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Drupal 7’s End-of-Life is Coming: Are You Ready?

A white clock reading 9 o'clock alongside the Sitback logo and the words Drupal 7’s End-of-Life is Coming: Are You Ready?

Drupal 7 users have earned a bit of a reprieve recently, as the popular content management system (CMS) has extended its planned end-of-life date from November 2021 to November 2023 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

But even though the platform has afforded users more time, this upcoming deadline is still something to take seriously. If you aren’t already thinking about an upgrade plan from Drupal 7 (D7) to Drupal 9 (D9), now is the time to do so. Read on for more surrounding D7’s upcoming end-of-life, how your organisation may be affected, and how to move forward with a D9 migration.

What Does ‘End-of-Life’ Mean for D7?

Sites that continue running D7 after November 2023 may experience a number of negative effects, according to Drupal:

  • D7 will no longer be supported by the community at large, which means that it will no longer create new projects, fix bugs in existing projects, or write documentation around D7.
  • There will be no more core commits to D7.
  • The Drupal Security Team will no longer provide support or Security Advisories for D7 core or contributed modules, themes, or other projects. 
  • Reports about D7 vulnerabilities might become public, creating the potential for zero-day exploits.
  • All D7 releases on all project pages will be flagged as not supported (though maintainers can change that flag if they desire to).
  • On D7 sites with the update status module, Drupal Core will show up as unsupported.
  • After November 2023, using D7 may be flagged as insecure in third-party scans.

Extended support for D7 may be available through qualified vendors (more on this in a bit). But in all other cases, continuing to run the D7 CMS after November 2023 could result in increased security vulnerabilities and operational challenges for your organisation.

How Do I Know If My Site is Running D7?

Despite the significance of these potential consequences, not all D7 users are even aware that they’re running this soon-to-be-sunsetted version. In fact, we recently spoke with a government client who didn’t even know they were running D7!

To check your Drupal version, you can either:

  • Navigate to Administration > Reports > Status report within your Drupal installation
  • Use the Version Information module

If you see that your site is running D7, you’ll want to start planning for your D9 migration or explore options that’ll allow you to continue running D7 without the risks described earlier.

Migrating to D9

Migrating to D9 from D7 requires a number of steps encompassing both the planning stage and the technical execution of the transition. The following are a few considerations to help guide your migration process:

  • Get all internal stakeholders on board. When your site looks fine and still operates normally, it can be difficult to get buy-in for the necessary changes. While the potential for future security risks may be compelling, it’s still a good idea to prepare a solid business case that addresses the concerns of senior management, finance, and IT.   
  • Prepare your financial estimates. In order to complete all necessary upgrade work, you’ll need to get funds allocated above and beyond what’s already been set aside for other planned site changes. With roughly a year and a half left before D7’s end-of-life, you still have time to make the necessary choices around the prioritisation of IT and marketing funds this year and into 2023. 
  • Enlist a partner. The transition from D7 to D9 isn’t a simple one, as it will require a complete rebuild and migration. The theming of D9 is also completely different. Engage a web agency if you don’t have the expertise in-house to complete the process, but be aware that the number of companies requiring migration support means that many of these agencies are already booking up. Because the upgrade will take time, it’s important to lock in now so that they’re able to complete your migration before the November 2023 deadline.
  • Plan for the migration of your modules. Not all D7 modules will map directly into D9, which makes it a good idea to work out which are needed and which can be retired now. Thoroughly reviewing your site’s content is also a good idea so that you can avoid moving anything across unnecessarily while creating a cleaner backend to work with.
  • Consider a UX overhaul. As you’re planning for your D9 migration, there may be time, cost, and resourcing efficiencies that can be gained by overhauling your site’s current user experience. You may also find that, by redesigning your UX as part of your migration, you’re able to incorporate improvements such as customer research, personas, and user journey mapping into your new site — ultimately improving its overall performance.

Oh, and if you’re wondering what happened to Drupal 8 (D8), that version actually did reach its end-of-life in November 2021, due to Symfony 3's end-of-life. As a result, there’s no in-between step between D7 and D9 — and there’s no way to get around the need to upgrade to D9.

Extending Your D7 Implementation

Although you can’t get around migrating to D9, you can buy some additional time beyond November 2023 by migrating over to Acquia hosting

As a member of Drupal 7’s Vendor Extended Support program, Acquia is able to extend the end-of-life period for D7 users and provide any necessary security fixes through 2025. As a result, you’ll gain an additional three years to plan and execute the migration of your existing website to D9, allowing you ample time to allocate the necessary resources and plan for site and UX changes that could improve your organisation’s overall performance.

Is Drupal 9 the Right Option for You?

For some organisations currently using Drupal 7, the logical move might be away from the Drupal world entirely. Perhaps your business needs have evolved, your team’s skillsets have changed, or you have other internal tools that use different programming languages that you need to align all systems against. 

If this is the case, Sitback’s strategic consultants will be able to best advise on your options, based on your requirements. Just let us know what you need to achieve, and we’ll help get you on the right track.

For more information on the Acquia Extended Support offer — or to get started with your Drupal upgrade — get in touch with our team.