The Best Drupal Hosting: Who's The Best For Your Site? [Updated: 2018]

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Drupal Hosting

Drupal Hosting

What is Drupal?

Drupal is an open source content management platform that can be downloaded and used free of charge. It consists of a core group of files that are standard on all installations, plus plugins and themes that are added to customize it.

Benefits of Drupal Aside Similar CMS Software

Since WordPress and Joomla are the other two most popular CMSs available, I've compared them with Drupal to give you a better idea of Drupal's specialties. But before we get into their comparisons, here's a list of everything they have in common:

  • Free and Open-Source
  • Programming Language
  • Community Driven Projects
  • MySQL Support
  • Plugins and Extensions
  • One-Click Installs
  • Multiple Support Sources

Free and Open-Source

All the aforementioned CMS software are open-source, more importantly free. With solid communities behind them, these systems are backed by high-level expertise and support.

Programming Language

Learning PHP
PHP is a relatively straightforward programming language. It can be learned by anyone.

Drupal, WordPress, and Joomla are all written in the programming language of PHP. All 3, in fact, are equipped with a user-friendly interface, requiring little actual programming knowledge for use.

Community Driven Projects

Due to their open-source nature, all three projects are driven by their strong community of developers. These developers maintain and update their platform for mutual interest.

MySQL Support

All these popular CMSs support MySQL, the most popular relational database management system of all. MySQL is essentially a programming language created for querying data.

Plugins and Extensions

While their naming conventions are different, all three CMSs use plugins or extensions. These act as supplementary add-ons to complete the software with extra features.

One-Click Installs

Softaculous One-Clicks
Softaculous is a good example of a scripting software which offers hundreds of one-click installs.

A popular term amongst e-marketeers (because it's awesome). One-click installs are what they are called, users can install complicated add-ons or software with one click. They are used to save both time and energy.

Multiple Support Sources

Support is well catered for all Drupal, WordPress, and Joomla. There are multiple sources of expert advice, including forums, live chats, and official threads.

Drupal and the Competition

Drupal, Wordpress, and Joomla - Side-by-Side Comparison

WordPress
WordPress is a solid alternative, although Drupal is considered better for larger projects.

Now we know some of the similarities between the three, let's take a look at how they compare side-by-side. Since this page is dedicated to Drupal, we will cover it more in-depth as opposed to its rivals.

Drupal WordPress Joomla
The user interface is a tad complicated which makes it less ideal for complete beginners. Adding content to your site is easy, but changing your site's appearance is not as intuitive.

Drupal has tens of thousands of modules. But, these need to be manually installed on your website as Drupal doesn't provide the one-click installations that WordPress does.

This is the most powerful CMS out of the three. But, this power comes at a cost. Users need an understanding of CSS, HTMP, and PHP to take advantage of the software's features.

Users will experience faster load times with Drupal than the other two content management systems.

Requires some basic level of technical understanding. Developers will have full customizing control with access to root files.

The easiest of the three to use, especially for beginners.

The WordPress dashboard is intuitive and easy to navigate.

Tens of thousands of plugins are available to extend website features.

Works great for blogs, small to medium-sized websites, and small e-commerce stores.

A bit more intimidating for beginners with their busy dashboard full of powerful features.

Joomla also has extensions but not as many as WordPress or Drupal. It's more complicated for users to add these to their website since they'll have to install them manually.

Can handle larger websites, including more complicated e-commerce stores.

Ideal for E-commerce or social networking websites.

Now that you have a better idea of Drupal compares to it's fellow CMS software, let's learn more about what it actually does. There are dozens of things to learn about Drupal since it's a complex, multi-purpose software designed for professional creation.

What Can Drupal Do?

Drupal Marketplace
The Drupal marketplace is a good example of a unique feature offered by the company.

As we said, Drupal is often mentioned in the same breath as WordPress and Joomla. All of them are content management systems (CMS) - they let you organize text, images, and videos for the web.

