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How to Survive Drupal 6 End of Life

February 5, 2016

Are you still on Drupal 6?

Released on Feb 13th, 2008 Drupal 6 delivered the power and flexibility of a true open source solution for building enterprise digital platforms. After more than 8 years, Drupal 6 is finally reaching its “End of Life” and will no longer be supported by the official Drupal community. 

Today, there are over 100,000 Drupal 6 sites live on the web. If your website was created between 2008 and 2011, then you are probably among that number. If you have a Drupal 6 site, you need to start planning immediately to ensure you are prepared for the transition as Drupal 6 support ends. With our migration of Manhattan Associates flagship website from Drupal 6 to Drupal 8 Mediacurrent is an industry leader on understanding, planning and executing upgrade projects. We have written this article to be your primer on why and how you need to upgrade.

So, what is Drupal 6 End of Life?

End of Life is the date when the Drupal community officially stops supporting Drupal 6. The Drupal community has always supported the current and previous versions of Drupal, and with the launch of Drupal 8 this year, Drupal 6 “End of Life” was announced to be on February, 24th 2016.

How does this impact you?

Drupal is an Open Source project with a uniquely robust security model:

  • Drupal has a dedicated team of Security professionals who proactively review core and contributed modules for vulnerabilities.
  • When a security vulnerability is identified, the Drupal Security Team is notified and code is quickly fixed to remove the vulnerability.
  • When a fix is available an announcement immediately goes out and patch is released to the community. Drupal sites are also automatically notified that they need to upgrade.

When Drupal 6 support ends, there will be no more Drupal core updates to Drupal 6 - even for critical security issues. The contributed modules that power your site will also no longer be actively tested and reviewed, patches and security evaluation will depend on your internal resources.

With a recent study finding that 81% of large businesses have suffered a security breach, ensuring that you correctly handle the security implications of Drupal 6’s End of Life is essential.


What do YOU need to do?

Without taking active steps to protect your website, you are going to be vulnerable to a security breach. Drupal 6 is a widely-used content management system that has served as a platform for some of the world’s largest websites. It is public knowledge that support for it will be ending in 2016. It’s likely that hacking groups are waiting for official support to end to use security exploits that they have already discovered to increase the number of systems they can access before they're patched.

A recent study found that enterprise businesses pay an average of $551,000 to recover from a security breach.

Mitigating this risk is simple with an experienced partner. We advise our clients to take the following steps:

  1. Ensure your website will be secure after Community Support ends. You can do this by developing an internal plan to monitor future Drupal 6 security releases, or engaging with your Drupal hosting provider or Agency to cover you while you plan and execute the move off of Drupal 6.
  2. If you’re on Drupal 6, it’s likely that the time is now for reassessment of how you use the web. Partnering with an expert Drupal agency like Mediacurrent will help you to reassess your website plans, determine if your Digital Strategy is effective, and ensure your next platform serves your needs now and can adapt in the future.
  3. Once you have identified the correct platform, plan and execute your migration. By taking care of security first, and securing the right partner, you can take the time to correctly plan and build your next Digital Platform in Drupal.


Learn to love the upgrade

While Drupal 6 End of Life might be coming as a surprise to you, we view it as an opportunity. The way we consume information on the web has changed drastically since Drupal 6 launched, and if you are still on Drupal 6 and not planning on innovating, you are likely putting yourself at a serious competitive disadvantage.

In the longer term, sticking with Drupal 6 not only means you will be fighting a constant battle against security vulnerabilities, but also that you will be doing so with a dwindling number of allies. As time goes on, Drupal 6 sites will disappear. Fewer agencies will offer any sort of Drupal 6 support. The talent pool of developers will dry up - anyone who learns Drupal today will be learning on newer releases. The technical advances that are part of Drupal 7 and 8 will be unlikely to be backported to Drupal 6.

Upgrading from Drupal 6 to a newer version of Drupal is the opportunity to revolutionize the way you think about the web as a business tool. If you have a Drupal 6 site, you have almost certainly had it for at least four years. How many little usability improvements have you considered in that time? Is your design dated? Is your site responsive? Does your site build reflect modern practices in SEO (Search Engine Optimization), accessibility, and user experience?


With Drupal 8, Upgrading is about more than just security

Out of the box, Drupal 8 offers a significantly more powerful feature set that allows you to build the modern digital experiences you need to compete on today’s web.

Look at Drupal 8’s core features:

  • Improved Authoring Experience: In-place editing, secure WYSIWYG and draft saving made easier across multiple contributors and editors.
  • Mobile first/Fully responsive: Drupal 8 boasts out-of-the-box responsive functionality.
  • Internationalization: Native language handling built into Drupal 8’s core APIs.
  • Configuration Management:  Drupal 8 configuration management drastically improving efficiency and reducing complexity of previous techniques
  • TWIG templating engine: Drupal 8 uses the Twig PHP Templating Engine providing improved design capabilities
  • Built in Web Service Integrations: Drupal 8 possesses a powerful suite of built-in web services including:
  • REST: Expose or import content via REST API without doing additional development.
  • Support for Different Output Formats: Export data in different formats (JSON, XML).
  • Powerful Ways to Extend and Develop: D8 is much easier than D7 to extend existing functionality and faster development for edge-case scenarios
  • Modern, OO Code: Powerful Symfony2 framework and adheres to PHP best practices including classes/interfaces, Dependency injection and most PSR-* standards
  • Committed to Accessibility:WAI-ARIA and semantic markup provide the ability for site administrators to mark content regions for screen readers as well as easily identify navigation menus and blocks.


Choosing between 7 and 8

Making the decision between Drupal 7 and Drupal 8 comes down to a number of factors and is not a snap judgement. Ultimately the best move is to do the due diligence work of understanding the requirements and needs of your website, then contrasting that with the reality of your budget and timeline. We work through this question with our clients on a regular basis and the reality is that the answer is unique to every organization.

To learn more about this process and how to success navigate these waters, feel free to contact us directly.

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