If you’re hunting for a CMS (content management system) to power your next website or multi-site project, then you will have come across the likes of WordPress, Zesty.io, Joomla, and Drupal.
In this article, we take a closer look at Drupal — and Drupal multisite capabilities — so you can assess whether Drupal is the right platform for your brand.
What Is Drupal?
Drupal is a CMS (content management system) provider. In other words, it’s a platform where you can create, manage, edit and publish content onto a website or an online application.
Drupal is a free and open source platform, so it is managed and self-governed by a community of Drupal developers. The community has gained a notable reputation for regularly reviewing and updating Drupal, making Drupal appear to be one of the most secure open-source CMS platforms. However, recent events may prove to you otherwise.
Drupal is usually downloaded and installed on-premise, which results in users having full control in maintaining the Drupal system. They’re responsible for installing the latest updates and security patches which are released by the Drupal community.
History of Drupal
Originally developed in 2000 by university students Dries Buytaert and Hans Snijder, Drupal began its journey as a network connection amongst a handful of students at the University of Antwerp back when the traditional Internet we know today wasn’t too widespread. The tool began as a message board for the group of friends.
After graduation, Dries published the site onto the Internet, where it quickly became popular. Most notably, U.S. presidential candidate Howard Dean utilized Drupal to facilitate communication amongst his supporters during the 2004 election. With a sizable number of members drawn, soon hundreds of companies began developing websites using Drupal.
Even since then, Drupal has undergone several updates, including 5 major releases between 2010 and 2018. Each minor update provides Drupal users with a security patch, which is designed to protect websites from cyber attacks. However, as many Drupal users know, these patches often miss the mark.
For example, 2018 has been a torrid year for Drupal’s fight against cyber attack. In March 2018, a “highly critical” Drupal bug left over 1 million Drupal sites open to attack. The issue became known as “Drupalgeddon” — while scans later revealed that at least 115,000 Drupal sites remained vulnerable to another exploit, “Drupalgeddon2”. In other words, Drupal doesn’t have the best safety and security record in town.
Finally, if you’re wondering, the origins of the name “Drupal” is rather intricate. Initially, it was called “Dorp,” the Dutch word for “village.” When the site made its way to the Internet, Dries misspelled the word as “drop” and that mistake has stuck ever since. As the CMS grew in popularity, the name “Drupal” was eventually chosen.
Should I Use Drupal 8 for My Business?
If your business is looking to establish a single website or a Drupal multisite, it’s fair to put Drupal 8 on your list of platforms to consider, due to the following benefits:
- The CMS is open source and completely free. There are no licensing fees to pay, as Drupal is distributed under the GNU General Public License.
- Drupal 8 is regarded by community members as a vast improvement to its predecessor, Drupal 7 — although migrating to Drupal 8 from Drupal 6 and 7 is a daunting, costly task.
- As of early 2018, Drupal has over 1.3 million users, holding 3.9 percent of the market share for all websites worldwide.
Why Some Developers Love Drupal
Despite its limitations (which we will come to discuss) Drupal has a large, loyal community of users. Here are some reasons why developers love Drupal 8:
- Functionality: Members can easily modify graphics, menus, polls, and other tools through the much improved user-friendly interface on Drupal 8.
- Ease of Collaboration: Work can be managed by an administrator who specifies all user permissions. Different developers can be given assignments to accelerate the workflow.
- Mobile Site Support: Drupal 8 lets you build an alternate mobile version of your site natively. Doing so is vital to your business’s success, as 57 percent of online users won’t recommend a company with a badly-designed mobile site.
- Customization Options: The wide selection of custom-made and core themes can be adjusted to meet your requirements.
- Extensions: The extensive range of plugins and add-ons available allows you to add a variety of features and tools. And with Drupal 8 being an open source platform, you can develop your own plugin.
- Community support: Drupal has a huge, active community of users and developers who assist each other with issues, code new extensions, and help to improve the platform.
Why Some Developers Hate Drupal
All that said, Drupal is certainly not be for everyone. Take these drawbacks into consideration before getting onboard with Drupal 8.
- The Steep Learning Curve: Drupal is a little more complicated than WordPress when it comes to implementation so it has a higher barrier to entry. If your developers are not familiar with Drupal, then they’ll have to spend some time familiarizing with the system.
- High Maintenance: Despite Drupal 8 gaining a reputation that it is a secure platform, Developers do need to set aside a considerable amount of time in making sure the system is secure. Whenever Drupal releases a new update or security patch, it is the developer’s responsibility to install these updates. Failure to do so would put your Drupal site at risk of security threats.
- Migration Pain: Migrating to Drupal 8 is a lengthy and arduous process, with many developers commenting on how the migration process is like “starting from scratch”. Developers who have migrated from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 have noted how custom themes and custom plugins are incompatible on Drupal 8, so they have no choice but to find an alternative or build one. And with Drupal 9 rumored to be released for 2019, developers will eventually have to start the migration all over again sooner than they think.
- Inefficiency: The larger the project, the less efficient Drupal becomes — and that’s especially true for Drupal multisites. Mainly because Drupal doesn’t support multi-tenancy, which slows down production and increases server load for each new site or instance.
- Not Natively Headless: For developers to push content to devices such as smart wearables, voice assistant devices, and VR headsets, they will have to manually decouple Drupal, which is a mammoth task. This is opposed to SAAS options like Zesty.io which is already decoupled for you, allowing you push content to any device. Extensions can help, but a non-native headless CMS is hardly ideal in the IoT era.
- Insecure: As previously mentioned, Drupal has a poor security record, with millions of Drupal sites experiencing vulnerability to cyber attack in 2018 alone.
To Drupal or Not to Drupal? That is The Question
To recap, some developers love Drupal 8 for its functionality, community, and extensions. However, the steep learning curve, occasional compatibility issues, migration pains, and considerable server load when dealing with multiple instances, lead many developers to hate working with Drupal.
Plus, if security is a concern (and it most certainly should be, particularly in the age of GDPR), then Drupal — and indeed most open source CMS — are risky options.
While many enterprises use Drupal 8 multisite, it’s clearly best for smaller projects like corporate websites and publications. If you want a CMS that’s easier to maintain, scale, and to use for headless content management, then you might want to look into a SaaS CMS like Zesty.io, which boasts the same developer friendliess, caters to marketers, and has the infrastructure to help brands scale globally.