Next month, Drupal 9 will be released – the first Drupal major release for nearly 5 years. It marks a good time for organisations using Drupal 7 to take stock of their situation and plan an upgrade.
No business wants to be running on a platform that is two versions behind. The latest versions are always where the development focus lies. More to the point, in around 18 months’ time – in November 2021 – official support for Drupal 7 will end completely. So if you don’t have an upgrade plan soon, it poses questions about your commitment to security and whether you’re doing all you can to move your business forward.
As we explain in our Drupal 9 upgrade guide, this new version will be exactly the same as the latest version of Drupal 8 apart from removal of deprecated code and updates to third-party dependencies. One advantage of this approach is that you can clearly identify all the benefits of Drupal 9 to your business. Another is that there will be no surprises on release day – you can be fully prepared if you get started now or even prefer to upgrade to the latest version of Drupal 8 first.
Drupal 9 features that will benefit your business
The latest version of any operating system or platform is always up to date with bug fixes and security updates. It is also the only way to access any new features – and with Drupal, as an open source platform, the latest release gives access to beta features to enable you to get ahead of the pack.
In addition, you’ll benefit from a raft of brilliant developments added during the various minor releases of version 8. Given that these will also be available in Drupal 9, you can take this opportunity to boost your organisation’s applications and efficiency.
These are among our highlights, which you can read more about in our Drupal 9 upgrade guide:
- Mobile first – build fully responsive applications and give your internal users a responsive admin panel for work away from their desks.
- Easier and faster content editing, multilingual support, spellchecker and improved media management.
- Internal workflows with different permissions, offering moderation and pre-publication testing.
- Improved accessibility.
- ‘API first’ for content reuse and links to other applications.
Together, these and other features in Drupal 8 mean that your internal users end up with a better set of tools, their working environment is improved, and it’s likely you’ll be able to make some of your backend processes more efficient. Your external users benefit too, with a better experience all round, and you may be able to make more of your content available in different ways.
The Drupal 7 to 9 upgrade process
As the latest version of Drupal 8 will be virtually identical to Drupal 9, we previously advised a two-step upgrade – that is, move to version 8 first, then identify any deprecated code in your Drupal 8 implementation and move to Drupal 9 soon after its release. (It’s one of the many examples of Drupal’s fantastic open source heritage, as there are plenty of tools written by the community to identify such code and, importantly, advise how to update it for the move to Drupal 9.)
Now, though, as the launch of Drupal 9 is so close, we would advise a single step upgrade instead, unless there is some very unusual reason not to do this. The processes involved will be the same, but you have only one upgrade date to put in your calendar.
How to prepare for the Drupal 7 to 9 upgrade
The first stage in the upgrade from Drupal 7 to 9 is to take stock of what you have now and identify all the aspects that could be improved. Ideally, look at this from the perspectives of both your external users and your internal team(s). What’s on your wish list – and on theirs?
There’s no harm in some blue sky thinking here – you may be surprised by what is achievable if you are used to the limitations of Drupal 7.
We recommend creating software development personas to help with this, as well as carrying out surveys. We can do this for you, if you prefer, and with our knowledge of Drupal 8, we can ask questions you may not think of.
You’ll also need Drupal site audits of your systems to determine which elements need upgrading and how this can be done most efficiently. These audits may also throw up aspects you haven’t considered, such as interfaces with other internal systems to share content and make processes more efficient.
Drupal 9 Development Services
If all this sounds daunting, that’s entirely understandable. It’s easy to get stuck using the same version of your platform because it seems to be performing OK. Before you know it, minor and then major versions get released without you having reason to upgrade.
However, when you upgrade to Drupal 9, it will be the last really significant Drupal upgrade you ever make, as long as you keep up to date with each subsequent minor release. You don’t have to do this alone. Get in touch and we can talk you through your options, and what the next steps might be.