Drupal 6 is end-of-life
There is no longer Drupal community support for Drupal 6, meaning your site’s functionality can’t be improved and technical problems can no longer be mitigated.
Most importantly, Drupal 6 websites are extremely vulnerable for security attacks because security updates won’t be supported.
What does end-of-life mean?
One of Drupal’s great strengths is that it leverages a massive, open-source community of contributed modules, themes, libraries, and other resources to help Drupal constantly evolve and maintain its high-quality standards for cutting-edge functionality and security.
BUT, it only does this for the two most recent versions. When it comes to Drupal 6 sites, we have our hands tied because of the limited updates, security upgrades, and support that officially ended on February 24. This means there is very limited support we can supply, especially in terms of security upgrades or patches.
*Drupal 6 end-of-life parade at DrupalCon New Orleans on May 12, 2016
Why should you care?
Once again, Drupal 6 can’t provide essential security patches to keep your site secure. This is particularly critical if you’re storing any customer data like credit card information. Security vulnerabilities include securing e-commerce, updating privacy, protecting authentication credentials, and regulatory and legal compliance. Your site is extremely vulnerable without security updates.
If any of your current functionality stops working, it will not be easy to fix, and no time can be invested in developing new functionality. Hosting providers are dropping support for older versions of the PHP programming language from their shared hosting packages. The majority of small and medium businesses run their site on some type of shared hosting package. If the hosting provider housing your site drops support for the version of PHP used by your Drupal installation, the site will not work until the issue is addressed.
What does that even mean?
Drupal is based on a server-side language called PHP. PHP has been a fixture of development on the Web for years. Drupal 6 supports PHP versions 4.4.0 through 5.3. However, because PHP v5.2 and 5.3 were written quite a while ago (2006 and 2009, respectively), recently, several major hosting providers have begun to transition their shared hosting accounts to newer versions.
Strategy One: Facelift aka moving directly to Drupal 8
Unlike before, Drupal, 8 has a direct upgrade path from Drupal 6. This allows Drupal 6 sites to bypass D7 entirely and avoid costs associated with upgrading to an intermediate version. Drupal 8 also supports responsive theming, meaning your site will have a mobile-compatible front end, ensuring your site looks great no matter what kind of device it is viewed on.
D8 will be supported for years (until D10 is released)
Drupal 8 will continue to have improved functionality as the Drupal community updates modules and features in core
Better multilingual capabilities, configuration management, accessibility, built-in web services, and fast theming
Contributed modules/themes are still evolving, so for some of our current Drupal 8 builds that has meant creating custom modules and solutions
Strategy Two: Botox aka upgrading to Drupal 7
While Drupal 7 may not be the new kid on the block anymore, it remains an incredibly robust platform with a well-established community supporting it.
D7 is a known quantity; you get a robust and responsive-compatible CMS that has years of development and proven bug-fixing behind it
Drupal’s security team are always completing tests to ensure Drupal 7 maintains its high standards for optimal security protocols
Drupal 7 will continue to be supported and developed by the Drupal community
A shorter window of time before Drupal 9 is released. However, newer versions of Drupal support multi-version upgrading, meaning that, by the time D9 is released, it may be possible to go directly from D7 to 9
So what should you do?
For most of our clients currently using Drupal 6, we’re currently recommending a consultation to ensure they are taking the best direction based on their site’s functionality and their own business needs. An upgrade audit may be helpful to guide you through any decisions that need to be made throughout the upgrading or cross-grading process.