Drupal Definitions.

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Major version: the number before the first decimal.

Examples: Drupal 5.1, Drupal 6.1, and Drupal 7.1 are major versions.They are considered upgrades. Major versions include changes to core functions.

Minor release: A minor release of Drupal is represented by the decimal plus one extra digit.

Examples are 6.13, and 6.23. They are considered as updates. They fix security issues bugs.


Drupal Seven was launched in January 2011. Now, the new version is out and being used, webmasters must decide whether or not to move to Drupal Seven. The decision to upgrade requires time and work because of the many changes. But there is a payoff: New functions and updates are available and more powerful. However, if features on an existing Drupal site are sufficient for a business, then it may make sense to keep the older version. This white paper helps interested parties to decide if an upgrade is useful or not.


The following factors are decision makers:

Supported Versions.

Drupal 5 and earlier versions are no longer supported by the community. Drupal 6 will be fully supported for the next two years – until Drupal Eight is released.

Administrative Usability.

Drupal 7 improves administrative usability:
New Functionalities.
Availabile Modules.

Every Drupal installation is a combination of the core software and modules. Not all modules that were written for Drupal 6 and earlier releases are available for Drupal 7. Likewise, there are some modules available for Drupal 7 that are not available in earlier releases. New modules – such as those needed to integrate with new technology and social media sites – will likely only be developed for the latest Drupal version.

Required Resources.

The process of upgrading to the latest version of Drupal can vary in difficulty depending on the complexity of the current installation. Moving to a new major release – such as moving from Drupal 6 to Drupal 7 – requires much more effort than upgrades within a release, such as updating from Drupal 6.1 to Drupal 6.2. In addition to the software changes, the standards for themes changed in Drupal 7, so all upgrades will also require some reworking of the site theme.To determine resources required for any Drupal upgrade, time for four general steps should be estimated: planning, preparing your current site for upgrade, upgrading, and testing.


1. Configurable Dashboard

In Drupal 7, administrators can configure their own dash- boards. For instance, if an administrator needs to approve comments often, pending comments can be placed right in the dashboard. Custom views and blocks can be added to make the dashboard hold all the information an administra- tor needs.

2. Configurable Short Cut Menu

A new short cut menu across the top provides site admin- istrators easy acess to items they need access anywhere in the site – such as Add New Content, Add New Users, Find Content, Comments, and any other frequently used items.

3. Installation Method of Themes and Modules

Drupal 7 makes installing new modules and themes easy through the web interface, rather than requiring administrators to access the server through FTP or SSH. Now, administrators just need to download the module compressed file (or point to the URL) and select Install. This makes it easy for a non-technical person to extend the Drupal installation with new functionality.

4. Adding Content (Node Status at a Glance)

Drupal 7 brings a Vertical Tabs module to the core instal- lation. This module is a helpful addition to the editing screen of content, blocks, and other items. It divides the edit screen items into groups and make a tabbed interface (one for each group) within the edit screen. The tabs themselves contain vital information about their contents so the content editor or administrator can see the status at a glance.


So, what does it cost to move from Drupal 6 to Drupal 7? The answer depends on resources available and complexity of the current installation. Doing nothing has costs as well. Below are common scenarios and an estimate of resources required for each.

Updates to a New Minor Drupal Version: Updating to the latest minor version of Drupal (from 6.3 to 6.4, for example) involves updating the core software as well as any modules that have been updated. Since Drupal modules are updated all the time, it is likely that all modules will need to be updated. Process: The recommended process is to update the software on a development site. Test all functionality for tweaks needed, especially if the site uses any custom modules or coding. Rework the site theme where necessary. Then, Once the updates are tested and working properly on the development site, the changes can be applied to the live/production web- site. Down time on the live website is minimal (less than one hour) using this approach. Time required: Total time for the effort is about 20-30 hours. More or less time may be necessary to account for the expertise of the people doing the updates and the tools used.

Updates to a New Major Drupal Version: Updating to the latest major version of Drupal (from 6.1 to 7.1, for example) involves many of the same steps as updating to the latest minor version. However, a major version cannot be skipped when upgrading. For example, if a site uses Drupal 5, it must first be updated to Drupal 6 then to Drupal 7. In addition, a major release upgrade requires current minor releases to be applied prior to applying the major release update. If 6.19 is the current version of Drupal 6, but a site is running 6.13, the site would first need to be updated to 6.19 before it could be updated to Drupal 7. However, if a complex Drupal 5 site is being considered for an upgrade to Drupal 7, it may be more efficient to code and configure a new Drupal 7 installation than import content and users from Drupal 5 using Migrate or similar modules. Process: The recommended process for updating to a new major version is the same as updating to a new minor version: Update the software on a develop- ment site. Then, test all functionality and make tweaks to custom modules, coding, or theming. New modules may need to be selected if existing modules are not available in the new version, or if new mod- ules offer better functionality. Once the updates are tested and working properly on the development site, the changes can be applied to the live website. Down time on the live website ususally less than one hour. Time required: Total time for the effort is about 40-50 hours. The actual time required may be more or less depending on the expertise of the person performing the the updates, as well as the tweaks and new modules needed.

Cost of Doing Nothing

Even a decision to not upgrade Drupal has costs. Patching older versions of Drupal core and modules may take as much time as an upgrade. After any major release, many developers will add new functionality only to the latest version of their module. Over time many new features and modules are only published to the latest version, and even bug fixes to an older version will get lower priority. Thus, not upgrading may mean that more development may be needed in-house to accommodate needs for security issues or new functionality.


The Food Processing Suppliers Association (FPSA) had a dynamic website built on Drupal 6. The website is a vital tool to engage key audiences and communicate the association’s value, It was important to FPSA to keep its website using the latest features, so FPSA decided to move its site to Drupal 7. FPSA worked with to perform the update. Three steps were taken in preparation for the upgrade: • Everything was backed up, including files and database. • The update was performed first on a development website by first updating Drupal 6 modules and core to their latest versions. • Existing modules were assessed to determine which needed to be upgraded to Drupal 7 versions and which did not have a Drupal 7 equivalent and thus required alternative solutions or modules. Several modules used on FPSA had moved into the core of Drupal 7. These modules did not need to be upgraded, but their equivalent core modules needed to be enabled. Migrating fields was a big part of the upgrade process. Several CCK modules moved to the core, including Imagefield and Filefield. To ensure a smooth upgrade, the Content Migrate module was used. Once the software updates were complete, testing was done on all parts of the site. For FPSA, several views components were broken and had to be rebuilt. After the site testing, the visual presentation, or theme, of the website was updated to be compatible with Drupal 7. Once all was done, another round of testing was conducted. With everything working well on the development server, the work was then quickly moved to the production server with no impact on site users. FPSA is now in a position to leverage Drupal 7 to further engage its audiences.

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