developers planning migration

Why the Best Time to Migrate to Drupal 8 is Right Now

Migration is a fact of life on the Internet. 

If you want to stay current, you have to be able to migrate between tech versions, major and minor. 

Unfortunately, there are often challenges, real and imagined, between the version you are comfortable working with and the Next Generation (insert Star Trek joke here). 

At Acquia, we’re well aware of the barriers. In fact, earlier this year our User Experience and Customer Experience teams spoke with customers about one of the most intimidating migration challenges in the Drupal world: between Drupal 7 and Drupal 8. 

There is some urgency to this particular migration. Drupal 7, still a popular platform, will reach End of Life in November 2021, roughly a year after the launch of Drupal 9. "End of Life" (EOL) means that a version is no longer supported by core maintainers with fixes, security releases, or enhancements. 

Drupal 8 will also reach EOL at this time, but the upgrade from D8 to D9 will not be significantly difficult -- more like a minor upgrade. A D7 to D9 upgrade, by contrast, will be close to a re-platforming, in terms of the work required by the web team. It makes sense, then, to upgrade to D7 to D8 now, and put the significant work behind you and get you on track for upgrades to D9 and beyond. Of course, it also makes sense to floss every night, spend time planning for retirement and get to the gym three times a week. How are those efforts coming along? 

So yes, we all need help initiating and sustaining these worthy projects. 

But before we get to that, let’s look at the migration challenges that the Acquia research team discovered. If you’re facing a D7>D8 migration, it’s good to know your enemy, right? 

When I read the team’s internal report, two big challenges/roadblocks leapt out at me: 

  1. Migrations are costly and time-consuming. And because of the many advances in D8, a D7>D8 migration is closer to a rebuild than an upgrade. The pre-planning requirements for a significant migration like D7>D8 are also often long and tedious. During this pre-planning stage, for example, web teams spend a lot of time doing content audits and mapping out redirects. 
  2. It’s hard to demonstrate exactly why the move from D7 to D8 is necessary. Decision-makers feel like this is a “technical issue” and they see little value add.

Get updates!

Receive the best content about the future of marketing, industry shifts and other thought leadership.

To address these issues and offer tips for making the important, but intimating, migration, easier to accomplish, we just published a new e-book, Migrating to Drupal 8: It’s Time

One helpful fact from the e-book: there’s universal agreement that the D7>D8 payoff will be worth it -- for the new features and capabilities on the other side. And it’s always good to be out there in front, using the latest and best technology available. Plus, once you upgrade to Drupal 8, you will never have to do that level of migration again. By migrating to D8, you will be on the other side of a large paradigm shift. The transition from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9 will be no more difficult than a minor move, say from 8.0 to 8.1. 

On the “What’s so great about Drupal 8?” challenge, some of the advantages of being on Drupal 8 include: 

  • Dramatically improved page building tools. Layout Builder, in Drupal 8, offers the drag-and-drop ability to create and customize layout templates, as well as to create custom pages (e.g., landing pages).
  • More efficient and powerful devops tools. Configuration management capabilities for your site’s admin settings that also simplify the creation and control of developer workflows.
  • Improved content authoring experience. The Content Moderation module in D8 enables editorial workflows for published and unpublished content.
  • Massive performance gains for end users. The BigPipe module in D8 allows pages to load faster (up to 228% faster for some configurations), by default. 
  • Multilingual support. The ability to create multilingual sites is built right into core.
  • D8 is the most secure CMS. The security features of Drupal 7 been enhanced.

While migrating is a big undertaking, keep in mind that you don’t have to migrate everything at once. You can do it in segments. The e-book explains this approach. It also suggests and explains the following helpful best practices.

  • Conduct a content audit
  • Create a module inventory
  • Know your tools
  • Proceed incrementally
  • Find a reliable partner

Finally, after all this migration wisdom, the e-book ends with one last question that could (and should) inspire you: What are you waiting for?

Check out Migrating to Drupal 8: It’s Time today. 

DC Denison

Senior Editor, Technology Acquia

DC Denison has been messin' around with Drupal since 2007. He has been with Acquia since 2015. Before coming to Acquia, he was the technology editor at The Boston Globe.