On this page:
- Are you still on Drupal 7 and thinking about what to do next?
- What does "End-of-Life" mean in relation to Drupal 7?
- Drupal 7 is End-of-Life — here's what you should know
- Criteria 1: Community support
- Criteria 2: Drupal 7 usage
- Criteria 3: Active Drupal maintainers
- Criteria 4: Financial backing by paying companies
- Drupal 7 End-of-Life options
- Option 1 — Continue using Drupal 7 after End-of-Life
- Option 2 — Full ‘like-for-like’ website upgrade from Drupal 7 to Drupal 9 or 10
- Option 3: New approach — Drupal 7 static site hosting
- Option 4: New approach — Extend Drupal 7’s life
- Option 5: New approach — Drupal 9 or 10 upgrade using the CivicTheme design system
- Option 6: Alternative option — Move to an entirely new CMS such as Wordpress or Joomla
- Which D7 End-of-Life option is right for you?
- Reasons for staying on Drupal 7
- The impacts of staying on Drupal 7
- Contributed modules
- PHP versions
- How secure is it to stay on Drupal 7?
- How long can Drupal 7 be supported?
- Drupal 7 vendor support
- What are the differences between Drupal 7, Drupal 8, Drupal 9 and Drupal 10?
- Headless or decoupled Drupal
- Feature-rich out-of-the-box
- Where does Drupal 8 fall into this picture?
- Reasons for upgrading to Drupal 9 or 10
- Responsive images
- Improved UI
- APIs and external integrations
- What if a contributed module is not available yet for Drupal 9/10?
- High level steps — Migrating from Drupal 7 to Drupal 9 or 10
- How long will it take to upgrade from Drupal 7 to Drupal 9 or 10?
- After upgrading to Drupal 9 or 10, what’s next?
“To upgrade or not to upgrade? Now, that is the question.”
Intended audience: This article has been written for decision makers and non-technical audiences. As such, there is minimal technical jargon or deep dives into the inner workings of Drupal itself, or any of the other technologies. However, we do reference other supporting articles that may go into more technical detail.
You may also notice we refer to Drupal 9 and/or 10. At the time of this article, Drupal 10 was just released, however it can take a few months for many of the modules to catch up to Drupal 10 so we left the option of moving to Drupal 9 or 10 open.
Drupal is an open source content management system (CMS) that’s been around for 20+ years. As it constantly progresses, there are daily improvements in terms of flexibility, scalability, performance and security — just to name a few.
These updates mean new versions of Drupal are released periodically. Just like other software, it’s necessary to release updated versions to stay on top of the dynamic technological landscape. Things progress, it is just the way it is. The lifecycle of every software reaches its end.
This article is for businesses still on Drupal 7 and looking to find more information about Drupal End-of-Life and options to manage a Drupal 7 website being ‘unsupported’ at the end of 2023.
Are you still on Drupal 7 and thinking about what to do next?
You’ve probably already invested and built a successful Drupal 7 website that’s core to your business needs.
It’s common to think it’s challenging to upgrade your website without affecting your business while keeping your costs as low as possible and getting it all done in a timely manner.
All is not lost. You still have options — and potentially don't have to upgrade.
There are thousands of Drupal 7 websites that have either upgraded, stayed on or moved away from Drupal 7. The most important thing to note here is that there are numerous pathways you can take to continue doing what your business does best while still maintaining and running a successful and performant Drupal website. That is, you can have minimal impact to your core business while simultaneously following a pathway forward from Drupal 7.
This article is going to outline those pathways and help you decide which option(s) is best for you based on criteria that align to YOUR core business.
Sound good? Keep reading.
What does "End-of-Life" mean in relation to Drupal 7?
Drupal.org has officially that Drupal 7 is scheduled to stop receiving support after 1 November 2023. Beyond this date, Drupal 7 is not expected to receive official support for such things as new features, bug fixes and most importantly, security update patches.
Every year, Drupal re-evaluates various factors such as community support, Drupal 7 usage, active Drupal maintainers and the number of sites using Drupal commercially to decide whether a further extension of life is warranted. Therefore, around July 2023, Drupal will further re-evaluate Drupal 7’s End-of-Life and either really end it or extend it. However, it’s in your best interests to not rely on repeated extensions. Drupal 7 will come to an end. The question is when.
Drupal 7 is End-of-Life — here's what you should know
As mentioned, Drupal based its decision on Drupal 7 End-of-Life around certain criteria. We will explain each of these criteria and what it should mean to you. The four main criteria are:
Criteria 1: Community support
Drupal 7 uses other frameworks outside of Drupal (such as SQL and PHP) that depend on external community support. With time, as these technologies become absolute or outdated, the support is diminished. Within Drupal itself, there will also be steadily reducing community support for Drupal 7 as more and more sites upgrade from Drupal 7. Community support comprises mostly developers (among other various skill sets). Developers will be offered jobs with companies using newer technologies and in essence will be upgrading their core skills sets. The costs for keeping developers on to maintain older technology is going to substantially increase.
What does this mean for you?
Your support costs are going to increase drastically over time if you continue using Drupal 7. You’ll need to finance developer support to maintain your Drupal 7 website, which will be using older and soon-to-be-outdated technology frameworks.
