It was coming in fast. Even with the previous end-of-life deadline approaching, the most recent Drupal usage statistics (March 26, 2022) suggest that as many as 500,000 websites are still on Drupal 7. That makes it a slight majority of Drupal websites all together! There are a lot of reasons for that, one being that moving to Drupal 9 is a big project that not everyone is ready to take on. There was danger brewing with the types of industries and government institutions still using Drupal 7 for their content management requirements. Dropping support could have created a serious problem.

With that in mind, to continue to provide support and security to all Drupal 7 site owners while not leaving them vulnerable, the Drupal community along with Drupal project lead, Dries Buytaert, recently announced that the Drupal 7 End of Life date will be further extended to November 1, 2023. The previous end of life for Drupal 7 was extended to November 2022 due to the impact of the pandemic on businesses and budgets. To put that in perspective, Drupal 8 has already reached its end of life on November 2, 2021.

But is it a good idea to wait till November 2023 to migrate your Drupal 7 site to Drupal 9 (or Drupal 10 coming soon)? The Drupal community and Specbee recommends you NOT to wait till 2023 to take that leap. Here’s why.

Drupal 7 to Drupal 9

But wait, why are so many organizations still on Drupal 7?

If this is you, we understand you have your reasons to stick around with Drupal 7. The following are some of the “why’s” we’ve heard from our clients who were on Drupal 7 (but are now safely on Drupal 9).

Budget - Maybe it goes without saying that upgrading to a new and advanced platform consumes more of your marketing and IT budget. Especially for this migration as Drupal 9 is a completely fresh build. The change in the database structure needs more development time as well. 

A deeper ROI analysis will help you substantiate the cost. Upgrading to a more robust, extensible, modern and secure platform like Drupal 9 is worth the investment. More on that below.

Unsure of stability - If your Drupal 7 site is complex and with a lot of custom development, you might feel that staying with your current Drupal 7 system is more comfortable than moving to Drupal 9. It’s scary, right? And since it could take a couple of months of development time, you might get questioned about the long-term stability of the migrated functionalities.

With a trusted Drupal development partner and some prep work before your Drupal 9 migration, all of the above mentioned uneasiness can be ironed out. Sure, you can flex Drupal 7 to the changing environment but with Drupal 9, flexibility and stability is built into its core.

Unavailable Modules - You may have heard that not many of the Drupal 7 contributed modules are ported to Drupal 9. And that’s true!

While a significant number of contributed modules have been ported to Drupal 9 (most of the popular ones are now a part of core) some were deprecated in the spirit of streamlining. Now you don’t really need very many contributed modules to build a Drupal 9 website. And we can guarantee that there’s nothing built on Drupal 7 that can’t be custom built better in Drupal 9.

Integrations - Many of our clients were skeptical if Drupal 9 would be able to support all their existing integrations that Drupal 7 has been gracefully handling. 

The good news is that just isn’t a problem. Drupal 9 has been built on a modern architecture that allows websites to integrate and exchange data with any third-party application of your choice. 

Unaware of the power of Drupal 9 - Yes, this is one of the most prevalent reasons why Drupal 7 site owners are not migrating to Drupal 9.

The assumption that it’s not a huge advancement in speed and usability is a mistake. Along with the tons of features you will get with Drupal 9 (more on that later), staying on an old technology that is hard to grow should be reason enough to upgrade to Drupal 9.

The New Vendor Onboarding - Understandably, Drupal 7 site owners find it hard to trust a new (more often than not) vendor and if they can deliver quality.

Finding a reputable/reliable Drupal development company is key to addressing this issue. Make sure you read this article to know how to evaluate a Drupal partner to get a better idea. Choosing a partner who works exclusively on Drupal is a big advantage.

Simple Websites - Maintaining simple, single page or websites that have very minimal custom or contributed modules is easier with Drupal 7.

Although Drupal 9 has been built to meet expectations of small business owners to large enterprises and you will need to move eventually, in cases like this, you can probably hold off a little closer to Drupal 7 end of life. Your migration shouldn’t take much time and holding off will allow you to better prepare your budget.

Why you should plan your Drupal 9 migration now

We’ve gone through the most common reasons people hold off migrating. Now let’s talk about the gigantic leap forward Drupal 9 provides. After all, you’ll need to make a case as to why Drupal 7 site owners and leadership should make the upgrade ASAP. The first thing most people think is that there’s plenty of time till November 2023. But these benefits are worth the migration alone and are why we recommend that now is the best time to upgrade your Drupal 7 website to Drupal 9.

1. A Next-Gen Platform

Moving to a new and advanced platform is the best way to meet your client’s current expectations.

