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The Internet is a moving target, and because Drupal powers so many sites, it is too. The current version is Drupal 8, but many sites run on earlier versions of Drupal, going back to Drupal 6. That’s a problem, that’s a big problem.

Drupal 6 went to its End of Life on February 24, 2016. That means that there is no official support for Drupal 6. Nobody is coding new modules, nobody is working on bug fixes, and nobody is working on security patches. It’s often said that one of the greatest strengths of Drupal is the overwhelming level of community support, but that’s only a strength as long as the community is supporting it.

It’s not just the community, either. Drupal runs on PHP, and that too is a moving target. The latest version Drupal 6 supports is 5.3, and that was released in 2009. As servers move away from supporting PHP 5.x towards PHP 7.0 and 7.1, more and more are going to sunset Drupal 6 support.

If you have a Drupal 6 site today, you have three options. Your first and worst option is that you can leave it as it is and accept the vulnerabilities and the fact that if your server upgrades to PHP 7.0 you will probably have to upgrade then whether you are ready or not. The other two options are to upgrade, either to Drupal 7 or Drupal 8. If you have a complex site with many modules, you probably want to go to Drupal 7, as it is more mature and has better module support than Drupal 8. On the other hand, Drupal 8 is a better choice for the long term with greater extended support and more innovations. Its only drawback is that it’s new enough that some modules have not yet been ported over to the new version.

One innovation that has been ported over is a direct upgrade API, so you can go directly from Drupal 6 to Drupal 8 with no need to worry about Drupal 7.

In order to make the entire upgrade as painless as possible for you, There is a standardized and proven upgrade process.

The first step requires complete Admin website access. The ability to log into your site and see all the modules so I know exactly what is part of the upgrade. The next piece: an FTP login to upload and download files including any databases. Once I have this information and access, I run a check on your web host to verify that it can run Drupal 8. In most cases this is a technicality, but it is too important to skip.

For the upgrade itself, I download a copy of your site to my development environment, and run the upgrade there. This enables me to ensure full compatibility in a safe environment without taking your site offline. After running the upgrade, I will share development access with you so you can assess the upgraded version. At the same time, I will also walk you through any changes in the new admin panel.

Once you are satisfied with the upgraded site, I move your existing site to a backup directory and upload the new site to replace it. That gives you all the functionality and stability of Drupal 8 with the security that comes from knowing you haven’t lost anything in the transition.

Upgrades happen. You will have to upgrade your Drupal 6 site, eventually. Contact me and we can talk about how to do this in a smooth and straightforward fashion.

A guest post by Dave Robinson.
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