As the community support shrinks, fewer features, security patches, and bug fixes will be provided for Drupal 7. You’ll need to continuously support this on your own, not only for Drupal 7, but for all the external frameworks that it uses.
Criteria 2: Drupal 7 usage
The average weekly global Drupal 7 usage is on a steady decline. The following infographic was captured from Drupal core’s usage .
The big red section is the number of websites globally that still use Drupal 7. You can clearly see the decline. There will come a point in time when a threshold is reached and Drupal will decide there isn’t enough Drupal 7 usage anymore to justify its own resources to continually maintain and support Drupal 7. It will make more sense to dedicate these same resources to newer versions of Drupal.
What does this mean for you?
If you plan on continuing to use Drupal 7 after this threshold, you will eventually have to source and fund your own team to maintain your Drupal 7 website if you want your website to keep functioning in a stable and secure way. You should deeply think about the long-term costs associated with this. Is the cost of maintaining your existing Drupal 7 website worth it or should you shift this cost to an upgrade investment?
Criteria 3: Active Drupal maintainers
As you can imagine, a project the size of Drupal requires a massive effort to ensure things flow smoothly. You can read here about Drupal’s core maintenance roles, responsibilities and how decisions are . Anyone on Drupal.org can be a core contributor (i.e. someone that contributes their time and knowledge to improve the platform, from code updates to updating documentation) but not everyone can be a Drupal maintainer. Maintainers play key roles in different aspects of Drupal to ensure longevity of the Drupal project. Most importantly, there are significantly less maintainers than contributors. This translates to limited maintainer resources.
What does this mean for you?
Having acknowledged the fact that maintainer resources are limited, their time must be rationed and dedicated to where it matters the most. Over time, and as technology advances, their time will be re-allocated to future versions of Drupal and less to older versions like Drupal 7 and back. Therefore it’s going to be more difficult to find resources to support older technologies (such as Drupal 7). Essentially, the number of active Drupal 7 maintainers will decrease steadily over time.
Criteria 4: Financial backing by paying companies
Drupal evolves when companies pay Drupal developers (or Drupal agencies) to implement new features and provide support. During these cycles, code is contributed back to the project for the community to use. It is a beautiful demonstration of a successful open source concept.
However, as more websites upgrade to the current, stable version of Drupal there will be less companies financially investing in backporting Drupal 7 features, bug fixes and security patches.
What does this mean for you?
You’ll need to fill the financial gap to keep supporting Drupal 7. As there is less financial backing to pay developers to support Drupal 7, it will have to come from those that are still using it.
Drupal 7 End-of-Life options
Relax, the good news is that you have options to choose how and if you move away from Drupal 7. There are various pathways, including some unconventional yet innovative ones that you can take to ensure your website is securely running after Drupal 7’s EOL.
We will dive into 6 major options while covering the following topics:
- Determining criteria
- Vendor support
We’ll cover the traditional approaches and also more innovative approaches to potentially allow you to keep using your Drupal 7 website.
Below is a table showing the different approaches:
|Option||Approach type||Your EOL pathway|
|1||Traditional||Continue using Drupal 7 post End-of-Life|
|2||Traditional||Full ‘like-for-like’ website upgrade to Drupal 9/10|
|3||New option 1||Drupal 7 static site hosting|
|4||New option 2||Continue using Drupal 7 by extending its life|
|5||New option 3||Drupal 9/10 upgrade using the CivicTheme design system|
|6||Alternative option||Migrate to a new CMS|
Option 1 — Continue using Drupal 7 after End-of-Life
As the name suggests, you change nothing and continue as normal. You receive Drupal updates until at least 1 November 2023. Beyond that, you self-monitor and patch your Drupal 7 website for security vulnerabilities yourself.
However, we strongly recommend against running your Drupal 7 site beyond End-of-Life as there is an increased level of cyber security risk taken on beyond this. See the section below — The impacts of staying on Drupal 7: Risks.
Option 1 may be the best option for you if:
- You depend on external frameworks/applications/APIs that still need Drupal 7 (i.e. you have technical limitations)
- Drupal 7 100% satisfies all of your business requirements and there is no need for further feature enhancements — Drupal 7 just works
- You have already significantly invested in your Drupal 7 website and you do not have the budget to upgrade
- You are not willing to invest in your inhouse team to learn new technologies
- You have a heavily customised Drupal 7 website and an upgrade will be complex
- Your site depends on a contributed module(s) that has not been ported to Drupal 9/10
- You just do not have the time
- There are minimal costs beyond your usual continuous maintenance costs
- You can concentrate on your core business — if your business is in the middle of a big launch or upcoming event, you can just continue using Drupal 7 and have one less thing to worry about
- You do not need to re-invest in your existing Drupal team
- In the short term, you do not need to allocate additional budget towards a website upgrade
- You do not need to schedule downtime (in the event your website is mission critical)
- Your costs are going to increase with time as you have to invest more to continue supporting Drupal 7
- You have to be more vigilant about cyber security, integration and functionality risks
- Implementing new features are going to be more challenging (and costly)
- As other external frameworks/APIs move on, you’re going to be left behind
- There is going to be declining support for Drupal 7 from the active community — this means you will have to spend more time updating and patching Drupal 7 for vulnerabilities
- You relinquish improved functionality, security and performance enhancements such as using Drupal 9/10 along with updated versions of SQL and PHP
- You have to deeply consider the cost of investing in your existing development team to continuously maintain a soon-to-be-outdated content management system
- Your long-term technical debt will increase
- Your hosting costs may increase as you have to support older versions of PHP/SQL
You have active community support until 1 November 2023 if you continue using Drupal 7. Beyond this date, support is not guaranteed as it depends on a re-evaluation of certain criteria. See section above: Drupal 7 is End of Life. Here is what you should know.
