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Drupal 9 is approaching its End of Life on November 21st, but what exactly does that mean? In simple terms, it means that after this date, there won’t be any new security enhancements or feature updates released. Consequently, any security vulnerabilities discovered by the community won’t receive official fixes from Drupal Core. Any organization still operating on Drupal 9 after November 2nd will need to decide whether to accept the associated risks or explore alternative options.

Team RIVA has upgraded dozens of federal agency websites from past iterations of Drupal including the current migration from Drupal 9 to Drupal 10. The transition to Drupal 10 must be done well and done permanently. There are many benefits to operating on the latest Drupal platform that make the migration process well worth the effort. Below are some of the main considerations when migrating:

The Benefits of Migrating to Drupal 10

  • Enhanced Performance: With Drupal 10, websites will witness a noticeable improvement in loading times, responsiveness, and overall site speed. It’s optimized for modern web environments, ensuring visitors get the best experience.
  • Greater Security: With the digital landscape constantly evolving, cyber threats are becoming more sophisticated. Drupal 10 comes armed with the latest security patches and updates, offering an ironclad defense against potential cyber vulnerabilities.
  • Modern APIs: The improved APIs in Drupal 10 mean that integration with third-party systems, be it
  • Drupal 10 boasts of an array of new tools and features. From an enhanced layout builder to modern themes, website developers and designers have a wider array of tools at their disposal.
  • Future-Ready: Migrating to Drupal 10 not only means benefiting from its current features but also ensuring easier migrations and updates in the future.

The Upgrade Roadmap

Moving from Drupal 9 to Drupal 10 isn’t as challenging as going from Drupal 7 to 9, but there are still complexities and nuances project teams should keep in mind. For teams interested in pursuing the migration, we’ve outlined a general roadmap for upgrades which typically consists of three main phases: Codebase Updates, Quality Assurance, and Application Launch.

Phase One: Updating the Codebase

Migrating to a newer version of Drupal might seem daunting at first, but the upgrade of the codebase can be a straightforward task with the right tools and approach. Here’s how the process unfolds:

Initial Assessment with Upgrade Status: Begin by installing the “Upgrade_Status” module. This invaluable tool scans your existing codebase, looking for potentially problematic or outdated functions. The insights it provides can guide developers through the initial steps of the migration process.

Categorization of Identified Issues: Most of the issues you encounter can typically be grouped into one of these buckets:

  • Outdated Modules with D10 Support: These are modules that are outdated but have an updated version available for Drupal 10.
  • Outdated Modules without D10 Support: This scenario can be tricky. If there’s no Drupal 10 version available for an essential module, you might have to look for an alternative module that offers similar functionality or consider custom development.
  • Custom Modules with Deprecated Functions: If you’re using custom modules that have outdated or deprecated functions, it’s time to dive into the code. Refresh these modules by replacing or updating those functions.
  • Unsupported Platforms: Your website may be running on older versions of Apache/Nginx, PHP, Mysql/Postgres. Before migration, ensure that these platforms are updated to versions compatible with Drupal 10.
  • Outdated Base Themes: Themes lay the foundation for the appearance and user experience of your site. If the base theme is outdated, you’ll want to consider updating it or switching to a modern, supported theme that aligns with your site’s aesthetic and functional needs.

Addressing Issues Proactively: Once you’ve got the results from the Upgrade_Status, it’s imperative to address the identified issues. Tackling these problems in advance is key to ensuring the core remains robust as neglecting them might compromise the stability of your site, leading to potential malfunctions down the road.While the codebase update is a pivotal phase in the Drupal migration process, with systematic planning and a structured approach, it can be executed seamlessly. It’s all about preparation and ensuring all elements of your site are aligned with the requirements of the newer Drupal version.

While the codebase update is a pivotal phase in the Drupal migration process, with systematic planning and a structured approach, it can be executed seamlessly. It’s all about preparation and ensuring all elements of your site are aligned with the requirements of the newer Drupal version.

