Drupal Hosting: Everything You Need to Know
Definition: What is Drupal?
Drupal is an open-source content management software (CMS) that is used to build websites and was created in 2001 by two University of Antwerp Students. It’s distributed for free under the GNU General Public License, with no licensing fees. The CMS is used by more than a million websites, from simple blogs to complex, high-traffic platforms.
Drupal gained popularity because it is highly customizable with flexible integrations and thousands of add-on modules, such as calendars or social media sharing buttons, with mix and match functionality. Drupal was designed with security in mind, with strong coding standards, a dedicated security team and a rigorous community code review process. Having a secure platform is especially important in an era of hackers; companies are now required to report any security breach. And Drupal is search engine optimized with modules that automatically create SEO-friendly page titles and URLs, which can help customers find the site.
Overview: What is Drupal Hosting?
While Drupal provides the framework for a website, Drupal hosting makes it accessible to visitors on the Internet. A Drupal hosting provider stores your website data on its server. When someone wants to view your site, they enter your domain address into their browser, and their computer will connect to the hosting provider’s server, delivering your webpages to their screen.
Drupal Hosting Solutions
A Drupal hosting provider will offer several services to help you launch and maintain your website. For example, the host should ensure you’ve met standard compliance regulations within your industry. It should also offer upgrades, recovery and backup solutions to ensure that your website installs the latest version and security patches to reduce downtime and improve your customer experience. Hosting providers should also be able to review your performance and suggest ways to tune and improve it, as well as offer online and telephone support for questions or issues about your website and custom code.
How to Choose a Drupal Hosting Provider
Drupal is only successful with a provider that can help you leverage its advantages and capabilities. To choose a Drupal hosting provider look for a breadth and variety of services so you can stay focused on the strategy and development of your business and not worry about the technical implementation.
Installation and migration: Installation and migration are key factors when choosing hosting service, especially Drupal, which is more complex than other CMS platforms and requires basic coding knowledge. Look for a hosting provider that has a solid understanding of the technology and can install or migrate your website to get it up and running for you.
Scalability: Make sure the hosting provider can scale along with your business. You don’t want to have to change providers if your requirements become more complex as you grow. Changing providers later can cause downtime or limit your abilities to serve your customers.
Support: Choose a hosting provider that is a Drupal specialist and has worked with the platform in the past so you can get the support you need if you want to make changes or updates.
Compliance: Security is an advantage of Drupal, but you also want to make sure your hosting provider is compliant with your industry regulations, such as FedRAMP, PCI DSS, and HIPAA, so it can manage your most secure applications.
Recovery and backup: Your Drupal hosting provider should back up your database automatically and be able to restore service in case your website functionality ever becomes damaged or if there’s an unexpected problem or bug that happens while upgrading to a new version.
Performance: Choose a Drupal hosting provider that has a reliable network and the infrastructure to maintain the performance of your website. The provider should have dependable servers, especially if you have a complex website or high traffic spurts. This will help you avoid downtime during spikes in traffic or maintenance.
Monitoring: To keep your site secure, your hosting provider should offer performance monitoring for bugs and glitches as well as load times and speed. This helps to ensure that your website is running as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Designed to be high performing, flexible and secure, Drupal is used by a variety of industries and applications to create robust websites.
- Finance: Drupal’s security standards makes it a perfect fit for financial websites, including banks, investment companies and payment processors. The technology can be configured for strong encryption, meeting strict privacy laws, including those from the Payment Card Industry (PCI).
- Sports and entertainment: Drupal can handle large traffic spikes with a built in cache system, which makes it a top choice for sporting and entertainment organizations. Major League Soccer, for example, chose Drupal for its website due to its rich, multimedia capabilities, allowing fans to watch matches and events on their devices in real time.
- Healthcare: Drupal’s encryption system is HIPAA-compliant, with the aim to protect sensitive patient data. Drupal allows companies to customize the user experience to improve patient engagement and satisfaction.
- Higher education: Drupal is used to build websites, applications and publishing for the education market. Customization allows individual departments to control their content, and encryption protects student information. In fact, 71 top universities around the world in use Drupal, including all of the Ivy League schools.
- Media: The ability to create multi-channel experiences makes Drupal a top choice for media outlets. Seventy-three percent of the top 30 media companies use it to publish content and power digital platforms, including BBC, NBC and MTV UK.
- Government: Local governments are often wanting to reduce costs, and since Drupal is open source it is appealing. In addition, its security standards are compliant with FEDRamp regulations. In fact, 150 countries use Drupal for government sites, including Whitehouse.gov.