Expert advice and support
Salsa Digital has been working with Drupal for over 10 years and officially provides support and desk services to the whole-of-Australian-government platform .
Salsa also provides ongoing Drupal application support for ad-hoc application enhancements and requests (excluding security patching for Drupal 7 post 1 November 2023 given it’s End-of-Life and security patches won't be released).
Although not recommended, if you stay on Drupal 7 beyond End-of-Life and you need patching for security issues or risks, this could be requested and reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Please contact us if you need help.
Option 2 — Full ‘like-for-like’ website upgrade from Drupal 7 to Drupal 9 or 10
The generally assumed traditional approach to End-of-Life is the like-for-like full upgrade of re-building your Drupal 7 website onto Drupal 9 or 10. However, Drupal 7 to 9/10 upgrade requires quite a lot of work. There’s no beating around the bush here.
We assume that you have a fairly large Drupal website if you’re reading this article. As you can imagine, the steps involved can be complex, so we’re just going to outline the very high level phases you need to consider.
Site audit — This will highlight current weaknesses, custom code, outdated modules or modules that need to be updated (or even rebuilt), special considerations, external APIs and all content/media that should be considered.
Plan of action — Here you will outline how you go about the migration, the teams involved and all things to be considered. During this phase, you can also “cut the fat” which means it’s a good opportunity to trim the things you no longer need. For example, perhaps you have content with fields you no longer need. Or you may have old modules that you’re no longer using.
Visual design and theming — The theming layer (also commonly referred to as the frontend) in Drupal 9/10 is completely overwritten when compared to Drupal 7. So this is a good opportunity to consider a facelift. It might be worthwhile spending a little extra and having a new visual design put into place. Of course, it’s also possible to keep your existing design. Whether you choose to port the same design or implement a new one, you’re essentially building a new Drupal 9/10 theme because the underlying architecture is different in Drupal 9/10. (This is very important to understand and accept because it’s usually the most challenging aspect to grasp with a Drupal 9 or 10 upgrade.) This is also where a considerable amount of time and effort would be spent during the upgrade development phase.
Testing — This is an important part of your migration. Ideally you want to test all features to ensure it works according to your expectations.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) — This is an optional step but it’s important to be included. It’s usually something not considered and unfortunately brought up post site launch. Your existing Drupal 7 website would have obtained a certain level of site domination (in SEO, it can be called domain rating, site authority or website authority). If your website sells something (e.g. an ecommerce website), a small change in design can have a huge impact on your bottom line…something that’s usually elusive to discover. You would also want to consider setting up redirects for your old URLs. The last thing you want is customers accessing your old URLs only to find “page not found”.
Launch — Once everything is good to go, you need a go-live or roll-out plan. Backups are key here just in case you need to roll back.
Option 2 may be the best option for you if:
- You have the budget to do it
- Security is extremely important for your website
- You have access to the required Drupal expertise
- Your website is slow and/or outdated
- Security gains
- Performance gains
- Accessibility improvements
- User interface (UI) improvements
- Cross browser/device improvements
- Feature enhancements
- Access to more modern external frameworks
- API-first architecture
- Wider and more active community support
- Decreased long-term costs
- Access to more Drupal 9 and 10 support vendors
- Migration costs
- Dependence on older contributed modules or API frameworks
- Outdated hosting architecture
- Skillset of your existing Drupal team
The cost of a Drupal 9 or 10 upgrade will depend heavily on your website. There’s no one answer that fits all here. Your best first step is to do a Drupal site audit to assess your current situation. From there you can determine what’s needed and the projected costs.
As with costs, there’s no firm way to answer this question as it depends on your specific Drupal 7 website. However, you should expect that the bigger and more complex your Drupal 7 website is, the more time it will take to upgrade to Drupal 9/10.
It also depends on how many resources you hire to perform the upgrade. If you’re looking for a shorter time frame, employ a bigger team.
The following are rough estimates based on a traditional approach to upgrading a website (see next sections for shorter and more cost-efficient non-traditional options):
|Site complexity||Estimated timeframe|
Expert advice and support
Salsa Digital’s expert Drupal team can work with you to plan and rebuild your website on Drupal 9 or 10 and replicate your UI as-is, including content migration (also as-is) with automation. Please contact us if you need help.
Option 3: New approach — Drupal 7 static site hosting
Drupal 7 static site hosting is the first of three non-traditional new approaches to Drupal 7’s End-of-Life. This involves taking a snapshot of the HTML code of your full website and hosting it on a content delivery network (CDN). Visually, everything looks the same and site visitors can still browse and access your website as if it was still running on Drupal 7. Dynamic pages and content such as webforms, comments and other features can continue to function — supported with supported solutions.