Phase 2: Quality Assurance

The transition from Drupal 9 to Drupal 10 is not merely a technical upgrade. At its heart, it’s about safeguarding the user experience, ensuring that every interaction remains seamless and that core functionalities are preserved. This is where Quality Assurance (QA) comes to the forefront. Though the technical upgrade might be relatively quick, QA often extends the process. On average, the QA phase can span up to 3 weeks. This duration is not just about finding bugs, but ensuring that every feature, big or small, operates flawlessly. Whether it’s the intricacies of a search API, the timely updates of an event calendar, or the smooth import of data feeds, the primary objective is consistent performance.

A systematic approach to QA often involves several layers of testing and verification. Here’s a closer look at the key stages:

  • Discovering Critical Mission Areas: Start by pinpointing which aspects of the site are non-negotiable in terms of performance. Define the benchmarks — what would warrant halting a deployment or rolling it back? Conversely, decide which minor issues can be addressed after the site goes live, without jeopardizing the user experience.
  • Drafting a Comprehensive QA Testing Plan: Based on the identified mission-critical areas, formulate a rigorous QA testing plan. This document will serve as the roadmap for all subsequent testing, ensuring no feature or function is overlooked.
  • Initial Testing on the Drupal 9.5.x Site: Before jumping into the new environment, test the existing Drupal 9.5.x site against the drafted QA plan. This ensures that the baseline is robust and helps in comparing performance post-upgrade.
  • Post-Upgrade Testing on Drupal 10: Once Drupal 9.5.x has been upgraded and deployed to production, the testing process should be repeated, this time on the Drupal 10 platform. It’s crucial to ensure that the upgrade has not only preserved but ideally enhanced the website’s functionality.

The QA phase is about a meticulous examination of both the obvious and less obvious  functionalities of a site. While the technical aspects of the upgrade are essential, ensuring quality across all aspects of a Drupal site cannot be done without a functional inventory. Testing against the functional inventory is the only way to ensure that the website remains user-friendly.

Phase 3: Launching Drupal 10

Transitioning to Drupal 10 isn’t as simple as flipping a switch. It’s a culmination of rigorous development, thorough testing, and precise execution. While upgrading to Drupal 10 might seem like a brief effort, it involves a complete overhaul of many integral components. Here’s a deep dive into the essentials of launching the updated application:

  • Understanding the Complexity: It’s not just about backing up the database and moving the code to a live server. The journey from Drupal 9 to Drupal 10 means that nearly every segment of the application undergoes change. From alterations in database schemas and adjustments in configuration objects to the evolution of services – the depth of transformation is profound.
  • Anticipating Command Issues: Teams should be prepared that familiar tools like Drush commands might not operate effectively or at all during the transition/migration period. In the face of problems during the Drupal 10 phase, alternative strategies and quick problem-solving become crucial.
  • Downtime Considerations: It’s imperative to estimate downtime, considering post-deployment activities, schema changes, and differences between staging and production environments.
  • Emergency Exit Strategy: While everyone hopes for smooth sailing, preparing for turbulent waters is wise. In instances of a catastrophic failure, a rollback strategy is indispensable. It’s crucial to isolate and roll back the database and the application codebase separately. Relying solely on application-to-database interactions can be dangerous, especially if there’s a misalignment causing database management tools to malfunction.
  • Addressing Staging Drift: The gap between Staging and Production isn’t just in terms of data. The infrastructure, networking, caching systems like CDNs, and more, all differ. While production continually evolves, staging often remains relatively unchanged. Recognizing these disparities and adjusting the launch strategy accordingly is vital to ensure a smooth transition.
  • Setting Realistic Expectations: By setting clear expectations and communicating potential challenges, one can ensure that the client is on board and understands the intricacies of the upgrade process.

In the digital age, staying updated isn’t just about accessing new features, it’s about providing value, ensuring security, and optimizing user experiences. Migrating to Drupal 10 is not merely an upgrade; it’s an investment in your organization’s digital future. Navigating the complexities of platform migrations can be a daunting endeavor, especially without the right resources or expertise at your side. Team RIVA has a proven track record and extensive experience in managing migrations, we understand the nuances, challenges, and potential roadblocks that can arise during such transitions. Whether your team is short on resources or simply in need of a seasoned partner to guide the way, we’re here to assist and help your organization achieve optimal outcomes. Reach out if you’d like to learn more about our Drupal and Digital Communication capabilities.

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