Planning for Drupal Migration

Planning for Drupal Migration

Proper planning for Drupal migration is becoming increasingly important for website owners. Drupal 8 will not be available for at least another 4 months. It is undergoing active development as we speak. Big changes to Drupal are certainly on the way as this big upgrade comes to fruition.

Opening for development in March 2011, at DrupalCon Chicago, core initiatives have since blossomed into focused diligence. As we reach critical mass, it behooves Drupal 6 users, along with newcomers, to be proactive in developing their Drupal migration plans.

One of the great philosophies behind Drupal is to always stay at the forefront of web technology. Innovation lies at the heart of Drupal. As a result, new Drupal versions are not backwards-compatible. While this aspect does admittedly make upgrades more difficult, it also means that the latest version of Drupal is as innovative and modern as possible. It means that Drupal is not tethered to the past in a limiting way and continues to stay at the forefront of web technology.

The way of the world dictates that the old eventually shuffle out, making room for the new. Forboding parables aside, there’s really no need for panic – yet. At the moment, the community fully and officially supports Drupal 6 and Drupal 7 through security updates and more. Historically speaking, Drupal only supports two versions – the most previous release and the existing one. Of course, this means that the impending release of Drupal 8 will send Drupal 6 into retirement by way of support ceasing to exist online.

A Case of History Repeating

Drupal 6 saw its release take place in early 2008. About 3 years later, Drupal 7 followed in all its glory. Pundits and pontificators have projected that according to this pattern, Drupal 7 will be a viable, supported solution until 2015 or later.

When to Upgrade

The tried and true version in Drupal 7 is the best option, even when Drupal 8 is inevitably unleashed. With core Drupal always being upgradeable, it is unnecessary to rush into the newest version. Practices may vary, though it’s a safe approach to consider making the switch to 8 once it’s been around for a solid 4-6 months. For Drupal 6 users, the clock is ticking - it is highly recommended to start migrating to Drupal 7 soon.

How to Upgrade

Migrations to newer versions of Drupal must be sequential; that is, migration is only possible from Drupal 6 to Drupal 7, but not from Drupal 6 to Drupal 8. The process of Drupal migration has the potential to be arduous, though there are plenty of valuable resources to aid in the transition. First and foremost, preservation of your existing site should be exercised byprotecting your data with backup migrate. Begin with a download of the current website and database, followed by a basic installation in a new location to keep your data safe.

Backup & Migrate is an excellent module for this purpose, serving as a flexible tool for protecting and migrating databases. Those making the switch in due time will also find thisDrupal 6 to Drupal 7 migration guide beneficial, as it outlines the process in detail. Naturally, there’s plenty of documentation available on migrating to Drupal 7 featured from the tightly-knit Drupal Community. These guides include planning, execution, and finally, testing. The switch will vary in difficulty depending on the complexity of your website.

Why to Upgrade

Let’s face it, mobile support is a massive topic of conversation as the use of tablets and smartphones becomes increasingly pervasive. In fact, mobile web usage is projected to surpass traditional desktop usage around the half-way point of the decade, influencing the focus of developers towards Responsive Web Design. Moreover, a number of new features are peeking around the horizon, including the popular Views module packaged in Drupal core, CSS improvements, HTML5, and more. A detailed log of Drupal 8 updates and initiatives is available, along with a comprehensive timeline for completion - an invaluable reference for site owners and developers in the coming months.

What's Next

The best advice at this juncture would be to plan for Drupal 8, but build on Drupal 7. The face of the Drupal design & development community will undoubtedly encounter a huge transformation as Drupal 8 approaches maturity towards the end of 2013/early 2014. Nevertheless, Drupal 7 isn’t going anywhere any time soon, while the sun slowly begins to set on Drupal 6. The Drupal community and geeks alike instinctively understand there will always be something ‘better’ out there.

In a quintessential case of Darwinism, those who fail to adapt will definitely be left behind. A timely and thoughtful Drupal migration might be the difference between a thriving website and a website facing extinction. Website owners, in particular those on Drupal 6, are highly recommended to evaluate their website assets and put together a timeline and plan for migration.