Unlike traditional CDN-based approaches, Salsa Digital provides a customised solution that uses our state-of-the-art technology. Essentially, QuantCDN stores the full raw HTML snapshot of your Drupal 7 website and serves this globally to your visitors. All advantages of using a CDN are gained. Your Drupal 7 website is migrated onto our specialised Salsa Drupal 7 hosting, which is a locked down and secure Drupal 7 hosting architecture. You can still administer your Drupal 7 website and the public still interacts with your website in the same way, but the architecture is set up to support hosting your Drupal 7 site without exposing it to the public.
Typically, a CDN only serves physical assets (files and media) such as CSS, JS, images, PDFs, etc. However, with QuantCDN your entire website is stored and served to public visitors. When a visitor hits your website, there are no requests sent to your Drupal 7 website (your origin website server). QuantCDN basically sits in the middle between your Drupal 7 website and the public-facing website.
A major difference with static site hosting is that your public-facing site will not need an SQL database or have to be concerned about PHP versions. This significantly reduces the security threats that would have come from using older versions of PHP and SQL if you were to continue running a live Drupal 7 website. It also improves your SEO as your site’s loading time is drastically reduced.
This approach is best suited for Drupal 7 sites that can be used for archiving purposes such as serving historical data like past events or content that’s not typically updated very often.
This option will give you a simple content editor for basic updates so you can then decommission (leave) your Drupal site permanently once all setup is completed.
Option 3 may be the best option for you if:
- You do not plan on adding new features or functionality
- You do not need to make any (or very minimal) content changes
- You want to have a backup or retain a point-in-time version of your existing site
- You want a quick, easy and cheap solution for your Drupal 7 website
- You want to buy some time while you upgrade your Drupal 7 website
- You want to retain your investment in your current Drupal 7 website
- You want to maintain a high level of security and performance
- Quick, easy and affordable
- All benefits that come with using a CDN
- Site visitors can still access your existing website content
- You maintain all your existing URLs — this is good for search engine optimisation (SEO)
- Your site will perform better and actually load faster as you will be serving simple HTML to the public — this also improves your SEO
- Greatly reduces your hosting costs
- Keep running your Drupal 7 site indefinitely
- Salsa Digital provides a managed solution as a paid service — which means you don't have to do anything going forward
- Feature and development freeze — adding new features is not possible as Drupal is removed (if you need to keep making changes see option 4 below)
- Minimal changes to content with limited editing user experience
- Limited API integration
The costs can vary depending on how you set up the static site, how big your site is and how much traffic you get. However, static hosting is significantly cheaper than hosting a full dynamic Drupal site as you’re only hosting the simple HTML code and not concerned with PHP and SQL versions and the associated costs needed to run these.
To understand the difference in using static content, it’s like right-clicking on any webpage on the internet and clicking on “Save as”. You will then download a local copy of the page (the raw HTML). Static hosting is serving these raw HTML files. The website will continue to run the same as having Drupal running it, but without actually running Drupal. All the content, menus and features will continue to work as a live site, including key dynamic features like webforms and search with QuantCDN.
There are several options available and we can help and guide you on what your options are and the associated costs.
There are different factors that will impact the timing, such as the current complexity of your website and integration of external data sources and APIs. However, simple sites can be created in days! More complex sites will vary.
Expert advice and support
Get additional information about the Drupal 7 static hosting after End-of-Life.
Salsa Digital can help you convert your website to Drupal 7 static hosting. Contact us for help.
Option 4: New approach — Extend Drupal 7’s life
Salsa Digital provides another innovative approach that extends the life of your Drupal 7 website. In this approach we use a new CDN technology, , to serve a static version of your website while still allowing your Drupal 7 website to be hosted on our platform in a locked down and secure fashion. However, the difference between this approach and our Drupal 7 static site hosting is that you’re allowed more flexibility to access and administer your Drupal 7 website.
Dynamic content such as webforms and searching can still function. You get all the benefits we mentioned in the previous section with the additional functionality of editing and administering your Drupal 7 website.
This solution is best suited for Drupal 7 sites that need occasional content updates. A common use case is sites that have a complex Drupal 9 migration and need to buy some time to bridge the gap during the upgrade.
Option 4 may be the best option for you if:
- You have dependencies on external frameworks or APIs that must run on Drupal 7
- You need to continue running your Drupal 7 site
- You have occasional updates to content
- You need to bolster the security and performance of your Drupal 7 website
- You’re having difficulties supporting Drupal 7 on your existing hosting (due to SQL/PHP versions or otherwise)
- You want to extend the life of your Drupal 7 website beyond the official Drupal 7 End-of-Life
- You need to buy some time while you upgrade your site to Drupal 9/10
- All the benefits mentioned in “Drupal 7 static site hosting”
- Increased performance and security of your public-facing website
- You’re not forced to upgrade to Drupal 9
- Feature and development freeze if possible (it’s possible to add new features and enhancements but we strongly recommend against it)
- Limited to occasional content updates
Like the Drupal 7 static site hosting option, the cost will vary depending on the size and complexity of your Drupal 7 website. However, it’s likely that your hosting costs will decrease. Contact the Salsa team to assess your site to select a plan that best suits your needs.
