June 2020 saw the launch of Drupal 9. But did you know that 65% of Drupal sites are still on Drupal 7? Drupal 7 will reach end of life in November 2022, and Drupal 8 will reach end of life in November 2021. Despite these dates seeming a while away, now is the time to start planning your roadmap for moving over to Drupal 9 in order to keep your site, and your users’ data, secure.

What does end of life mean?

As an open-source content management framework, Drupal has a large community of users and developers involved in its continuous development. Contributors provide active support by creating new functionality, providing security updates, improving its usability, testing updates, creating and improving documentation, and much more. This huge community of contributors helps to improve every aspect of Drupal.

At the time of writing, support of Drupal 7 sites will continue until November 2022, and 8 sites will continue until November 2021, although no new features will be added to these sites following the Drupal 9 release (which was the 3rd June 2020). This means that if you have a Drupal 7 or 8 site, you have until these dates to upgrade before your site is no longer supported by the Drupal security team, and may therefore be vulnerable to security issues. Your site won’t suddenly stop working once November 2022 for Drupal 7 and November 2021 for Drupal 8 passes, but to ensure your website remains secure, it is strongly advised to upgrade before then. 

Upgrading to Drupal 9

From Drupal 8

Thanks to the launch of Drupal’s continuous innovation model which came with Drupal 8, the upgrade from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9 is simple. The first release of Drupal 9 will be very similar to the last minor release of Drupal 8 (Drupal 8.9.x), minus any deprecated code and with updated third-party dependencies. This means the upgrade path from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9 is straightforward. 

From Drupal 7

If you have a Drupal 7 site, upgrading to any CMS, Drupal 9 included, is going to take more work: a full rebuild and a migration of your content. At the time of writing, we’d recommend embarking upon your upgrade off Drupal 7 as soon as possible and would suggest that this build was started in Drupal 8 and then updated when modules become Drupal 9 compatible (so the build would start in Drupal 8, but you’d launch in Drupal 9!).

Upgrading to Drupal 8 now will make the eventual upgrade to Drupal 9 far easier, and there are many features in Drupal 8 (and soon Drupal 9) that your organisation could benefit from. Getting everything lined up for an upgrade from Drupal 7 does take time. So if you’re still using Drupal 7, we’d strongly recommend getting your upgrade roadmap in place now.

What should my plan be?

As mentioned above, if your website is currently using Drupal 7, you’ll need to completely rebuild it and migrate your content. You might want to keep the design your site currently has, which would speed things up a little, or you might want to see this as an opportunity for a completely fresh site, and a chance to optimise the user experience by conducting some user research. Both options will require a team of developers to rebuild your website so now is the time to decide what would be best for your business. 

Already on Drupal 8?

If you have a Drupal 8 site, the first step prior to upgrading to Drupal 9 is to fully update your site to use the most recent version of Drupal’s core code, contributed modules and themes. 

Once your site is up-to-date, the next step is to assess what modules and custom code need to be updated. A Drupal 9 readiness audit will give you a status report on your site and provide an indication of work needed on custom modules, and flag any contributed modules not yet ready. This will provide you with an indication of any work needed, and a roadmap for upgrading to Drupal 9. 

Where deprecated code exists in contributed modules, developers should be working with module maintainers to raise issues and help fix any deprecated code to ensure contributed modules are Drupal 9 compatible. 

Next steps

As Drupal experts, we can help you to create your digital roadmap to ensure that you are not left open to any site vulnerabilities when Drupal 7 and 8 become unsupported. 

Get in touch today to discuss your roadmap, or to book a Drupal 9 readiness audit. This audit will help you to gain an understanding of the work needed to prepare your digital estate for Drupal 9 and beyond. 

You may also like our guide ‘Everything you need to know about Drupal 9’.