- eCommerce: Merchants of all sizes use Drupal due to its ability to customize the site to create unique customer experiences and securely handle checkout and payments. Retailers such as Lush, Puma and GE use Drupal to power their sites.
What are the benefits of Drupal?
1. Built with modules and nodes, Drupal is flexible and can be customized according to any business’s specific needs, making it a one-size-fits-all CMS.
2. Since Drupal is free, open-source code, it’s cost-efficient.
3. Strong coding standards and encryption make Drupal secure; Drupal-based sites are hacked less often than sites built with other CMS applications.
4. Drupal is easily scaled, which means companies that grow and want to expand their website capabilities won’t have to change CMS platforms.
5. Drupal is supported by a dedicated, responsive community that is always creating new modules to add functionality to websites.
What are the challenges of Drupal?
1. Drupal is more complex than other CMS platforms with an advanced interface that isn’t intuitive for users who are less proficient in website building technology.
2. Business owners who don’t have basic coding skills will likely need to hire a website designer as the platform isn’t for beginners.
3. Drupal offers 60 core modules included; if you have more complex needs you will have to locate and install plugins and extensions, which can be time consuming.
4. While Drupal is free, many modules created by contributors are not free and you could incur additional costs if you have features that are beyond the basics.
5. Third-party modules could slow down your site for you and your users, and modules aren’t always compatible, which can lead to site crashes.
How has Drupal evolved?
Drupal was created by open source developer Dries Buytaert while he was a student at University of Antwerp in Belgium. He released Drupal 1 in January 2001 as a single server owned CMS. At the time, it contained 18 core modules, each as a separate PHP file, with pre-loaded themes. It relied on SQL to manage and modify content, themes, and layouts, and was based on Slash, a modular CMS.
Since then, Drupal has gone through seven releases with improvements that have made the CMS grow in popularity. Drupal 3, released in 2002, included a major overhaul of the underlying design based on the concept of nodes (individual pieces of content that are easily changed or updated) instead of pages. A few months after its release, the tech news site KernelTrap.org migrated to Drupal, putting Drupal on the map in the world of tech.
Drupal 6, released in 2008, had a brand new, rewritten menu system, making it faster and easier to use. During this version Whitehouse.gov chose Drupal as its infrastructure. Drupal 8, the current version, was released in 2015. It now comes bundled with more than 60 core modules.
What’s Next for Drupal?
Drupal’s evolution and large, growing community demonstrates its importance as a forward-thinking CMS. Drupal is used by 2% of the world's websites and has 35,000 active contributors around the world, according to its founder.
Drupal announced plans to release Drupal 9 on June 3, 2020, migrating all users to it by November 2021. Drupal 9 is being built as an upgrade to Drupal 8 instead of a reinvention. In the past, upgrading to the latest version of Drupal was considered difficult and time consuming.
Drupal plans to make it easier to upgrade to 9 than it was to upgrade to 8. As long as users keep up with the latest versions of 8, the upgrade experience should be smooth, the company said. By having a good Drupal hosting provider, however, companies won’t have to worry about migration issues and updates.
Do I really need a hosting partner?
Yes. In order for customers to connect to your site via the Internet, you need to store your data on a hosting partner’s server. While it is possible to have your own server, it is expensive, requires a powerful computer, processor and operating system, and is difficult to set up.
Is Drupal really free?
Yes. The Drupal project is open source software that anyone can download, use and share. There are no licensing fees, and Drupal core features will always be free. However, Drupal modules contributed by a community member may be available for purchase.
What is a module?
A module is a function that extends and enhances Drupal’s capabilities. For example, email management is not a tool that is one of Drupal's core features, but it can be added as a module from those released by the Drupal community.
What is a theme?
A theme provides the look and feel to a Drupal site. It is a collection of files that contain elements such as the header, icons and block layout. Users can build their own theme or download and install themes that have been contributed by the Drupal community.
What is a node?
A node is an individual piece of content, such as an article, poll, forum topic, or blog entry. Treating content as nodes provides websites with the flexibility to create new types of content as well as make changes to all content of one type, giving your website a new, consistent look.
Can I migrate a WordPress site to Drupal?
Yes. WordPress Migrate is a module you can use to migrate your site to Drupal.
Can you change or overwrite Drupal's core files?
Yes, but Drupal strongly recommends that you don't make changes to core files as it would make your site unable to receive updates, including security updates, without overwriting your changes.