Migration of your existing Drupal 7 site to our hosting plan can take a few days. On top of that, add a couple of days for the configurations and set up of our QuantCDN. Therefore, the total time for the switchover is around one week.
Expert advice and support
Get additional information about the Extend Drupal 7’s life.
Contact Salsa Digital to assess the best approach for converting your website to Drupal 7 static hosting. We will work with you to tailor a solution for your specific needs.
Option 5: New approach — Drupal 9 or 10 upgrade using the CivicTheme design system
This is the final new approach. As previously noted, any upgrade to Drupal 9/10 will require a total overhaul of your existing theme because any Drupal 7 theme will not be compatible with Drupal 9/10. This is the case whether you choose to keep the existing design or implement a facelift. The reason is that the theme layer in Drupal 9/10 is completely re-written as it uses a different underlying architecture than its predecessor Drupal 7.
Consequently, on top of doing an actual migration of your core website, you also will be implementing a theme upgrade. This normally involves a large portion of your total cost and effort for a new website build — designing a new theme from scratch, building and testing it.
Salsa Digital has developed a component-based design system that includes a Drupal theme called . This theme is customisable to apply your own branding and unique look and feel, while giving you a major jumpstart in your frontend because out-of-the-box you get a Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) compliant, mobile-ready and fully tested theme. It essentially cuts your frontend work by about 90%.
CivicTheme is open-source, which means it’s completely free to use. In a nutshell, your Drupal 9 or 10 website will be built on top of CivicTheme and reap all of its benefits automatically. There are more than 60 pre-built components available and you can build on top of that. It’s also built to align with the same principles of the Australian Government Design System (AGDS), especially in terms of accessibility, security and design.
You can read more about and have a look at our CivicTheme demo site:
Using the CivicTheme approach for your Drupal 9 or 10 upgrade, you get a Drupal 9/10 upgrade with a customisable theme that just works out-of-the-box. There’s no requirement to have been using CivicTheme previously.
For even more significant cost savings and performance gains, this upgrade can be coupled with the above Option 4. This will give you an overall solution that has the advantages of Salsa hosting while using the highly performant QuantCDN to serve a static copy of your website to the public.
If needed, Salsa can also make the upgrade easier by automating your content migration as a part of the upgrade.
This approach is best suited for sites that want to upgrade to Drupal 9/10 and care about being fully WCAG compliant, mobile-ready, with a consistent look and a very high quality digital experience in a very short period of time with minimal effort and reduced costs.
Option 5 may be the best option for you if:
- Security is extremely important for your website
- You need a responsive website
- You need to be WCAG compliant
- You want to save significant costs and time for the project build
- You want to save significant costs and time for ongoing CMS management and hosting
- You gain all the security, performance and advanced features of a Drupal 9/10 site
- Flexibility and consistency of a component-based design system
- Low cost of management overhead of an open source solution
- You’re automatically WCAG compliant
- Mobile friendly
- All the benefits of using a CDN
- Considerably faster page loads
- Easy to update content frequently
- If your Drupal 7 sites uses any outdated modules, they will have to be updated as part of this process
- Any dependant external framework or API will have to be re-customised to work on Drupal 9/10
- Re-training your content editors to adjust to the new Drupal 9/10 backend interface
The costs will depend heavily on the following aspects of your Drupal 7 site:
- Theme and build complexity
- Number of outdated contributed modules being used
- External frameworks and integrations /APIs
- Size (files, media, users, content and database)
Costs can be accurately determined after a site audit is completed.
The timeline also varies based on the same aspects as the costs. Simple out-of-the-box Drupal 9/10 builds can be completed in 2-4 weeks (a full project would be about 6 weeks covering all project phases like discovery, build, UAT, and deployment). More complex, detailed sites with additional variations, customisations or complex content migrations can take longer.
Expert advice and support
Get additional information about the Drupal 9 or 10 upgrade using the CivicTheme design system.
Salsa Digital can provide a quote for your project after assessing your visual design, content migration and key functionality. Contact us today to discuss your specific goals and requirements.
Option 6: Alternative option — Move to an entirely new CMS such as Wordpress or Joomla
There is also the option of moving to a completely different content management system (CMS) such as Wordpress, Joomla or Magento. If you plan to go this route, you’re looking at a complete rebuild of your website and quite possibly employing an entire new web team in addition to your existing Drupal 7 team. This is the most extreme option and probably the most complex as now you’re dealing with 2 different softwares, which require 2 different skill sets. There’s also the additional time and cost to ramp up internal knowledge and skills, with web administrators and other business users having to learn a brand new system.
Option 6 may be the best option for you if:
- Your site is relatively small with no functional complexity so a complete rebuild could be easier
- The cost of a Drupal upgrade plus maintenance is greater than the cost of your changing CMS (with the relative maintenance costs)
- Another CMS meets your needs but at a lower cost than a Drupal upgrade
- You’re more familiar with another CMS compared to Drupal (perhaps you already have access to resources that can maintain another CMS)
- It can be a cost-effective solution if you have a relatively small site with no functional complexity
- If you’re also considering a full rebranding, this can be a perceived benefit (although the same can be achieved on a newly themed Drupal 9 project)
- If you have a complex website, you’re looking at a more advanced migration
- Your Drupal 7 website might be tightly integrated with external APIs/frameworks that other CMSs do not support (do your research!)
