What it takes to do a Drupal 8 migration?

By Krishna Prasad 5 min read

The TA Digital Approach to Drupal 8 Migration

If your company currently uses Drupal 7 to manage its online content, it’s likely that you’ve heard about the release of Drupal 8 and would like to take advantage of its features. If your business has already entrenched its digital offerings in Drupal 7 or another CMS, though, migrating to Drupal 8 isn’t a simple matter. You may need to change critical elements of your website’s core framework. It may be necessary to migrate database content, update obsolete modules and create new utilities for integrating Drupal 8 with your other enterprise software. Ultimately, you may find it difficult to determine whether the benefits of a Drupal 8 migration are worth the expense and effort.

As experts within the Drupal sector, we’ve helped many of our clients migrate from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8. In this article, we’d like to discuss the Drupal 8 migration process in further detail to help you decide whether the upgrade is right for your organization.

Initial Thoughts About Drupal 8 Migration

When you’re in the initial stages of considering a Drupal 8 migration, it’s likely that you have three primary questions.

  1. How can we migrate to Drupal 8 while preserving our existing data?
  2. Will migrating to Drupal 8 break any of our website’s existing features?
  3. Will migrating to Drupal 8 break any of our integrations with third-party software?

Since your database, website features and external integrations are essential to the operation of your company, it isn’t feasible to consider a Drupal 8 migration unless you can preserve all of those elements. As we continue, we’ll discuss how you can perform the migration while addressing those concerns.

How We Structure a Drupal 8 Migration

When we migrate a client’s website to Drupal 8, we begin by generating an inventory of the client’s existing Drupal framework. The inventory consists of four core components.

  • Core Drupal modules: These are the core functions that come with every default Drupal installation. Every company that uses Drupal utilizes some or all of its core features.
  • Contributed Drupal modules: These are the modules that third-party developers create and contribute to the Drupal community. These modules extend Drupal’s functionality and provide the ability to integrate with external systems.
  • Custom Drupal modules: These are the modules that your company developed in house or hired freelance developers to create. Custom modules contribute functionality to Drupal that isn’t available via Drupal’s core or community modules.
  • Website theme: The theme defines the appearance of your website and the interface customers will use when interacting with it.

Next, we’ll examine how we would handle these four components when migrating your website to Drupal 8.

Changes to Core Modules in Drupal 8

The major change introduced with Drupal 8 is the introduction of the new Symfony framework. Symfony brings more flexibility to Drupal and makes it easier to reuse portions of code when creating custom modules. Symfony also helps to facilitate the separation of your website’s presentation layer, business logic and data model. Though the new framework changes Drupal’s functionality, it does not alter the structure of the underlying data.

The next major change in Drupal 8 is the integration of several features that once required modules and are now parts of Drupal’s core framework. The new core modules of Drupal 8 include Views, Entity API and CK Editor. If you utilize those features, you’ll find that you can upgrade your website’s CMS from Drupal 6 or 7 to Drupal 8 with no major issues.

Changes to Contributed Modules in Drupal 8

As we mentioned above, some of Drupal’s community-contributed modules have become core modules with the release of Drupal 8. If your website uses community modules that haven’t become core modules, though, you’ll need to update those modules for the Symfony framework as part of your Drupal 8 migration. Thanks to a bit of funding from outside corporations, the good news is that many critical Drupal modules have already been updated for Drupal 8.

Although many contributed Drupal modules are ready for Drupal 8, there are still a few modules that haven’t been updated yet. Before beginning your migration, you’ll need to build an inventory of your website’s modules and determine which ones have versions available for Drupal 8. You have a few options for dealing with modules that aren’t ready for Drupal 8. Those options are:

  • You can do without the module and move its data to an archive
  • You can find another community module that provides the same functionality
  • You can hire a developer to port the module to Drupal 8 for you
  • You can hire a developer to build a custom Drupal module with the functionality you require

Migrating Custom Modules to Drupal 8

If your company uses a custom Drupal module, you already know that no Drupal 8 version of that module is available for you to download. You’ll have to choose between choices similar to the ones we outlined for contributed modules. You can do without the module, try to find something similar within the Drupal community or hire a developer to port the module to Drupal 8 for you.

Acquia and PreviousNext collaborated to create a Drupal module that you may find extremely helpful during your Drupal 8 migration. The module is called Drupal Module Upgrader. The module finds and automatically attempts to correct outdated code in a Drupal 7 module. If it can’t fix the outdated code, it’ll link you to the help pages for the updated API calls that your module should use.

Migrating a Website Theme to Drupal 8

Drupal 8 includes a more flexible and secure page rendering engine called TWIG. The introduction of the new rendering engine means that your website’s existing Drupal 7 theme won’t port directly to Drupal 8. Unfortunately, there also isn’t a module that can update a theme for Drupal 8 automatically. Updating a PHP template for the new TWIG engine is a complex task that may require you to hire an outside developer. You may ultimately decide that it’s more economical to use a theme that’s already compatible with Drupal 8 instead.

Final Thoughts on Migrating to Drupal 8

As with most complex tasks, migrating to Drupal 8 becomes a much more manageable process when you break it down into smaller steps. Updating the Drupal core to Drupal 8 is relatively easy, but the website’s modules and theme can complicate the process. For each element of your website that doesn’t have a Drupal 8 version available, you’ll need to decide whether it’s wiser to hire a developer for assistance or seek out an alternative that provides similar functionality.

Explore Additional Resources

Learn how you can select the best Digital Experience platform for your business.

Our Acquia Certified Drupal experts specialize in helping you create intelligently personalized customer experiences.


Over the past 20 years, we have completed thousands of digital projects globally. We have one of the largest and deepest multi-solutions digital consulting teams in the world. Our proprietary processes and years of Digital Experience expertise have earned us a 97% customer satisfaction rating with our clients ranging from Global Fortune 1000 to Mid-Market Enterprises, leading educational institutions, and Non-Profits.

DesignRush has recognized TA Digital as a top Creative Agency.

About TA Digital

TA Digital is the only global boutique agency that delivers the “best of both worlds” to clients seeking to achieve organizational success through digital transformation. Unlike smaller, regional agencies that lack the ability to scale or large organizations that succumb to a quantity-over-quality approach, we offer resource diversity while also providing meticulous attention to the details that enable strategic success.

Over the past 20 years, TA Digital has positioned clients to achieve digital maturity by focusing on data, customer-centricity and exponential return on investment; by melding exceptional user experience and data-driven methodologies with artificial intelligence and machine learning, we enable digital transformations that intelligently build upon the strategies we set into motion. We are known as a global leader that assists marketing and technology executives in understanding the digital ecosystem while identifying cultural and operational gaps within their business – ultimately ushering organizations toward a more mature model and profitable digital landscape.

Recognized in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2019, and 2020 Inc. 5000 list as one of the most successful technology companies in the United States, TA Digital is pleased also to share high-level strategic partnerships with world class digital experience platform companies like Adobe, SAP and Salesforce and possess global partnerships with industry leaders such as Sitecore, Episerver, Elastic Path, BigCommerce, AWS, Azure and Coveo.


Written By

Krishna Prasad