Still on Drupal 6? Here are Your Options

By John Ouellet
September 19, 2019

Blog Post - Still on Drupal 6? Here are Your Options

Overview

According to the usage statistics for Drupal core, there are still roughly 40,000 sites on Drupal 6. This number is most undoubtedly low, since this chart only shows sites that have the update status module enabled. There could still be well over 100,000 sites on Drupal 6 at the time of this article. So if your site is still running Drupal 6, you're not alone!

Unfortunately, Drupal 6 reached "end of life" on February 24th, 2016. This wasn't an arbitrary milestone; on that date the Drupal core community stopped supporting all Drupal 6 sites. If you're still running Drupal 6, your site will no longer receive security updates and support requests will no longer be answered on drupal.org. Because Drupal 6 isn't compatible with modern PHP out-of-the-box, your PHP versions may be unsupported as well.

This all sounds like a lot! If you're still on Drupal 6, chances are you haven't had the opportunity or budget to upgrade, so taking on a web project right now might seem daunting. Fortunately, there are several good options to make sure your site stays secure and continues to be an asset (not a liability) to your organization. Let's find the best option for your organization's budget and goals to get your Drupal 6 site up-to-date and on track for success.

Drupal 6 Long Term Support

There are a few contributors who are currently maintaining a "Drupal 6 Long Term Support (LTS)" version. Drupal 6 LTS backports security fixes from Drupal 7 (and 8) into Drupal 6. This community also maintains some popular contrib modules for Drupal 6. This provides an option to keep your Drupal 6 site going via Long Term Support. So what does that mean for you and your site?

  1. We can use the Drupal 6 LTS core and contrib modules to keep your site secure.
  2. We can update your site to a modern PHP version like 7.1.
  3. This will buy you some time possibly until about 2022.

Advantages

  • No need to make a new site!
  • No interruption to your business operations.
  • Typically least expensive option.

Disadvantages

  • Only buys you a couple years (~2022).
  • Less secure (updates aren't available for all contrib modules).
  • Unwise to keep building features, invest in a redesign.
  • You're spending money on life support instead of reinvigorating your site.

This is a great option if you still need to utilize your current Drupal 6 site and don't need to make any improvements for the foreseeable future. Clients who choose this route are still adding content and just don't have the budget to move off of Drupal 6.

Upgrade to Drupal 8

Drupal 8 migrations is one of our specialties. We have written numerous technical blog articles on Drupal 8 migrations. Drupal 8 is a vastly different CMS than its predecessors. Its scalability, extensibility, and user experience is leaps and bounds over other CMS's. Why would you want to go with Drupal 8?

Advantages

  • Modern enterprise-grade CMS for powerful marketing websites and custom applications.
  • Opportunity to make a better website with a modern design!
  • Plug and play integrations with many 3rd party apps and services.
  • Push-button upgrade to Drupal 9 (and beyond).

Disadvantages

  • Can be costly depending on your site's size and complexity.

This option can be one of the more costly options for clients. Usually during a Drupal 8 migration, the site is re-themed as well. The good news is that once you get to Drupal 8, there is no need to worry about future versions of Drupal. The changes to Drupal's underlying framework have made major verison upgrades more or less push-button.

Migrate to another CMS

Maybe your friends are all talking about new WordPress features or love Webflow. Perhaps you inherited this old Drupal 6 website and don't really care for Drupal. Heck, maybe your Drupal 6 site was built in a way that left a sour taste in your mouth!

We see this from time to time and we understand: Drupal isn't the perfect solution for every organization. If you're not sure what the ideal CMS solution for your organization, we're happy to demo some of our favorites and work through some exercises to find the best fit. You'll have to live with it for a few years, so investing some time in choosing the right thing is important!

Out of many good options, WordPress has been a popular destination for old Drupal 6 sites. Why would you go with WordPress over other CMSs?

Advantages

  • Drag and drop editorial experience with plugins like Elementor.
  • One of the largest selections of plugins and themes.
  • Typically less expensive than an enterprise CMS for "brochure" websites.

Disadvantages

  • Fewer data migration tools.
  • Less options for complex editorial workflows.
  • Maintaining highly custom websites is more difficult.

WordPress is a great solution for smaller to medium-sized organizations. This is why WordPress powers a third of the Internet currently. WordPress is a clear choice if you have smaller budgets and do not need to develop complicated custom functionality. If this is a website for your organization with a blog or a small online store, WordPress is great! If you are building a portal or intranet that integrates with custom APIs and has complicated business logic requirements, Drupal will provide better tools.

Archive the site as static webpages

Sometimes you just need the content of your site to remain as is forever. This is common in smaller non-profits and higher education departments. You have a few choices here as well. You can just copy the HTML of the site and put it on another server. You can also migrate the content to a static site builder like VuePress. There are also free hosting providers like Netlify for static sites. Why go with this option?

Advantages

  • Fastest way to keep your site as-is, forever.
  • Inexpensive.

Disadvantages

  • You have no CMS!
  • Inability to easily update or create content

This is typically a low cost option depending on if you go with a static site generator or not. Some people use this option to preserve the SEO advantages of their 10-year old Drupal 6 domain that has come to dominate search engine rankings, but can't permanently redirected to a new domain due to a differing content focus or other change. In these caess, intelligent linking from the legacy content can more effectively drive traffic to a newer organization without risking SEO disaster.

Think of this as freezing your website in carbonite: it will now be there forever, with very little maintenance cost, but you won't be able to thaw it out easily for update (unless you want to risk the wraith of any Hutts!).

Conclusion

All hope is not lost for your Drupal 6 site! There are still many options for your organization to get years of further value from your site. Fill out the form below and we can talk about what options are best for your Drupal 6 site.


Let's Talk!