Umbraco 7 end of life doesn't mean the end for your website. But there are important factors that need considering before you plan your upgrade.
If your organization is currently running its websites on Umbraco 7, you probably already know that it's time for an upgrade. If you didn't, it's important to understand that Umbraco has issued its End of Life (EOL) notice for version 7 of their software. This means that after September 30th, 2023, if your website is running on Umbraco 7, Umbraco will no longer work on or maintain features, and will no longer release fixes for bugs, regressions, or security issues. Furthermore, Umbraco does not recommend hosting websites running on Umbraco 7 after that time.
Why is Umbraco 7 Ending?
As with any software platform, Umbraco requires upgrades to support the latest technologies, web browsers, user needs, etc. Not only has Umbraco been forced to update to stay current with the underlying technologies that run its platform (namely Microsoft .NET), but it also had to evolve its core feature set to meet user demands. Many of these new features require modern technology to support them. Umbraco 7 is currently over a decade old which in "software years" is more like 100 years old. You should immediately start wondering about its stability, scalability, and security.
How do I upgrade my website from Umbraco 7 to a more current version?
Upgrading your Umbraco 7 website requires the correct strategy and guidance. Don’t be fooled by the promise that you can directly upgrade your website from Umbraco version 7 to Umbraco version 11. The reality is a lot more complicated. Let me explain at a high level what that means.
- You cannot upgrade your Umbraco CMS 7 website to a newer version of Umbraco CMS with minimal effort (no matter what anyone tells you). This is due to fundamental changes to the Microsoft .NET frameworks, which the newer versions of Umbraco utilize.
- You can upgrade your Umbraco CMS 7 database to use it within a newer Umbraco CMS version 8 or higher website however this may not result in a functional website on its own (more on this below).
- Upgrading will require a complete re-development of your website’s templates and integrations to function on a newer version of Umbraco CMS.
- You will most likely need to migrate all your content to the upgraded version of the CMS.
You are probably thinking to yourself right now that this sounds complicated, expensive, and scary. You may also be wondering why you wouldn't just keep your website running on Umbraco 7 because it's working fine for your organization. Let's explore that a little.
Will my website still work on Umbraco 7 after EOL?
The straightforward answer is yes, it is possible. However, it's not recommended as it could lead to serious problems. One of the major concerns is the lack of support and updates from Umbraco. Additionally, hosting could also pose a challenge. Your website is not just a website, it's a combination of your website platform (Umbraco CMS 7), and its hosting servers (running an old version of Microsoft Windows). There will come a time very soon when you will no longer be able to utilize the hosting servers that your Umbraco 7 website runs on today because Microsoft won't support the operating system required to run Umbraco 7. In turn, your hosting provider won't allow you to use their servers any longer because they can't risk the security liability of running an unsupported operating system. When that time comes, you'll be in a real predicament. You won't have anywhere to migrate your website's hosting to, and you'll need to make an hurried decision on a path forward without the luxury of a meaningful strategy.
What can I do if I can’t update Umbraco 7?
When it comes to upgrading your Umbraco 7 website, there are really two options.
Option 1: Upgrade your Umbraco 7 database + re-develop your website
As mentioned above, it is “technically” possible to upgrade your Umbraco 7 database to a newer Umbraco CMS version and this is the path that some organizations are taking. While this doesn't mitigate the requirement to completely re-develop the website’s templates and integrations on a newer version of Umbraco CMS, it does theoretically create a scenario where you may not need to migrate all of your website's content along with the website rebuild. While this may seem like a logical choice, we don't recommend it for several reasons:
- If you upgrade your Umbraco 7 website's database, there is a high probability that you will not be able to repurpose the content in the exact same way in the newer version of Umbraco CMS resulting in major content revisions or outright recreation. This means that all the effort invested into upgrading the database may not yield an ROI.
- When you upgrade to a newer version of Umbraco CMS, you will most likely want to utilize its new features and functionality. Porting over the Umbraco 7 database may hinder this effort.
- We’ve upgraded thousands of CMS databases and there is one thing we know for sure; something always goes wrong. The issues are not always immediately visible, meaning there is a high probability that you'll be chasing random and obscure problems with the Umbraco CMS for as long as you use that upgraded database.
At the end of the day, no one wants to use a glitchy and/or buggy Content Management System (CMS).
Option 2: Re-develop your website on a fresh install of an updated version of Umbraco and import any structured content
Whether you decide to go with Option 1 or Option 2, the commonality is that the website itself needs to be re-developed from the ground up. You may be able to repurpose the website's existing CSS/HTML framework but all of the website’s templates and integrations will need to be re-developed to support the newer versions of Umbraco. There are several advantages to Option 2 over Option 1:
- Your investment in this "upgrade" process will yield the lowest total cost of ownership (TCO) in the years to come. Furthermore, this option can be capitalized and depreciated on the financial side of things (talk to your CFO)!
- You will not be plagued with the ghosts of Umbraco 7. There will be no legacy database entries, code, or content to create problems for you in the future.
- You'll be able to take advantage of the latest and greatest features available in the CMS yielding a faster time-to-market for your content changes and a better experience for your CMS users. This factor alone cannot be understated. Websites that are too complicated to manage can lead to stale website content and higher employee dissatisfaction.
- Lastly, your security teams will thank you!
What’s next for the Umbraco 7 End of Life.
As mentioned previously, if you’re currently running Umbraco 7, your website will continue to function after the official end of life on September 30th, 2023, but now is the time to start considering your next steps. Your website will need to be re-developed and don’t let anyone tell you different. But there are options and varying factors that will affect the scale of the effort. It may seem daunting to think about all these moving pieces, but if you have the strategy and a knowledgeable partner like Diagram, it's not as scary as it seems.
Have questions or comments about this post? We'd love to hear from you.
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