Drupal 7 to Drupal 9 is effectively a new site build project, you should typically expect timescales and costs to match. Contact us to discuss things in more detail though and we’ll do our best to give you an initial idea of likely time/cost estimates.
If time and budget allow, there’s no reason to not start considering and planning a move to Drupal 9 straight away. However, we appreciate that, for many businesses and organisations, it won’t be as simple as that as additional budget would need to be secured in the first instance. Other considerations include the internal time and resource likely to be involved in the new project as well as that of other stakeholders in the website.
For organisations that absolutely want to be off Drupal 7 by the time it reaches End of Life, then we’d recommend starting your rebuild project no later than Q2 of 2023 at the very latest. However, as explained above, it’s not the end of the world if you’re still on Drupal 7 for some time beyond November 2023 but early planning is advised to try and move on from Drupal 7 either before that date or as soon after it as possible. With that in mind, that hopefully gives many organisations at least two financial years during which to plan and secure budget for a website rebuild if needed.
The Drupal organisation has pledged that the smooth upgrade process made available from Drupal 8 to 9 will be the norm going forward.
Once an organisation has their website in Drupal 9, we’d therefore anticipate future upgrades to Drupal 10 and beyond should be equally streamlined and be possible without any further significant redevelopment work being required.
Want to find out more?
Whether you’re an existing client of Adaptive or new to us, we’d be very happy to discuss your requirements with you and help to plan for the future of your website on Drupal 9.
Having worked with Drupal for so many years and already planning Drupal 9 projects for a number of clients, we have the knowledge and experience to be able to offer you best advice on what’s likely to be involved for your project and can work with you to take it forward.
Contact us for further details, complete the form below or, if you’re an existing client, speak directly to your Account Manager who'll be happy to advise further.