Upgrade to Joomla 2.5?

DevelopUsers of Joomla 1.5 are due for an upgrade to 2.5


By now you may have heard that Joomla has a new version, version 2.5. You may have also heard that Joomla is going to stop supporting version 1.5. If you have a version 1.5 site, what does this mean to you? A lot, actually.

 Let's start by addressing some of the questions you may have one by one.

What will happen if I don't upgrade, and I stay on Joomla 1.5?

You are asking the right question. If nothing needs to be done, then why bother, right? Yes. There is no point in keeping up with the latest version if you are happy with your site and there are no tangible benefits to the newer version of Joomla. In the short-term, this view is absolutely correct. But what about the mid to long-term? There the picture is less clear.

Joomla has announced that they are going to stop supporting version 1.5 this year (2012). This means no more security updates, and it also means that people using the older Joomla 1.5 platform will become increasingly vulnerable to website exploits. During the course of Joomla 1.5's life there were dozens of security updates. Each time the folks at Joomla found a security hole in the platform and released a fix. People who installed the update benefited from the updates and were no longer vulnerable to the exploits. 

Now, imagine what happens when the security updates are no longer forthcoming. The hackers out there aren't going to give up. They will eventually find an exploit that allows them to do something horrible to your Joomla 1.5 site. And then you will be stuck. You will have to make an emergency upgrade to version 2.5...

Joomla Development Process

How hard is it to upgrade to Joomla 2.5 from Joomla 1.5?

The news here is not good. While you will be able to save the data on your 1.5 site, there is no way to save your templates, modules and other customizations. This is the equivalent of starting the site from scratch. You'll need a new template and you'll need to develop the site again

This is actually a good time for a site refresh. There are probably a number of things about your site that you'd like to change, and now, as long as you are rebuilding your site, you might as well address them.

For a smaller website, with standard functionality, you should plan on a two week development process. For larger sites and sites with complex functionality, plan on a longer process from four to six weeks.

What are the benefits of upgrading to Joomla 2.5 from Joomla 1.5?

Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of bells and whistles to entice you to the latest and greatest version of Joomla. It is still the great platform that it has always been, now with a few minor improvements. What are they? Here is a small list of the most notable changes:

  • Security - You will be running the latest version of Joomla with the latest security updates
  • Updates - This version of Joomla has push button updates. Previous versions had to be downloaded and pushed to the server. Version 2.5 will tell you when it needs to be updated, and will update itself with a click.
  • Component Updates - Joomla also now keeps track of all of your site's add-ons, and alerts you when they need to be updated. Again, you get a one-click process.
  • Categories - Joomla now supports nested categories. Previous versions had a convoluted category system that only went two levels. That limitation has been eliminated and you get a simple and easy to use nested category system.
  • ACLs - Joomla 2.5 has made some major improvement in the access controls, giving you much more granular control over who can access which part of your website.
  • Usability - There are a great number of usability improvements in the administrator section of the website. Your admins, authors and editors will have a much easier time keeping your site up to date.

Can I do the upgrade from Joomla 1.5 to Joomla 2.5 myself?

The answer to that is, of course, dependent on your skill level with Joomla. Upgrading to Joomla version 2.5 is akin to a brand new website installation. You will need to have a diverse set of skills to attempt the process:

  • You will need to have a method to copy the Joomla 2.5 files up to your server. This is often done by FTP, so having those skills will come in handy.
  • You will need to install a new website template that is compatible with Joomla 2.5. This can be done in the administrator section of your Joomla website.
  • You will need to follow a relatively complex process to export your Joomla data and re-import it into Joomla 2.5.
  • You will need to recreate all of your modules. This includes your website header, menus, sidebars, footers and virtually every other module on your site.
  • If you need to make changes to your new template you may need additional technical skills such as CSS and PHP.

In short, if you are not extremely comfortable manipulating your Joomla 1.5 site and you don't consider yourself exceptionally technicallly literate, I highly recommend hiring a professional.

What kind of problems can I anticipate when upgrading from Joomla 1.5 to 2.5?

All websites are unique, and you can never say for certain whether an upgrade will go smoothly. But there are some definite things that you should keep an eye out for:

  • Custom Programming - If your Joomla 1.5 site has custom programming it is likely to be incompatible with Joomla 2.5. You will need to plan on replacing that older code.
  • Components and Plugins - A lot of older components and plugins that were built for Joomla 1.5 have not been updated for Joomla 2.5. Before you upgrade be sure that you have researched. Are all of your components available? Are there suitable replacements that are compatible with Joomla 2.5
  • Templates - Most templates that were created for Joomla 1.5 have no Joomla 2.5 equivalent. Unless you get lucky, plan on finding a new template for your website.
  • Website Data - The database structure for Joomla 2.5 is quite a bit different than Joomla 1.5. Your data will need to be updated. Luckily there are some free components that can help you with this process. But beware, because there are no guarantees that all of your data will survive the transition.

Give it to me straight. Should I upgrade from Joomla 1.5 to Joomla 2.5?

In short, yes. If your website is more than just a hobby, you must upgrade now, without delay. Imagine your site gets hacked; you will find yourself in a horrible situation. It could take over a month to do the upgrade and you may find yourself completely offline in the interim. If, on the other hand, your site is just a hobby, and getting hacked and being offline for a month or more won't be all that bad, then you can wait. But eventually, you won't have a choice. Joomla 1.5 won't last forever, and eventually your luck will run out.

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