- You may need to re-configure/change your hosting to support the new CMS
- Your development workflow and deployments will have to be updated
- You’ll need to develop a new theme on the new CMS and accessibility, compliance, performance and risks will have to be considered
Whether you upgrade your Drupal 7 site or migrate to another CMS, there are going to be costs either way. You should analyse both options carefully and base your decisions around that.
Just as with Drupal, using another CMS will require maintenance costs. You may also need different hosting architecture and different development teams.
Expect to spend more time if your site is heavily customised and/or complex. On average, you can expect this approach to take at least 2 months, at a very minimum.
Which D7 End-of-Life option is right for you?
At Salsa Digital, we’re here to help you with professional expert Drupal support no matter which option you choose.
Reasons for staying on Drupal 7
Having to stay on Drupal 7 is not necessarily the bad thing many other articles would have you believe. There are legitimate reasons why you may have to continue using Drupal 7. In this section, we will walk through some reasons that still make Drupal 7 a viable option.
Your existing Drupal 7 website may rely on external frameworks, applications or APIs that are tightly integrated and heavily customised for your Drupal 7 website. The cost of migrating to Drupal 9/10 can be more when compared to keeping these external dependencies functioning for Drupal 7. Additionally, your website might also depend on a Drupal contributed module that has just not been ported to Drupal 8, 9, or 10 as yet.
Cost is a major factor and most probably the main reason for many people. You can look at costs in a couple of ways. Firstly, you have already significantly invested in your Drupal 7 website (and rightly so). It’s hard to just discard this in favour of a newer technology that also requires another significant investment.
Secondly, there is the cost of the actual migration, which will include planning, development, testing and launching among other steps. You just might not be ready to absorb these costs in your current business.
Thirdly, updating your website could involve significant costs in terms of time. This is time lost that could have been dedicated to other areas of your business.
Building a new Drupal site (or upgrading) could mean that you lose current business systems and process knowledge, things which have more benefits and outweigh the costs. This change management activity could trigger re-training internal staff (such as content editors), updating your internal documentation and internal business workflows.
Drupal 7 is already secure and will remain secure as long as you keep applying security patches provided by the Drupal community. Upgrading your existing site can mean a complete re-assessment of all of your risks to ensure your new website is as secure and performant as the old one. Such things as accessibility (WCAG AA), user testing, compliance and security are important for many websites to abide by. Although Drupal 9 and 10 can definitely cover all of these, it is still something you need to cater for.
There have been many improvements with the release of Drupal 10 and beyond. As a result, newer modern technologies and concepts have been used that are completely different from Drupal 7. Such things include usage of the Symphony framework, TWIG templating, newer versions of PHP (object-oriented programming) and deprecation of old code. It might just be the case that your existing team will need to re-tool themselves to cope with Drupal 9 or 10.
The impacts of staying on Drupal 7
Ultimately, as with any software that is soon-to-be decommissioned, you have impending risks that you need to deal with. In the Drupal 7 ecosystem, these risks come in the form of security, performance, integration and functionality.
Drupal is built on PHP and SQL and using Drupal 7 means you have to use versions of these software technologies that still also support Drupal 7. Just like Drupal 7, the older versions of PHP/SQL will become unsupported and be susceptible to greater security risks. Eventually, the onus will be on you to mitigate these vulnerabilities, not only within Drupal 7 but all the supporting software that it runs on.
Performance of your Drupal 7 website is something you should always consider. You lose the benefits from improved performance by sticking with Drupal 7. And you also have to figure out your own way to achieve the same. You should consider that your competitors might already be embracing these default performance gains while you’re working extra hard to achieve the same.
As external technologies and software that are integrated with Drupal 7 become deprecated, they will start failing one by one. This increases your integration risks many-fold as you will be responsible for upholding both Drupal 7 and whatever external integrations you need.
Free Drupal 7 features, bug fixes and security patches are scheduled to stop at the Drupal 7 End-of-Life. This means you’ll have to either continue without it or do it yourself (or hire an expert like Salsa Digital to do it for you). We can classify all of this as “functionality risks”.
Your Drupal 7 website most certainly uses contributed modules — modules that were built, and more importantly maintained, by someone in the Drupal community. One by one, they’re going to pop off the supported list and become deprecated (obsolete). You can continue using those modules, but you will need to support them yourself.
The minimum recommended PHP version that Drupal 7 is 7.3.
If you’re planning to continue using Drupal 7, you should at least upgrade your Drupal site to 7.79 so that you can benefit from using PHP 8.0 as this version of PHP is supported by Drupal 7.79.
How secure is it to stay on Drupal 7?
The good news is Drupal 7 is still a secure CMS and will continue to be so until at least 1 November 2023.
After this date, identified security threats in Drupal 7 core and contributed modules will have little (or no) support and you will have to patch it yourself. We bolded the word “identified” in the previous sentence because it is very important to realise that the Drupal community will no longer warn you or track security threats once Drupal 7 reaches End-of-Life. You will also need to keep abreast of this yourself — which is very difficult without any potential means of continual security testing.
