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The Time To Migrate Your Drupal 6 Build Is Now - Migrating From D6-To-D8

By: Monique Muldrow, Senior Marketing Director

Wondering what the fuss is about Drupal 8? Here’s what you need to know.

As applied to software, a deprecated version or release is no longer recommended, and — presuming the software is still being actively maintained — a version that has usually been superseded by a release that is superior in terms of security, stability, and/or underpinning architecture. 

With the November 19th release of Drupal 8, Drupal 6 falls into that category and will reach end of life on February 24, 2016. What does this mean for you? 

First of all, don’t panic, you have time (but not much). Second, it helps to know the three reasons that you need to migrate now. 

Reason to migrate # 1 — Drupal 6 is Coded in Stone
. For starters — barring some seismic event — no work on Drupal 6 core is planned by the Drupal core maintainers past 2/24/16. This means that any bug or exploit (known or unknown) that exists on that day will exist in perpetuity. Does one even need to explain why that’s a problem? 

Reason to migrate #2 — Hosting Options for Old PHP Versions are Dropping.
 While Drupal 6 core is compatible with PHP 5.3; some Drupal 6 contrib modules may not be. For example, most Drupal 6 contrib modules throw E_STRICT errors on PHP 5.3, and as such, they become practically unusable on PHP 5.4.  

And while there are ways to install new PHP versions on older Linux server OSes, and vice-versa, many hosting companies refuse to do so on shared hosting resources as these modifications can expose the servers to security risks and complications in server maintenance and upgrades. 

Reason to migrate #3 — Limited Migration Support is available now. 
One look at the commit history related to Drupal 8 core functions and contributed modules that deal with the migration of content from Drupal 6 to Drupal 8 show that the time to flag and raise issues related to content migration from Drupal 6 to 8 is now. 

One (of the many) beautiful things about Drupal 8 is that the deprecation of Drupal 6 was always considered during the planning process, and as such, the migration of content from Drupal 6-to-Drupal 8 is far easier and more streamlined than, say, Drupal 7-to-Drupal 8. (They skip versions like that, so, for example, Drupal 9 will have a supported migration path from Drupal 7-to-Drupal 9).

As for what to do? Your high-level plan of attack goes like this:

1. Backup EVERYTHING. No, seriously.

2. Conduct some soul searching before migrating anything.

a. People will be wedded to content and functions that aren’t getting any traffic and whose business value is dubious. Be ready for some challenging conversations on business value. 

b. Use your web analytics to inform the decisions on what to keep. 

c. It helps to have a stable set of goals and priorities to guide and arbitrate the discussions. Product Vision anyone?

3. Document the architecture of the content types, taxonomies, users, and other assets you plan to migrate.

4. Plan your new theme.

a. Your Drupal 6 theme will not migrate. Drupal 8’s theming layer is lightyears ahead of Drupal 6’s.

b. Consider using an existing framework (e.g. Foundation, Bootstrap). This will save you lots of effort (at the cost of some coding bloat).

5. Migrate the architecture using automated Drupal 8 and contrib tools where possible; as well as by manually recreating these where not possible.

6. Migrate the content using automated Drupal 8 and contrib tools where possible, and manually (or through other ETL means) where not. 

7. Test, test, test.

8. Launch and celebrate!

Breakthrough Technologies will be publishing a Drupal 6-to-Drupal 8 migration blog series where we walk through a real migration. Stay tuned!

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