What You Need to Know About Upgrading to Drupal 9

Design & Development

In my previous blog post, Preparing for Drupal 9, I covered everything you need to know about the core update and some of the main differences between Drupal 8 and 9. The main takeaway you should know is that Drupal 9 was built within Drupal 8, allowing for an easy upgrade. But which upgrade path should you take if you’re on Drupal 7? Let’s continue the conversation by mapping out a game plan for your CMS update.

Key Drupal Dates:

  • Drupal 9 was released on June 3, 2020
  • Drupal 8 reached end-of-life on November 2, 2021
  • The Drupal Association announced on February 23, 2022, that Drupal 7 end of life was extended by one year to November 1, 2023. It also mentioned that the end-of-life date will be re-evaluated annually.

Do you really need to update Drupal?

The recommended life span of a website is 3-5 years. If you’ve had your Drupal 7 site for three or more years, you can feel confident in the return on that investment, and that your website will remain solid until end-of-life. As time goes on, technology continues to change. Staying on top of your CMS upgrades is essential to your website’s functionality and security. An outdated content management system can (and will) leave your website open to security risks or cause critical issues with mandatory server changes.

What does end-of-life (EOL) mean for Drupal?

Simply put, end-of-life means that it will no longer be supported, maintained, or improved by the Drupal community. Having your website on a version of Drupal that has reached EOL will mean a few things:

  • The Drupal Security Team will no longer provide support or Security Advisories, leaving your website’s data and infrastructure at a much higher risk of hacking and compromise
  • Projects, themes, and Contribution Modules (modules built and maintained by the Drupal Community to enhance functionality) will no longer be built, maintained, or advanced by the community.  This will leave current Drupal 7 and 8 websites “stuck in place’ with the functionality they currently have with no community to maintain and fix issues with current modules
  • Using Drupal 7 and 8 may be flagged as insecure in 3rd party scans and security tools since it will no longer be getting support

Drupal 7 and 8 websites will no longer be able to utilize the community support system to build, maintain, enhance, and provide security to the software’s core or to any modules. Using unsupported software is risky and never recommended.

Drupal 7 to Drupal 8/9 Upgrade

When Drupal went from version 7 to Drupal 8, it was a major overhaul. The Drupal Community built a radically different version of Drupal in a separate codebase. Unfortunately, this meant that many modules and functionality that existed in 7, were different or did not exist at all in Drupal 8.

The good news is that the Drupal Community has learned their lesson and are taking a much different approach from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9.  Instead of working on Drupal 9 in a separate codebase, they built Drupal 9 in Drupal 8. This means that they added new functionality as backward-compatible code instead of rethinking the entire codebase. Ultimately, once sites are on Drupal 8, the upgrade to Drupal 9 is straightforward and relatively easy (we’re talking hours vs rebuild projects) as long as you are keeping your version of Drupal 8 and any modules as up to date as possible along the way. 

Ready to get started with your Drupal update? Let’s talk. Our website development team knows Drupal 9 well and would be happy to go over any questions you may have about the process.