What To Do When Drupal Updates Are Available For Your Website
We demystify the details around how to update Drupal effectively, and share tips for site owners on successfully updating and maintaining their sites.
Have you ever logged into your Drupal website and seen a message notification like the following?:
“There are updates or security updates available for your version of Drupal or one or more of your modules or themes. To ensure the security of your server, you should update immediately or as soon as possible.”
Drupal, like almost all software, has updates to keep the software secure and implement new features, and a message like this can have many implications. While Drupal updates may first appear intimidating, they don’t have to be! This post offers perspective on what different updates mean, how to approach them, and how to build your Drupal site in a way that simplifies future updates.
What Is A Drupal Update?
Historically, updating Drupal has been a troublesome and often arduous task. The update process can be complex and requires knowledge of general coding, as well as the ability to understand what the specific update includes and how the Drupal installation was originally configured. The unfortunate truth is that attempted updates can potentially break functionality and even cripple a site. The good news is, there is a simpler way to approach updates! By understanding why updates are so important and how the Drupal community vets and publishes them, you can minimize many of the pain points associated with these updates.
How To Update Drupal
Update Categories and Update Types
Drupal updates are broken up into two overarching categories:
- Core Updates
- Contributed Module Updates
Within each of these update categories exist several subcategories:
- Security Updates
- Maintenance/Bug Fixes
- Feature Updates
Drupal updates may additionally be categorized automatic updates, which (as the name implies) are updates take place automatically without any action required from an end-user.
Core updates are related to Drupal’s core modules and code, and are almost always maintenance and security updates that come after a major version release. Drupal updates are usually designed for application within the same version (e.g., 5.x, 6.x, 7.x, 8.x), and Drupal maintains bug and security updates one version behind the latest release.
Contributed Module Updates
Contributed module updates can be feature or security updates. Updates to modules vary, and should be evaluated before applied as some feature updates can break existing functionality. When a module is working correctly, it is best to apply security updates only if they are released. The Drupal community helps to keep these modules up-to-date and to resolve problems that may rely on the module. Every module maintainer is different, but the Drupal core team may provide oversight if there is a large issue.
Drupal has an entire team that is devoted to finding and solving security issues, and their findings, notes, and solutions are documented here. These security updates are reliable and released frequently.
Approaching Drupal Updates
The simplest way to approach feature updates is to ascribe to the common motto: “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Once a Drupal site is completed, updates that are not security-related are typically not needed. If a bug arises and there is an update or patch you should fix the bug, but otherwise each Drupal site should be considered feature “frozen” once the desired functions are working correctly.
Security updates, on the other hand, should be taken seriously and implemented in a timely fashion. Sites that are not regularly updated will soon become security concerns. To ensure your stay on top of these updates, we recommended doing either of the following:
- Update your site shortly after each Drupal core release
- Schedule core updates once per month
Building Your Site Correctly
Site updates can be daunting, but if you have a plan in place for tackling them you’ll be up for the challenge. The most important factor in minimizing update stress and cost is to build your Drupal site correctly the first time.
This means doing the following:
- Setting up your site file structure correctly
- Using Git for version control – Git keeps track of changes to your site and will allow you to apply patches more smoothly
- Using Drush to help with module updates – Drush create a backup of code when updating and makes it easier to get updates from Drupal.org
- Keeping core separate from contributed or custom code – using site profiles can make this a simpler task
If you need to patch core or modules and if you do not abide by Drupal coding standards, updates will become crippling. Keep proper site structure and standards in mind from the very start, and you’ll do yourself many favors when it comes time to update.
Ready To Update?
Do you need help with your Drupal updates or site architecture? Want to get on a regular maintenance cycle? Customized Drupal hosting with maintenance included? We’ve got you – get in touch with us today.
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