If you have a Drupal 7 site, the time to upgrade to Drupal 8 (believe it or not) has passed.
Now, that's not to say it's impossible to upgrade from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8, because technically you could, but, for all intents and purposes it would be a waste of time, effort and money.
Drupal is in a unique situation, or should I say the versions of Drupal, are in a unique situation as it is the only time when an earlier version of Drupal is supported longer than the later versions of the same program/platform.
Why you ask?
Well, it was decided, given the substantial differences between Drupal 7 and more recent Drupal versions (8 and 9), along with the complications of a worldwide pandemic, that organizations should be given more than ample time to prepare for such a significant move.
Which leaves many, perhaps you as well, asking why even upgrade from Drupal 7 right now to Drupal 8 or Drupal 9? Why not just stay at Drupal 7 if everything is working perfectly?
Thankfully, the answer to both is relatively simple… after the end date of official support for Drupal 7, in November 2022, there will be no more official releases (either in terms of upgrades to existing modules, core or security updates). Which means that if you need any new features added to Drupal 7, they will be features your own developers will have to implement for you, as well as maintain for you in terms of compliance - which is not ideal for any application (no matter what it's built with).
There are of course options for sticking with Drupal 7, and of course, drawbacks that come along with it. Pretty significant ones actually.
One option is that your organization could choose to develop a relationship with one of the few Drupal specialist agencies who have been certified to deliver long-term support (LTS) to clients wishing to remain on earlier versions of the Drupal platform. However, since there are such few organizations available, given the large amounts of resources necessary to monitor an entire platform along with all its modules, the market for available LTS providers is very small. Minuscule, in fact, compared to the developer base available to current versions of the platforms.
Another important aspect for organizations to consider with Drupal 7 (or heaven forbid Drupal 6) is if the platform contains custom modules. Any custom modules will need vulnerability testing on a regular basis and the aforementioned items, along with a laundry list of items not mentioned for the sake of brevity (and prevention of boredom). These will make the decision to utilize an LTS provider an option to remain on the Drupal 7 platform (and even the Drupal 8 platform, shortly) a less than ideal option. Not to mention an extremely expensive one, accompanied by an extremely limited base of Drupal companies capable of providing LTS services.
There are also the more obvious considerations to take under advisement.
For example, all of the new features being built for Drupal which make the platform not only easier to use, from both the administrative standpoint and also the user standpoint. An organization with a Drupal 7, or lower, instance which wishes to employ certain features will not be able to obtain those features simply by adding and wiring an existing module into the Drupal site. Instead, such features will have to be built from scratch (so-to-speak) into the existing Drupal 7 or lower project.
In fact, most organizations, even if they could afford to have an LTS Drupal agency provider build the features for them, would quickly find the worth of those features diminishing significantly over time – perhaps, even before the newly-requested features had been completed. All in all, it makes significant financial sense to put an organization's resources into later versions of Drupal.
Which, if you're still reading, should be relatively obvious at this point.
Assuming the above facts make sense, and have convinced any Drupal 7 application owners reading this to perform the Drupal 7 to 8 or 9 upgrade, the next matter to consider is whether the move should be made to Drupal 8 or Drupal 9.
Which, as we mentioned previously, is a pretty easy decision considering the fact that Drupal 8 is going to be End of Life (EOL) this year - before Drupal 7. Which brings us to the main point of this post, which is that if you are in any version of Drupal other than version 9 at this point, the best thing to do is to go straight to a Drupal 9 upgrade.
Anyone suggesting moving to Drupal 8 and then to Drupal 9 (unfortunately) does not know Drupal.
To explain this further, because it's a question we do receive often, there is no actual need to proceed sequentially. In other words, one does not need to move from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8… and then from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9. The same results (in fact, more efficient results) can be had with a Drupal 7 to 9 migration.
Reason being that if you upgraded from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 then you would be almost immediately upgrading from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9 and while the move from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9 is a ripple in the pond compared to the ocean of difference from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 (or Drupal 9). So a word from the wise, any Drupal agency, or developer, suggesting the move must be completed sequentially should be removed from the list of potential candidates for the job.
Another benefit of moving from Drupal 7 to 9 is that it extends the EOL of the then-upgraded project significantly, meaning that, once you are on Drupal 9 the move to future versions will be a piece of cake compared to this current jump.
Now that we have established the facts that the upgrade from Drupal 7 is in fact something you need to consider sooner than later, and the fact that the move does not need to be sequential, we can focus on the Drupal 7 to Drupal 9 migration itself.
First and foremost, it's important to understand that the move from Drupal 7 to the newer versions of Drupal is a significant undertaking – an undertaking which should not be attempted by anyone other than an agency whose sole focus is Drupal.
For reasons as simple as debunking rumors you may have heard, like the fact that it may be wiser to wait to move from Drupal 7 to later versions because later versions are making the move easier to accomplish. Which we will be the first to tell you is absolutely untrue.
The fact is, Drupal 7 (and earlier versions) are based on an entirely different set of technologies and require significant investments in time, effort and energy to accurately determine the resources required to be dedicated to the upgrade from Drupal 7 to later versions.
In fact, when the move to Drupal 8 was announced years ago, a significant amount of the Drupal development community were dismayed to find extensive resources would be required to both fully understand both how the newer platform operated and also that an entirely new platform and technologies had to be learned in order to be successful.
Drupal itself however realized the changes were necessary in order for Drupal to not only remain relevant among potential web platforms, but were necessary in order to outpace other potential platforms. And the more far-sighted Drupal development agencies, like Thinkbean, also quickly realized the move was not only intelligent and insightful… but necessary for future growth.
And while more resources would need to be invested in order to continue to develop on the Drupal platform in an efficient manner, the benefits of those the changes in the future versions ensured Drupal would not only remain a viable choice as a web platform but (potentially) become the most logical and economical choice for Drupal's target client – large, national, multi-national and government organizations.
As such, many agencies decided they were not going to pursue Drupal development to the same level as they had been, while others decided they would still offer Drupal, but as a platform among many others, thus losing their ability to truly be classified as Drupal experts.
Then there were the Drupal companies who decided they would continue to pursue Drupal design and development or who morphed into agencies which (if they had not previously done so) concentrated on Drupal, only.
And there are companies, like Thinkbean, who already were, and plan to remain Drupal only agencies.
So where does that leave YOU?
Well, this post could continue for a significant number of pages extolling the virtues of the Drupal web platform versus other web platforms…as well as the agencies capable of performing Drupal development to the same level they may have once been able to. Suffice it to say though if your organization is planning a move from Drupal 7 (or even Drupal 8) to Drupal 9 then you have made a wise decision in getting this far in your reading.
An even wiser decision to be made now would be in finding the right "Drupal only" development agency to assist with your move from Drupal 7 - and thankfully we can help make that your easiest decision yet. We welcome you to reach out to one of our expert Drupal strategists to learn a bit more about Thinkbean, and so that we can hear a bit about you and your needs as well.
We look forward to connecting.