Preparing for Drupal 6 "End of Life"

Sara Olson, Marketing Analyst
Posted

On February 24, three months after the official release of Drupal 8, Drupal 6 will reach “end of life” and no longer be supported. As explained on Drupal.org, this means the community at large will no longer be creating new projects, fixing bugs, writing documentation, or issuing security advisories for Drupal 6.If You’re on Drupal 6...First of all, don’t panic. Losing community support does not mean the sky will immediately fall. Your website will not spontaneously combust. With that being said, the time has come to begin asking questions about your long-term digital strategy, and what comes next. Don’t think of the termination of Drupal 6 support as an impending disaster; rather, consider it an opportunity to evaluate your digital needs and potentially transform your business.In the meantime, here are a few things to keep in mind while you’re still on Drupal 6…

Potential Security Risks

The Drupal security team will no longer manage security reporting and patching for core and contrib. This presents two risks: 1) you may not notice holes in your security, and 2) if you discover a problem, you can’t expect anyone else to fix it.While this may seem dangerous, your chances of being hacked tomorrow remain low. After all, for the entirety of 2015, only three Drupal 6 security announcements were reported by the Drupal security team - so your day-to-day operations don’t depend on them too heavily. Still, it is probably worthwhile to invest in monitoring and addressing security issues either internally or through a trusted partner - just in case. If you're looking for a place to start, Drupal.org released a list of companies capable of providing patches and security updates after community-based security support comes to an end.

Diminished Community Support

One of Drupal’s greatest strengths is its community - not just the thousands of available modules, but the thousands of people who pour energy into developing and supporting them. We all benefit from others’ commits, bug fixes, documentation, and patches. Soon, the remaining energy that had been directed towards maintaining Drupal 6 modules will be redirected to Drupal 7 and 8. Prepare for this shift by ensuring your internal team or trusted partner is prepared to pick up some of the slack.Planning for the Future (Now)While keeping your Drupal 6 site up and running, actively plan what’s next. You’ve likely been using Drupal 6 for 4-6 years, and any system will be showing its wear at that age. Now is the right moment to take a hard look at your digital needs. Ask yourself:

  • How has your business changed since your last implementation?
  • Where does your current platform fall short?
  • How might your business change in the future? (Remember, you are not just replacing what you currently have; you are upgrading to prepare your future needs.)

The internet has changed a lot since Drupal 6 was released, and newer releases of Drupal are better equipped to handle those changes. My colleague Shawn Mole recently published an excellent blog post on how Drupal 8 handles omni-channel content distribution, multilingual websites, and configuration management. Do your research and figure out how these upgrades impact your digital strategy.Finally, find a partner capable of keeping your Drupal 6 investment secure throughout the migration process. This partner should have a thorough understanding of both Drupal 6 and Drupal 8, as the transition will not be instantaneous. Evaluate digital agencies based on their ability to help you with the security / community maintenance mentioned above, as well as implementing a successful upgrade matched to your digital roadmap.

Sara Olson

Marketing Analyst