Drupal agencies, such as Salsa Digital, can help you with this by backporting fixes for core and contributed modules if and when they are identified. This means that once a threat is identified and fixed in Drupal 9 or 10, then these fixes are then manually re-coded to patch your Drupal 7 site. However, not all Drupal 7 threats may be identified in Drupal 9/10 as their supporting technologies i.e. PHP and SQL may not be compromised in the higher versions and only in the older versions being used by Drupal 7.
How long can Drupal 7 be supported?
Officially, Drupal 7 will be supported from 1 November 2023. After this date, you will have to finance your own support. Your Drupal 7 website can still continue to operate after this date, for as long as you have the budget to keep supporting it on your own.
Drupal 7 vendor support
Drupal has an official Drupal 7 Extended Support which has been put on hold until the actual Drupal 7 End-of-Life.
If you’re looking for immediate support, there are some companies that still offer Drupal 7 support services, such as Salsa Digital. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you require professional Drupal 7 vendor support.
What are the differences between Drupal 7, Drupal 8, Drupal 9 and Drupal 10?
First, let’s be clear: Drupal 8 and Drupal 9 are very similar. At a very high level, Drupal 9 is the same as Drupal 8 but with the removal of deprecated code. In fact, you can even think of Drupal 9 as an updated minor release of Drupal 8. Drupal 10 is also similar to Drupal 9 (see our blog about the Drupal 10 launch for a quick overview of the technical differences between Drupal 9 and 10).
The biggest differences will be between Drupal 7 and 8.
We’re not going to get into all the technical differences between Drupal 7 and 9/10 as there are thousands to mention. However, we will explain it at a high level.
There is a big difference between Drupal 7 and 9/10 when it comes to the theming. Drupal 9 and 10 use the TWIG templating system while Drupal 7 uses the PHP templating system. It’s a complete overwrite although it provides the same end result. Your end users will not have any visual difference.
If your preference is to have your Drupal 9 or 10 site visually appear in the same way as your Drupal 7 website, this is absolutely possible. But you should know that it’s done differently at the code level.
A lot of companies seize the opportunity to do a website facelift when upgrading to Drupal 9/10. While doing this they can choose to rebrand and modernise their design. Think accessibility and mobile friendliness here.
Headless or decoupled Drupal
A headless or decoupled Drupal means your content editors still use the familiar Drupal UI interface to create, update and delete content (blocks, nodes, taxonomies, etc.). All permissions and configurations in the backend still apply. However you can use different powerful frontend technologies to display this content which doesn't even have to use the Dupal frontend theming at all. For example, you can use React, Angular or Gatsby. Because Drupal 9 and 10 are API-first, this makes decoupling Drupal very easy to accomplish.
A lot of the features that you had to configure with contributed modules in Drupal 7, now come out-of-the-box with Drupal 9 and 10. Such things as common field types, Views, CKeditor (text editor), responsive images, multilingual features, dynamic page caching and loading speed.
Note: The above does not cover every possible difference between the versions of Drupal.
Where does Drupal 8 fall into this picture?
As noted earlier, Drupal 9 is basically Drupal 8 without all of the deprecated code.
You can upgrade directly from Drupal 7 to Drupal 9.
You can also upgrade from Drupal 7 to 8 and then to 9. The upgrade path from Drupal 8 to 9 is seamless and very easy.
Reasons for upgrading to Drupal 9 or 10
Drupal versions 7, 9 and 10 are the three major releases of Drupal currently that are officially supported. However, Drupal 9 and 10 are newer and come with more features, enhancements and, most importantly, have a longer shelf life than Drupal 7. For these reasons alone, you should not even have to read further to solidify your decision if you should upgrade or not.
There are a plethora of reasons why you should upgrade. We will touch on the most important reasons.
As Drupal 7, 9 and 10 are currently officially supported they are secure and will remain so for different lengths of time. Drupal 7 will continue to remain secure until End-of-Life. Drupal 9 and 10 will continue to remain secure beyond this date. So, even though security is a major concern, it’s not really a reason why you should upgrade to Drupal 9 or 10 (at least for now).
Drupal 9 made significant improvements in terms of caching with internal dynamic page caching, BigPipe, Symphony framework and the use of the improved TWIG templating system, not to mention thousands of community patches over the years. If you do not know what any of these terms means, just trust that these are all brilliant innovations designed to make your webpages load as fast as possible! They do not exist in Drupal 7. Drupal 10 has improved performance over Drupal 9, with the use of PHP8.1 and an update to database drivers.
If you have a site that uses lots of images, such as an ecommerce site, you’ll be happy to know that Drupal 9 and 10 have built in support for responsive images. This means that you can configure your Drupal 9/10 site (out-of-the-box) to display scaled images that match the viewport size of the visitor’s devices and also provide fallbacks just in case. As a result, your webpage has a smaller footprint and loads faster for the user. Consequently, this improves your SEO as search engines love pages that load fast.
Drupal 9 made it a high priority to improve the backend UI for content editors (if you’ve used Drupal 7 before, this is one area that needed work). The admin UI was drastically improved along with built-in advanced text editors such as CKeditor. Drupal 10 has built on these UI improvements.
