Ashday's Digital Ecosystem & Development Tips Blog

5 Reasons to Upgrade to Drupal 8 Today

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Drupal 8 has been available now for more than two years, but if your site is up and running on Drupal 6 or 7, you may be wondering… why should I upgrade? And why now?

Well, if you're on Drupal 6, the answer is easy: Drupal 6 is no longer an officially supported platform, which means that in addition to not getting the latest and greatest Drupal features, your site may be vulnerable to serious security issues and you will have to find backports of the latest security patches from the community or attempt to create your own.

But if you're already on Drupal 7, then security updates and occasional small new features are still being made available for your version. So… why upgrade? Well, I can think of five great reasons to do so, and for why now is a better time than ever.

Contrib Is Ready

One common hesitation about upgrading to Drupal 8 has been that many key contributed modules from Drupal 7 were not yet upgraded, and many sites depend on having such modules. It's taken a little while, but especially over the past year we've seen a huge increase in the number of modules ready for use on Drupal 8… and many of them are even better than they were on Drupal 7. Consider, for instance, the popular Webform module. Not only is it available for Drupal 8, but it's been rebuilt and redesigned from the ground up. The interface for managing your webforms is much more intuitive than it used to be, while also having many more options. At this point, if there's some feature you want your form to have, then Webform can probably handle it.

Of course, Webform isn't the only major module that's ready. Popular modules such as Drupal Commerce, Domain Access, Paragraphs, and Metatag are ready to go. And let's not forget that many vital Drupal 7 contributed modules, such as Views and Media, are now included in Drupal 8 by default, so you don't even have to install anything extra to use them.

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Easier Migrations Than Ever Before

One thing that may have had some people holding off on upgrading to Drupal 8 was that Drupal's new migration features weren't quite ready, and writing a custom data migration or working with a buggy migration tool can be quite a challenge. Well no more! The Drupal Migrate module is finally stable. This module is included with Drupal and is designed to make it as easy as possible to move all of your content from a Drupal 6 or 7 site to your shiny new Drupal 8 site.

One caveat: If your site is multilingual, then you might have to wait another version or two for the last few bugs with multilingual migrations to get worked out. But, that doesn't mean you have to hold off on building your new Drupal 8 site! Now would be a great time to get the new site built, and once the multilingual migration bugs are fixed, moving your content over at that point should be a comparatively trivial task.

New Features in Drupal Core

Using the most recent version of Drupal means that your site can easily start making use of the many new features that are always being added to Drupal core. For instance, Drupal 8.5 includes a whole host of new features, such as the Media module being included by default, a new Layout Builder module, and enhanced interfaces and settings for managing content and site configuration… and that's not even talking about the many significant bug fixes and other minor enhancements which are detailed in the full release notes. With feature releases such as these, sites built with Drupal 8 get fantastic improvements twice each year essentially for free.

By comparison, although Drupal 7 sites still get security fixes and the occasional other bugfix, the last time that there was a significant update for Drupal 7 was back in June 2017 with Drupal 7.55, and even then, the handful of improvements made were still small compared to the rate of improvement Drupal 8 has been seeing. Upgrading to Drupal 8 means you get more new features, more frequently, in addition to being able to use all of the great new features added to Drupal 8 in the five feature releases it has already had.

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Ease of Upgrades

I've written a bit about this before, but I think it bears repeating: Once you've upgraded to Drupal 8, the greatest upgrade challenges should be over. Because of how Drupal 8 is designed, future upgrades to Drupal 9 and beyond should be a much simpler transition than moving to 8 from older versions.

This is important to realize because, prior to Drupal 8, many people would "skip" a Drupal version… going from 5 to 7, or from 6 to 8, since the older version would be supported with bug fixes until the new version was released. Many people may be in a similar state now, waiting to upgrade from 7 until 9 is released, but at this point, holding off like that really shouldn't be necessary. If the upgrade from 8 to 9 should be a simple change, like Drupal creator Dries Buytaert has said, then there's no need to skip 8 entirely and miss out on all the great improvements that it can bring to your site today.

Upgrade While There's Time

There's a balance to be struck when deciding when to upgrade to Drupal 8. Doing it right after Drupal 8's release may have been tricky for many sites, due both to some bugs present in the new version and to the many important contrib modules not yet having been upgraded themselves. At the same time though… the longer you wait, the closer you get to your Drupal 7 no longer receiving critical security fixes. Although it's not yet clear when official support for Drupal 7 support will end, it's easy to see that it will happen at some point, and you'll want to already have upgraded by the time it does.

To me, right now feels like the ideal time. Drupal 8 is ready (and better than ever!), and there's still enough time left for Drupal 7 that if you have a complex site, you can take the necessary amount of time to upgrade without being rushed. The worst situation to be in would be to start upgrading a complex website when there's only a month or two of Drupal 7 support remaining, since then you might have to rush the upgrade and end up with more bugs (or things missing from your site) than you'd have if you took the time to upgrade now.

Conclusion

All of this is to say: It's time. Even if you weren't able to upgrade before, due to lacking contrib modules or the need for the Migrate module, those should no longer pose a problem. You can upgrade today and get countless major improvements over previous versions of Drupal (with more coming all the time) and you can even rest easy knowing that the next "big" upgrade shouldn't be anywhere near as daunting as they have been in the past.

It's been more than two years, but finally, Drupal 8 is ready for your site. The question now shouldn't be "Why upgrade?"... it should be "Why wait?"

Is there another reason why you are waiting to upgrade that we didn't mention? We can probably help, schedule your free consultation today.

Updated: May 18, 2018 12:57:00 PM