Don’t fret, as you are not alone. There are about 200,000 Drupal 6 websites still in production. That includes major websites such as Whitehouse.gov. However, with the impending release of Drupal 8, it may be time to do something about your Drupal 6 website.
Drupal 7 is the current standard for Drupal websites. It was released in Jan 2011 and has been the “standard” Drupal install for large production sites since about summer 2012. It is stable and well tested under extreme traffic and loads. Drupal 8 is in beta now and we expect it to be released in the first quarter of 2015 (Read more about the Drupal 8 release). Once that happens the clock on Drupal 6 support starts ticking, and about 90 days after Drupal 8 release day security patches for Drupal 6 will no longer be provided by Drupal community. Also, automated testing of any patches will cease immediately on the Drupal 8 release. So if something important is updated you’ll have to manually test every facet of your site before applying the patch.
So what are your options?
Do nothing is always an option. It may not be a good option, but it is an option. If for some reason you just don’t care about the site on Drupal 6 anymore at least take it off the internet so that it doesn’t become a potential vector for malware if it is compromised. If your Drupal 6 site utilizes many custom modules and you just can’t afford the budget or time to upgrade, that is ok. The site will continue to function just fine. However, you will be running your web site on officially unsupported software that is past its end of life date. You may be fine for 6 months, or 24 months, or longer. We don’t know if somebody will offer commercial support for Drupal 6, or if the community will unofficially continue to support it for some time. Staying on Drupal 6 represents a risk, but the risk / reward calculation is going to be personal decision. We can’t make it for you.
Upgrade to Drupal 7
This is going to be the preferred action for most sites. As mentioned above, Drupal 7 is the current standard. Even with the release of Drupal 8 in early 2015, most enterprise class websites will continue to build on Drupal 7 for at least another 12-18 months. Drupal 7 will be formally supported at least until Drupal 9 is released, and that event is 3-4 years in the future. So upgrading to Drupal 7 is safe, secure, and will buy you at least 3-4 more years of support.
Although security should be a compelling enough reason to upgrade, there are other benefits.
- There are many more modules available for Drupal 7. It’s where the development activity has been for the last 2+ years.
- More functionality is enbedded in the core. That could mean less reliance on modules for your site.
- The Admin interface was greatly improved in Drupal 7.
- Image management in 7 was much improved.
- Drupal 7 is the current standard.Upgrade to Drupal 8
Although technically this is possible, in reality only the simplest plain vanilla Drupal 6 site has any chance of upgrading directly to 8 with most functionality intact. The reason most enterprises will remain with Drupal 7 for 12-18 months after Drupal 8 is released is that it takes time for the community contributed modules to get upgraded for Drupal 8. It’ll be summer 2016 before the majority of functionality for a typical enterprise website is available with Drupal 8 and contributed modules. So for most sites, Drupal 8 is not a consideration in the immediate future.
Drupal 6 to 7 represented a fairly major change in how Drupal operated. Drupal 7 to 8 may be an even more dramatic change. If your site is on Drupal 6 today the upgrade path for you is almost certainly to Drupal 7, and to be safe you should plan to do it as soon as possible in 2015.
Call us if you need help!