I recently got the question: "What is the risk of not migrating my Joomla 1.5 site to a newer version?".
That's a really good question, as the task of migrating to Joomla 2.5 can seem like a daunting one. Nonetheless, there are several compelling reasons to migrate your site from 1.5 when it reaches end-of-life in April 2012.
The reader asked:
Because of the number of J1.5 sites that still rely on 1.5 only extensions and templates, it's important to have a realistic understanding of what the potential vulnerabilities would be for staying with the J1.5 platform once it is no longer supported.
For many, this will be an important consideration, as the costs of migration may outweigh the risks of standing pat, especially for more complex but non-monetized sites, especially for very small businesses.
In my opinion, the first consideration should be around security. When Joomla 1.5 reaches end-of-life, we have seen 24 patch updates to the package. Many of them were security upgrades. This will not continue. So, if someone discovers a security hole in Joomla 1.5 (or another issue), it will not be fixed by the project. There might be a fix available from some developer out there that you can install. But the Joomla 1.5 package will not be maintained after end-of-life.
That said, Joomla 1.5 is very good at this point. It is stable, secure and works well with current server configurations, PHP and MySQL versions. The thing is that it might not stay like that forever.
2. Server maintenance
Another aspect of not upgrading is that you will stay on the current version of MySQL and PHP. When these technologies move forward, the Joomla 1.5 package will not be updated in order to be compatible. That means you will need to stay on (at some point) outdated server technology. This can be a challenge if you are on a host that at some point tells you that they will upgrade their servers. If Joomla is not compatible with the new server technologies, you have a challenge.
3. Extension updates
Joomla 2.5 has recently been released. Extensions that are made for 1.5 will need to be ported to the post-Joomla 1.6 structure (with support for the new ACL etc). Most Joomla extension developers are smaller companies or one-man shops. That means they seldom have the resources to maintain several versions of their software. So, most developers will at some point stop developing and supporting their Joomla 1.5 compatible extensions. If they haven't already done so.
Even larger projects, like Virtuemart, will leave users of 1.5 behind. The new Virtuemart 2.0 will be 1.7+ compatible only.
My guess is that new extensions won't be developed at all for 1.5. At least, not by people who want to create a business for themselves.
4. Finding compatible templates
We have the same situation for templates. The structure of Joomla 1.5 templates is different from later versions, which means they will also have to be upgraded to work with 2.5.
And even though there are many templates available for version 1.5, they will not be maintained anymore. If they contain template overrides, they might even have bugs that were fixed in the core, but was not fixed in the template. This is particularly true for those free, low quality templates out there.
5. Getting help
Even though there are currently millions of web sites out there that run on 1.5, that number will probably decrease rapidly. At least the ones maintained by active Joomla integrators, designers and developers. These are the people who provide a lot of the help found in the Joomla forums. So, at some point there will be increasingly difficult to get help online regarding 1.5. I guess those who have moved on to newer iterations of Joomla won't be bothered spending time helping those who are still on 1.5. Most likely, you will get an answer like "Migrate your site and ask again".
6. Get access to advanced ACL
Access Control in 1.5 is limited at best. Improvement to the access control list system was the biggest buzz around 1.6. The ACL system will provide you with what you need to control who will see and is able to edit what. It can be a bit complex and hard to understand at first. Play around with it and test it a bit. You will get the hang of it. If you find it hard to understand, you could use the ACL Manager that Sander Potjer made http://www.aclmanager.net/ to simplify the process of setting up the ACL. It will give you a great one-page overview of your settings. The component makes it a lot easier to understand what settings work for what user groups and users.
7. Enjoy the improved workflow
In Joomla 2.5, there are a lot of smaller improvements over 1.5. I really enjoy all the little things that improve the workflow in my daily work with Joomla. Things like the "Add New Menu Item" submenu in the administrator saves you a lot of clicks. The modal box for choosing the menu item type is another example.
A favorite of mine is the fact that you can open a modal box with the module settings from a module when editing a menu item. That way, you can instantly change which modules are shown for the menu item. In Joomla 1.5, you would have to save the menu item, navigate to the module manager, find the module in question, open it and then assign it to the menu item.
There are many more improvements like this, and I guess you will just have to start using 2.5 to appreciate all the improvements.
8. Nested categories
Another thing that was added in 1.6, was nested categories. That means you no longer have sections and categories, only categories. And you can have as many levels of categories as you want. Even though I don't recommend you use more than 3 or 4 levels (for SEO reasons), having the flexibility of this is really good.
What to do?
If you are a consultant, I guess you already know how to migrate a site. You should contact your clients and inform them about the new version and the benefits. Mainly, I'd focus on security. If price is a matter, remember to remind the client (politely) that Joomla is in fact free. There are no licence fees. But the software needs to be maintained to stay secure and running smoothly.
I have quite a few sites on 1.5 myself. Some of the sites are relatively simple and don't use too many extensions. Others are more complex and will involve more complex migration procedures.
My strategy will be to contact each of my clients and inform them (through a white paper or similar) about the newer versions of Joomla. I will do this to inform them about what it will mean for them to stay on 1.5 and what it will cost them to move to 2.5. Most of the clients will probably move to 2.5 quite soon. Some of them will stay on 1.5 for some time still.
Most of my client sites are based on Joomla and K2. That makes it easy to migrate the sites, as K2 is supported by jUpgrade.
What other Joomla users say
I asked this question to my followers on Twitter: "What would you say to those who stay on Joomla 1.5 and don't want to migrate to later versions?"
These are some of the responses I got. I think they speak for themselves:
I have migrated a few sites already and have some tips in that regard:
- Do a complete backup of your site and database. The migration doesn't change anything in your live site, but better safe than sorry. I always recommend Akeeba Backup for this purpose.
- Make sure to update all of the installed extensions on your site to the latest version. The latest version might have some changes that involves database tables etc. Bringing the extension up to the latest version will reduce the amount of trouble you will have with the migration.
- Check if the extension is listed as supported by jUpgrade. If it's not, prepare to do some manual work. You might want to consider if the extension is really neccessary for your site.
- Take a look at the new features in Joomla 1.6, 1.7 and 2.5. Chances are you can ditch quite a few of the smaller plug-ins and use built-in functions.
You should also read Brian Teeman's excellent write-up on things to look out for when upgrading to Joomla 2.5.
Do you have any thoughts around this subject? Please share in the comments below.