APIs and external integrations
If you want to integrate your website with any API you’ll be glad to know that Drupal 9 and 10 were built with an API-first approach so this makes it super seamless to connect your Drupal 9 or 10 site with existing APIs. Out-of-the-box, Drupal 9 and 10 have JSON and RESTful web services. This is really a game changer when compared to other CMSs.
What if a contributed module is not available yet for Drupal 9/10?
This scenario is obviously a major blocker if it applies to you. If this is the case, you have the option of hiring a Drupal agency, such as Sala Digital, to upgrade the contributed module to become compatible with Drupal 9 or 10. During this process, we will ensure that there is no data loss and provide an easy upgrade path to provide the same functionality as the obsolete module. An obsolete or unsupported module is certainly not the end of the world.
High level steps — Migrating from Drupal 7 to Drupal 9 or 10
The following are the high level steps that should be part of your migration process:
- Start with a site audit — This step will highlight a few keys things such as what contributed modules might need extra attention, known issues, upgrading to the latest Drupal 7 version first, any custom code that will need porting, all the different content types (including blocks, views and taxonomy) that will need attention, hosting environment considerations, deprecated/obsolete code, external integrations, must-have security/compliance, compatibility requirements and SEO considerations. This list is not exhaustive.
- Make a plan — Prioritise the results of the site audit and construct an estimated timeline and what resources you will need.
- Execute the plan — The most interesting step of all and probably the most comprehensive and complex.
- Review and testing — You will want to test everything. Automated testing and quality assurance (QA) are involved here. Don’t skimp on this step because it risks hidden issues popping up after you go live.
- Launch — Roll out your new site to the public.
It is extremely important (and obvious but sometimes ignored) that you must be prepared to roll back in case of a launch disaster. Backups here are key.
How long will it take to upgrade from Drupal 7 to Drupal 9 or 10?
This is really an open-ended question and we hate to say it but it really depends on how complex your site is and how many resources you’re willing to bring to the table to execute the migration.
Using Option 5 – Drupal 9/10 upgrade using the CivicTheme design system, which includes a Drupal-ready theme, means a typical agile-based project (including discovery, build UAT and deployment phases) would take the following times:
- A small migration of a relatively simple Drupal 7 site can be done in about 4-6+ weeks. Using out-of-the-box features your site will have basic content types, a rich library of 60+ ready-to-use features, with no integrations and your own branding look and feel.
- A medium-sized site with slightly more complex content types, content migrations, more features (or custom ones), potential integrations and extensions to the theme will take anywhere from 8 to 12+ weeks.
- For a large complex website, you’re looking at potentially 12++ weeks.
*These timings are based on option 5 – Drupal 9/10 upgrade using the CivicTheme design system. They're all significantly less than any traditional upgrade pathways, which would be at least double each of the above.
After upgrading to Drupal 9 or 10, what’s next?
Congratulations…if you’ve already upgraded to Drupal 9 or 10 your website is moving in the right direction and you probably have long-term goals in place.
Drupal 9 is scheduled to have an End-of-Life in November . You’re probably thinking, do I have to repeat another upgrade after just moving to Drupal 9? In short, no. You should still be able to receive Drupal 9 vendor support just as you can right now with Drupal 7, however this is not something you should be dependent on for too long.
You can give yourself a head start by keeping these release timelines in mind when setting your annual budgets:
Drupal 7 End-of-Life: 1 November 2023
Drupal 9 End-of-Life: Around November 2023
Drupal 10 official release: December 2022
Drupal release will always ensure sites on older versions are never left behind.
Although Drupal 10 has been released, it doesn’t mean you have to upgrade immediately. The first hurdle you’ll face is the majority of contributed modules will not be ported to Drupal 10 immediately. It will take time. You can monitor the contributed modules you use to gauge its preparedness for Drupal 10.
So Drupal 7 is End-of-Life November 2023, what does this mean and what do you need to do? We have covered what End-of-Life means for Drupal 7 and some of the risks and impacts of not moving off the Drupal 7 version including an unsupported Drupal version and the likelihood of increased security risks.
There are several options to manage your site. These include the traditional options of just staying on Drupal 7 even after the End-of-Life deadline, or undertaking a full site upgrade and rebuilding your Drupal 7 site onto either Drupal 9 or 10 like-for-like. Both have their advantages and drawbacks and may suit your current circumstances and/or budget.
However, there are also new approaches designed for Drupal End-of-Life. You can leave Drupal 7 altogether and remove the CMS while still having your site fully functional and running a static copy for your site visitors. This assumes you don't want any new features and only need to carry out minimal publishing changes. You can also keep Drupal 7 for your content publishing and lock down and secure it so it's not exposed to the public while still running your current site. You will still be able to make content changes as normal, but new feature development is strongly not recommended. Finally you can rebuild your site using a design system that includes a Drupal theme to significantly reduce the time to move to Drupal 9 or 10. That will give all the benefits of being on the latest Drupal version but at a fraction of the cost of a traditional upgrade.
As we started with; Drupal 7 is End-of-Life, but all is not lost. You still have options — and potentially don't have to upgrade. You can work with expert vendors like Salsa Digital to guide you through this and can facilitate the new options tailored to suit your needs. Contact Salsa to discuss your project needs.