Drupal Hosting: The Details
For optimal scalability and flexibility in design, Drupal is unbeatable. Drupal is a content management system (CMS) used by many websites that attract high-volumes. From government and university websites to major e-commerce retailers, Drupal is the backend framework behind some of the largest sites and is used by 2.2 of all websites worldwide. Read on to learn more about the best Drupal hosting solutions for the CMS.
What is Drupal?
In its most basic sense, Drupal is a content management system (CMS). As a CMS, it allows website owners to design, organize and manage the content of the website, including text, images, videos, and more. Unlike other CMSs, however, such as WordPress, Drupal is not limited to a blog or e-commerce format, and there are no restrictions for how much a website can grow. It has many expansive capabilities for scaling up and extensive customizable features. Best of all, it is an open source software that is free for the public to use, download or share with other website designers.
Drupal has been described as a content management framework, meaning that it can perform all the basic functions of a content management system and more. While it has the basic features of any CMS—including administration systems, maintenance privileges, user account registration, menu management, customizable page layout, RSS feeds, taxonomy, etc—it can be used to design more than a basic website. Drupal can be used to develop websites, blogs, forums, and community-sites constituted by user-generated content.
Drupal is considered to be incredibly flexible. With just one install, it can run numerous and diverse scripts, and although it was not developed for web applications, there are websites that use the CMS for just that purpose.
Who can use Drupal?
Drupal is best for sites that are expected to grow or to attract high volumes of customers. To put scale and volume in perspective, consider that the CMS is used to manage the sites of many major corporations, media agencies, and government entities, including eBay, Sony Music, Al Jazeera, BBC, NBC, Amnesty International, Harvard University, and the White House.
Because of its high level of flexibility, the CMS is ideal for website owners who want to customize websites exactly as they want. From unlimited design capabilities, to enhanced accessibility features that make it easier to optimize site access for various users, including users with disabilities, Drupal can be modified to meet the needs of any website.
Launched as an open source project in 2001, Drupal was developed by Dries Buytaert. The name is an Anglicized form of the Dutch “druppel,” which means “droplet.”
Since its inception, the reach of Drupal has grown exponentially, and more than 1,180,000 sites worldwide use it for their CMS needs.
Pros and Cons
- Easy install—the best Drupal hosting can be installed with one-click
- Open source software—it’s free to install and use! There are no licensing fees.
- Flexible—One of the main reasons website owners love Drupal is because it has unlimited design and structure capabilities, and if you know how to code, it is very flexible.
- Scalability—it is a CMS that can grow with the website and handle huge amounts of content
- Versatility—optional modules can be added or enabled to modify and enhance a website’s functionality
- Accessibility—the release of Drupal 7 made it easier to improve website accessibility for both administrators and website visitors. As pointed out on their website, Drupal’s accessibility features make it the preferred CMS for developing sites for people with disabilities.
- Modular core—the modular core means that administrators can modify or override the default features without disrupting the core. Contributed modules, or plug-ins, can be added to provide alternative or additional features. Currently, more than 36,500 modules are available for free.
- Extensive themes—in January 2017, there were more than 2400 available themes.
- Distributions—This is the term that Drupal uses for bundles or packages that are designed for websites or applications with a specific purpose, such as “news” or “e-commerce.” The distribution packages are like starter kits and come with numerous themes, modules, and configuration settings.
- Localization—Drupal is available in 100 languages and can support right-to-left languages.
- Learning curve—Although the basic installation and administration does not require knowledge of programming, for higher level functions, you’ll need a PHP specialist or have advanced coding knowledge for higher-level functions.
- Too many options—The extensive availability of modules is overwhelming for many administrators, and the modules are not well organized. There are also instances where some modules are incomplete or outdated.
- Updates can cause incompatibility—Large-scale updates may render themes and modules incompatible because Drupal does not provide backward compatibility, or compatibility for older versions of the software. The data in older versions is still usable, but developers may need to modify the existing code to maintain compatibility.
- Searching functionality needs improvement—the search functionality on Drupal sites often is ineffective. There are modules available that improve the search functionality, but these are often difficult to locate and/or implement.
- Security concerns—A large hack in October 2014 due to an SQL injection bug affected thousands of Drupal sites and created a backdoor that could not be eliminated or fixed. Although the code vulnerability that allowed the hack to happen was identified and the system strengthened to prevent it from happening again, some administrators are still wary of the CMS because of the incident.
Drupal was originally developed to operate on the LAMP stack platform. The LAMP stack is a web platform comprised of four open-source systems: Linux (operating system), Apache (HTTP Server) MySQL (a relational database management system), and PHP (programming language). As a stack of systems that work in concert with each other, the LAMP stack is optimal for developing dynamic websites.
Beginning with version 7, it became possible to run Drupal on the Windows Internet Information Services (IIS) web server. There is a special group dedicated to installation and issues related to Windows. In addition to Windows IIS, the CMS also can be configured with a Nginx web server.
For website owners without a web hosting account, it is possible to try out select services at Drupal Gardens. The Gardens are a place for exploring some of the possibilities of the CMS and as such, it does not allow users to upload themes and modules or to import sites. To access these advanced features, it is recommended to set up a web hosting account and create a Drupal site.
What is Drupal?
Drupal is an open-source, content management system that is written in PHP.
What kinds of sites can Drupal be used to build?
Because of its flexibility and scalability, Drupal can be used to a wide variety of sites, from blogs and portfolios to sites for e-commerce, governments, universities, small and global businesses, social networks, media, and even project management. Admins can build sites that are entirely unique or, if developing a site within a particular niche, they can select from dozens of Drupal distributions, which are bundles loaded with modules, themes, and configurations responsive to a particular market.
Is Drupal easy to use?
For installation and content management in the backend, Drupal is easy to use and does not require knowledge of coding. However, initially building a site can be challenging, for both novices and experts. There is a steep learning curve, but once the usability hurdles are overcome, it is a powerful tool that is flexible, secure, and speedy.
What are distributions?
Distributions are Drupal’s term for software bundles that come loaded with a variety of modules, configurations, themes and other features for websites in a specific market. Distributions include packages for media outlets, governments, hospitals, education, NGOs, churches, etc.
What are modules?
Modules are plug-ins or programs that can be added to the Drupal core to enable additional features. Drupal has over 35,000 modules, which can be used to enhance technical, functional or presentational features.
Are the themes customizable?
Drupal does not support specific types of content over others, so the themes are fully customizable. Customization includes changing the layout, colors, and overall website appearance, but it also includes modification of website functionalities like RSS feeds.
How easy is it to install Drupal?
There are numerous hosting plans that allow for one-click installation. To use Drupal distributions, however, manual installation is typically required.
What are the hosting requirements?
Drupal is written in PHP and currently uses PHP 5.2+. The CMS works best with the web servers Apache, Windows IIS, or Nginx. It is compatible with MySQL databases, as well as PostgreSQL databases.
Can Drupal be used with shared hosting?
Technically speaking, Drupal can work with shared hosting, and for exploring the basics and experimenting with the system, shared hosting is adequate. However, for sites that have high volume and large amounts of content, it is better to sign up for a dedicated server or a VPS.
Are there any other hosting requirements?
Some of the hosting requirements depend on if certain Drupal distributions are being used. Some distributions have specific hosting requirements, and these are specified in the package.