Should we upgrade or migrate our Drupal 7 website?

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Last edit: May 22, 2023
(1 week ago)


Should we upgrade or migrate our Drupal 7 website?


Our organization’s website is built on Drupal 7. We know something should be done, but should we upgrade our existing Drupal 7 website to the latest version of Drupal or migrate it to WordPress instead?


The client has a website that is currently running on Drupal 7 and wants to understand their options for upgrading or migrating the site.

Possible solution

Migrating your website from Drupal 7 requires careful planning, so it’s important to get ahead of the problem. Your team will should consider which path makes sense for your project.

What’s the difference between Upgrading and Migrating Drupal 7?

In the context of Drupal, when we say Upgrade, we’re referring to the process of taking an existing website built in Drupal 7 and updating it to a newer version of Drupal. Then, when we say Migrating, on the other hand, we’re talking about transferring all data from one platform to another.

In this case, migrating from Drupal 7 might involve moving your current website from Drupal 7 to WordPress.

Upgrading = Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 (some call this updating)

Migrating = Drupal 7 to new WordPress website

Upgrading Drupal 7 means that you keep the same platform, but upgrade it to the latest version. This usually involves migrating your existing content and features from the older version of Drupal to newer one, but keeping your architecture and code intact.

On the other hand, migrating from Drupal 7 to another platform (such as WordPress, or any of the other leading Drupal alternatives) requires you to build an entirely new website. This involves moving the content, features, design, and code from Drupal 7 over to the new platform. This often takes significant resource, and takes more time than upgrading your existing site.

For many organizations, with teams who built the orginal Drupal 7 website long gone, and with a shrinking pool of available Drupal developers, a different platform has broad appeal. Migrating might be a good choice…

Learn more about Drupal migration services and how this might empower your digital team.

Photo of a boat with the Drupal logo on it. Should your organization stick with Drupal?

Upgrading a Drupal 7 Website: is it worth it?

Every organization’s website is unique and each situation requires a different approach. Trying to summarize the entire decision in an article is probably beyond the medium, however, we do believe for most organizations, the decision ultimately comes down to the budget, timeline and goals for the organization’s website.

If your organization wants to build a stronger online presense, has goals of growing online reach, or generally requires advanced new functionality… Drupal may not be worth upgrading.

Why Upgrade Drupal 7?

Upgrading your Drupal 7 website to the latest version of Drupal is important, but it may not solve all of your website’s problems.

For many organizations, the major advantage to upgrading is just that the process to Upgrade takes less time than that required to Migrate the website from one platform to another. We’re generalizing here, as this is really variable, but in most cases, upgrading is cheaper and pretty easy.

With an upgrade, you’ll be able to keep most of your existing content and features intact, as well as maintain any custom code already built for the website. Don’t forget, upgrading will let you to take advantage of new features available in newer versions of Drupal, like Drupal’s improved mobile-responsiveness, improved performance, new modules, etc. Managing your website, and keeping it up to date, is known to impact user experience, brand recognition, and conversion rates across multiple industries.

Security maintenance of Drupal site

It’s important to remember that as these older websites on Drupal 7 are neglected, the security too is neglected. Upgrading your Drupal 7 website to Drupal 8, 9, or the coming soon Drupal 10, will help ensure that you are protected against security vulnerabilities associated with running an outdated version of Drupal.

Advantages of Upgrading a Drupal 7 Website

If you’re pretty satisfied with your website, then upgrading your current Drupal 7 website will help you maintain all of the existing features and functionality that you’ve built, while giving you access to additional new modules, themes, and other tools. Generally, the upgrade process is much simpler than a full-on migration, and takes significantly less time overall to finish.

It’s also often more cost-effective in terms of development resources because there is no need for content or data migration from one platform to another.

Disadvantages of Upgrading a Drupal 7 Website

The downside to upgrading your Drupal 7 website is that you are still limited by its aging core infrastructure which might not be as secure or performant as more modern websites running on newer versions of Drupal 8 or 9 (or even WordPress). You may also experience compatibility issues with certain plugins/modules after upgrading due to older versions having different API endpoints for them compared with the most up-to-date version released recently.

Maybe migrating to a stronger platform is a better choice?

For many organizations on Drupal 7, this is the right course.

Migrating from Drupal 7 to WordPress (or other Drupal alternatives) will probably offer your organization a few different benefits. For organizations using Drupal 7 already, but not totally satisfied with their website, this might be the better choice.

Your team will be able to take advantage of a growing and very popular platform, with many plugins, and generally a much more functional platform. Our clients see faster load times and are happy with the new toolset.

Advantages of Migrating Your Existing Site

Migrating away from an outdated version, like Drupal 7, provides businesses with fresh options for how to use their website. New features, improved security, improved scalability, better performance, and more robust mobile responsiveness across devices compared with earlier versions.

Building new website components will prove more affordable and reliable on other platforms, as compared to Drupal 7, or even to new versions.

Top reasons we help organizations switch from Drupal to another platform:

  • They need additional features that are difficult or impossible to build on Drupal 7
  • Their site is dated and has poor performance/usability
  • Security concerns due to running an outdated version of Drupal
  • Need for better scalability and flexibility with the backend code
  • Want access to more high quality plugins, modules, and themes from other platforms

Disadvantages Of Migrating Your Existing Site from Drupal 7

There are some considerations you may want to make before deciding to switch.

Migrating away from Drupal 7, when your website is really large (think 40,000 posts and 100,000 items), and for some it will require a lot more time and resource than simply upgrading to a newer version. A migration project takes significant planning and can take a team of dedicated and experienced engineers hundreds of hours. It definitely is more than exporting some content from Drupal and importing into somewhere else…

The downside of migrating your existing site from Drupal 7 is the time and money it can take to rebuild components that might be retained if you Upgrade.

Key risks and concerns when migrating from Drupal 7:

  • Potential for data loss
  • Search URL structure disruption, if not done correctly
  • Plugin & API compatibility issues
  • Potential resources intensive development, due to needing content or data migration from one platform to another

Migrating is likely the right course for many organizations, however, and can be a great way to improve your website’s usability, performance, and security.

Drupal Upgrade costs vs Migration costs

Migrating may involve more time and is typically more costly. Upgrading is definitely more affordable, but may not solve some existing issues with the site, or with challenges for managing the website long-term.

Typical (average) Drupal Upgrade Costs

  • Small informational website: $1,000-$3,500
  • Large enterprise website: $7,500-$14,000
  • Complex websites, ecommerce: $12,500-$25,000

Typical Drupal Migration Costs

  • Small informational website: $3,000-$7,500
  • Large enterprise website: $9,500-$45,000
  • Complex websites, ecommerce: $15,000-$150,000

Additional reading

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