Drupal 7 End of Life is Near — Is Your Website Ready?
Official support for Drupal 7 may have been extended an additional year, but that doesn't mean you should hold off on migrating. Here's everything you need to know about Drupal 7 end of life.
After more than a decade of life, official community support for Drupal 7 was originally slated to end in November 2022 — along with support provided by the Drupal Association on Drupal.org. While the deadline has since been extended to at least November 2023, Drupal 7 will not be supported indefinitely. If your site is still on version 7, what can you do?
What Does End of Life (EOL) Actually Mean?
When it comes to software, “end of life” occurs when the engineers that release regular updates for a piece of software stop actively developing and maintaining it.
Even if this is your first time encountering the term, you’ve likely experienced the process as a user. For example, if you used a computer in the early 2000s, it’s very likely that it ran Microsoft’s popular Windows XP Operating system. But in 2014, Windows XP reached EOL and was phased out in favor of the Windows 10 platform. With a market share of nearly 30% at its peak, Windows XP now runs on just .58% of all Windows devices.
While it can be frustrating with users who have grown comfortable with a particular platform, EOL is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Establishing an EOL on a product allows software engineers the chance for a greater deal of reinvention. If the software’s foundations were developed a very long time ago, in order to make a huge technological advancement, it’s often necessary to create brand new foundations to sustain the software for much longer into the future. And this is what we’re seeing with Drupal 7 and why it’s going to EOL.
When Is Drupal 7 End of Life?
Drupal 7 End of Life is tentatively slated for November 2023. D7 launched in 2011 and, in the years since, it has supported more than 70 releases. (It is anticipated that a few more updates will roll out before EOL.) This is actually an incredibly long run for a piece of software to have been supported for this long!
Along with Drupal 7’s forthcoming End of Life, Drupal 8 (D8) saw EOL in November 2021.
Why Migrate from Drupal 7?
EOL for a product usually means a newer and (hopefully) better version of that product is available, and users benefit from that stronger foundation and advanced technology in many ways. However, NOT updating to a new version in a timely manner can have severe, unforeseen consequences.
The #1 motivator is security. Your website is your digital front door, and you want to keep that secure.
Falling behind on security updates is a leading cause of website breaches, and using outdated and/or unsupported software products only increases vulnerabilities to attacks.
EOL information is often common knowledge, which means hackers are aware of these key dates. Further, the technology bad actors employ is incredibly sophisticated — and it’s constantly evolving. To protect your websites and organizations from vulnerabilities, it is imperative that you use software products that offer security updates and support.
Digital Strategy Evolution
Consider this not only an opportunity to upgrade your CMS technology, but also to evolve your digital strategy.
In 2011, when Drupal 7 was released, the internet was a different place: Internet Explorer was on version 9; Blackberry had more than 30 percent of mobile browser market share; and 28 percent of websites still used Flash — which was then predicted to be the future of the web. Of note, responsive web design was in its infancy at the time of Drupal’s debut. Today, it’s assumed that most websites are mobile-first.
Somewhere between that 2011 date and now, your D7 site launched. In the midst of a huge evolution of what the web was, what the technology was, what the best practices were.
Drupal 7 End of Life is a perfect opportunity to evolve your digital strategy by ensuring you’re on a CMS platform whose foundation is built on the most modern technology, with the most up to date accessibility, and user experience standards in mind.
Drupal 7 Migration to D9 comes with many new features, including a fully integrated media library, advanced content and workflow tools, advanced performance features, integrated multilingual features, and an integrated visual query builder. D9 also has API-first and mobile-first architecture. Semi-annual releases will introduce even more new features.
What Do We Do Next: Drupal 7 Migration
The first step is arguably the most important one: don’t freak out. Your D7 site will not suddenly stop working or become open to hackers at midnight on the final day of official Drupal support. And, for the time-being, Drupal 7 is still an incredibly secure piece of software.
When Drupal 7 End of Life occurs, your website will still be operational. However, it’s important to plan ahead for migration to Drupal 9.
Drupal 7 Migration: Preparing for Drupal 9
Just as software EOL allows engineers to create a brand new foundation from which to grow the next generation of its product, migrating from Drupal 7 gives you an opportunity to also start with an even stronger foundation — or at least clean house a bit in your CMS.
No matter which migration path you choose, under the hood you’ll have a strong foundation moving forward.
Two Drupal 7 Migration Options
Part of your preparation for Drupal 7 Migration will be determining which migration path to take. You’ll have two main options:
- Basic D9 migration — rewrite of codebase to convert from D7 to D9
- D9 migration with refresh/redesign — D9 rebuild with discovery, sitemap, wireframes, and visual design work
What to Expect
No matter which path you choose (or, to help you choose your direction), you’ll want to consider the following:
- Perform a full website content audit, including standalone/disparate websites
- Document custom features and third-party integrations on your website
- Develop new content, where appropriate
- Revisit your content governance model/strategy
Depending on your available internal resources, a partner may also be able to help with some of the items on this checklist.
Your “Last” Drupal Migration
One of the biggest benefits of moving to Drupal 9 is that you’ll be able to upgrade to future versions of Drupal without rebuilding your entire site. In other words, Drupal will work more like updating the operating system on your laptop or phone. It will refresh and provide all new features without having to migrate or reconfigure all of your content.
What does this mean for marketers?
This adjustment marks a fundamental shift in thinking about maintaining your website. Without having to rebuild the website every four to six years, marketers and developers can focus on making incremental changes to the website. The work moves from rebuilding to evolving the website. This means establishing a set of analytics that ties to business goals and conducting user and usability testing will be more important.
Drupal 7 End of Life is coming in November 2023, and you should begin planning for your organization’s Drupal 7 migration as soon as possible. Doing so ensures you’re using the most advanced and secure version of Drupal, and also gives you a chance to improve accessibility, functionality, and performance, as well as revisit your content strategy and governance model.
To learn more about OHO Interactive’s Drupal migration audit process and other CMS development, web development, or content strategy services, contact us.