When to update to Drupal 8?
Drupal 8 is the new Drupal! If you own a Drupal 7 site, now is the time to think about moving your site to Drupal 8. Here is the what, when, and why.
The Drupal 7, 8, 9 roadmap
First, the good news - you still have time. In 2018, the support for Drupal 7 was extended to 2021 - this means that both Drupal 7 and Drupal 8 have an end of life date towards the end of 2021. Plus, there is usually an additional grace period in which security fixes will be published.
High-level roadmap Drupal 7, 8, 9.
But wait! Why would you update to Drupal 8 if it's just going to go at the same time Drupal 7 does? And yes, the extended support allows site owners to move from Drupal 7 to Drupal 9 directly in 2021. However, based on our experience with other Drupal releases, the main contribution modules might lag behind and a move to Drupal 8 prior to 2021 might make sense - especially with the now easier continuous upgrade path between major Drupal versions.
Wait! What is a continuous upgrade path? In many aspects, Drupal 8 is not an upgrade, but a new application. Updating your site from 7 to 8 will be painful (there is no other adjective available) however the update from 8 to 9 will be - if not seamless - at least continuous. No rebuilding your site, no migrating your content.
Drupal 8 updates in a nutshell
Reasons to wait until 2020/21
If your site is Drupal 7, well maintained and regularly updated to the latest D7 version, and you don’t plan any major changes, you do not need to move to Drupal 8 before 2021.
Reasons to update now
If your Drupal 7 site is getting old and you plan investments for a major refresh of your site in 2019 or 2020 - for example you might want to update the information architecture and design, extend the functionality, or plan integration points to external systems - it will make sense to move to Drupal 8 instead of investing time and effort into an older Drupal 7 site. It took some teething time, but with Drupal 8.6.x, Drupal's core and contribution modules have not only caught up with Drupal 7, but Drupal 8 has fulfilled its promises to be faster, more reliable and secure, and easier to use - not only for developers, but for sitebuilders as well.
What does a move entail?
There is no straight upgrade path between Drupal 7 and Drupal 8. In our opinion - and others might differ* - an update to Drupal 8 requires rebuilding the functionality in Drupal 8 and migrating the content from Drupal 7 into the new Drupal 8 site. This way you get a sustainable and maintainable Drupal 8 site, free of legacy artefacts.
How does Sector D8 fit into the picture?
From a technology view, the Sector D8 distribution is rebuilt from scratch on Drupal 8 - as is the Sector D8 Starter theme - but the underlying information architecture and content strategy has not changed. So, while moving your sites from Sector D7 to Sector D8 is an investment - and depends on the level of customisation and bespoke elements - automating the migration of your content should be straightforward. Plus, feeds is with us now, so our preferred alternative to the core migration module is ready to go.
Need help with your Drupal 8 update or project?
Talk to the award-winning Sector team at Sparks Interactive - supporting Sector from Wellington and Auckland.
Yeah ... nah. We have tried quite a few options and the outcome was ... unfortunate. Drupal 7 artefacts - text formats, menus, user roles, etc. - clutter your Drupal 8 sites, and you'll never know what came from where, and what is Drupal 8 and what are migration artefacts, and why is this not working now? Plus, the technology behind the theme has changed in a way that the config and frontend needs to be redone anyway ...