Not unlike how car makers upgrade their models every 5 years (or less sometimes) as technology and minimum requirements to advance, the same can be expected for websites. Sure, an older car had features like air-conditioning, power windows, airbags, decent horsepower and more that were standard for their time. But today’s standards require more than that. Enhancements like side curtain airbags, automatic climate control, traction control, gas efficiency, etc., have elevated the driving experience and are in-line with the modern trends in safety and comfort.

Bringing it back to technology, upgrading to a fresh and modern platform is the most cost-effective thing you can do to turn your average site into one that’s a supercharged lead generation and user experience dream. Drupal 9 has been built on a platform that is extensible and scalable to meet every growing organization’s digital experience needs. Leveraging the power of an advanced, innovative, and robust platform like Drupal 9 makes perfect sense. Waiting just extends the amount of time you’re technologically behind the modern standards.

2. Continuously Evolving 

Drupal 8 was built with the idea of continuous innovation which has (and will always be) carried forward to its successors (Drupal 9, Drupal 10…). The big difference has been the adoption of modern libraries like Symfony, Twig, Guzzle which have enabled developers to build high performing and innovative web applications. Plus, the API-first approach lets you deliver content to different devices, channels and platforms seamlessly. 

Keeping up with the latest PHP versions, MySQL versions, libraries help in getting the most out of them. With the inclusion of features like Composer, it is now possible to manage dependencies and conflicts, allowing for significant functionality to be added without having to build everything from scratch. This enables Drupal to be both effective and sustainable enough to run enterprise level sites. All this leads to organizations building applications that are built on modern platforms and better performing. 

3. Easy upgrades forever

With the big jump from Drupal 7, it’s natural to think that once you have migrated to Drupal 9, upgrading to the latest Drupal release will be a hassle every time going forward. That is just not the case.

Yes, as mentioned earlier, migrating from Drupal 7 to Drupal 9 is going to be a major project with an entire platform rebuild. But once you’re on Drupal 9, upgrades are going to be easy forever! With the adoption of the new semantic versioning beginning with Drupal 8, new features are now released with every minor version update and major upgrades. This allows you to innovate faster and provides a smoother learning curve. You will never have to replatform again. We promise! 

4. Missing the boat

Drupal 8 introduced many fantastic features that have been enhanced in Drupal 9. If you’re still using Drupal 7 to manage your content, here’s a little hint of what you are missing out on.

  • Better security - With the Drupal community and security team prioritizing and actively focusing on security of Drupal 9, you can rest assured that your website is safe. The removal of deprecated code means you have a leaner codebase, thus decreasing chances of security risks or errors.
  • Powerful performance - Many performance enhancing modules are already built in Drupal 9 core. Modules like the Big Pipe (improving the frontend rendering pipeline) and the Internal page cache (data caching for faster content delivery) are now baked right in. Meanwhile some of them are contributed - like the Advanced CSS/JS aggregation module (improving frontend performance), Blazy module (lazy loading of images), CDN and more.
  • Better editorial experience - The Layout builder module, now in Drupal 9 core, is a fantastic tool for site builders and content editors to build customized and flexible pages easily. It has a very user-friendly UI with drag and drop capabilities that make it easy to work with. The Media module, also in core, makes media management simple and efficient.
  • Powerful content moderation - Drupal 9 has a built-in effective content moderation workflow that helps marketing teams streamline their publishing workflow. In addition, you can also leverage the Content moderation module to further customize and expand its capabilities.
  • Configuration Management - Configuration data can now be stored, managed and moved within various environments easily and consistently with the Configuration management in Drupal 9 core.
  • API-first approach - Drupal 8 took the API-first approach route and this was a game changer. It gives you the flexibility of integrating with any third-party system of your choice and delivering content irrespective of the platform, device or channel.

5. Ready to jump in?

Let’s face it. A complex Drupal 7 website with deeper levels of customization will need more time and development effort to migrate to Drupal 9 when compared to a simple website. And, yes, it’s going to be a complete rebuild from the ground up. No one likes putting budget to something like this, but the risk mitigation itself makes it a worthwhile investment. 

The other factor here is the last minute rush (we see this a lot). Many organizations get desperate when they can’t find availability from the more established Drupal development companies and go with someone who isn’t qualified. We have a whole customer segment of “migration rescues”. A poor migration is an overly expensive fix, unfortunately. Don’t make that mistake. Before you migrate, you have four important things to do:

  • Do your research and find an ideal Drupal development partner who can make even your complex Drupal 9 migration seem easy. 
  • Prepare yourself well for the information that will be needed to audit your current Drupal 7 site. Here’s a quick checklist for you to keep handy.
  • Get a migration audit performed by the Drupal partner you have chosen (we can do it for you for FREE if you’d like). This audit report will give you detailed information on your content structure, backend and frontend architecture and SEO structure so that the Drupal experts can plan the best migration strategy that works for your website.
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