Using Drupal for Growing Websites

However, Drupal's strength is in its complexity and robust architecture. There are several reasons why Drupal is considered a better alternative for larger projects.

Drupal is best for sites that are expected to grow or experience high volumes of traffic. It has a strong following amongst media clients, large e-commerce stores, top universities and household brands. Drupal also provides the framework for many US and UK government websites.

Flexibility for Multiple Scripts

It's also known for being highly flexible, so companies can easily run a diverse range of scripts from one Drupal install. Unlike Joomla!, Drupal is not designed to support web applications, although some users to set it up for this purpose.

And while WordPress is more logical as a blogging platform, it's not designed to scale up and out like Drupal.

Drupal Modules

Find The Best Drupal Hosting For You

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What Are Drupal Modules?

Drupal Module Installation
Installing modules is fully explained on-site.

If you know anything about WordPress, you'll know that one thing people love about the CMS is their huge quantity and variety of plugins. Drupal has their own version of plugins, called modules. These will help you create the specific features that you want on your website.

Downloading and Installing Drupal Modules

Drupal, like WordPress, is built using PHP. A Drupal module is pretty much a PHP file that will drive its own functionalities on the website. Installing Drupal modules isn't as easy as installing a WordPress plugin. Here is a quick overview:

  1. Find a Drupal module of your choice.
  2. Ensure you select the '.gz' file.
  3. Download the module to your local computer.
  4. Navigate to your Drupal dashboard.
  5. Install the module from directly your computer.

Not Exactly a One-Click Install

Sure, sounds easy enough. You don't have to be a computer wiz to do this. It's just a few more steps than the one-click installs that we enjoy with WordPress's plugins. Anyhow, if you want a detailed breakdown of module installation, here you are!

How To Install Drupal in 5 Simple Steps

If your hosting provider doesn't provide a one-click installation of Drupal, then you'll have to install it yourself. To do so, you just have to follow a few steps:

  1. Download the installation file from Drupal.
  2. Create the settings.php and files directory for the install.
  3. Create a database for the Drupal installation.
  4. Set up the web server, ready for installation.
  5. Run the Drupal installation script.

Download and Extract

First, you must download the installation file from Drupal directly. Once you've done so, extract the file to get its contents. There are multiple ways you can download Drupal.

Settings.php

For Drupal to work, you need to provide the information of where your database is going to be. For this, you need to create your settings.php file, to store this vital bit of information.

Database Creation

Database Creation
Drupal fully break down the database creation process for you.

Following from your settings.php file, you need to create your empty database. Your database can be created using MySQL, phpMyAdmin or even using the command line. It's best to ask your host about this, depending on your options.

Web Server

In order to successfully launch your installation and be prepared, you must set up a web server. Once this is done, you are ready to run the installation script.

Installation Script

Great, you got this far. Running the installation script is the simplest part. Looking like a conventional installer, it's fairly straightforward with a handful of options to choose from while setting up.

Support For Installation

To find more detailed instructions on how to install Drupal manually, read through their installation guide. Since it's open source, there exists a large Drupal community for the software. This community is where people get together and collaborate on new projects.

Here Drupal users can find help, chat with others and participate in forums. Finding professional support from companies available to assist with services like hosting and training is also an option.

Growth and History of Drupal

The Drupal source code was originally written as an internet forum application. Its founder, Dries Buytaert, is a Ph.D. graduate in computer science.

Buytaert now runs a company called Acquia that specializes in Drupal support and employs 300 people. It was Acquia that assisted with the transition of the whitehouse.gov website to the Drupal platform.

Drupal is Achieving Global Popularity

From humble beginnings, Drupal now powers at least 2 percent of websites globally. It is owned by the Drupal Association, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting Drupal.

On the modern web, Drupal is built to support content. It lets companies index and display custom content types in a limitless number of ways, so you're not limited to normal blog or e-commerce formats. This is why many businesses adopt Drupal over the alternatives.

Drupal Requirements

Drupal Web Hosting Requirements

Drupal 8
Drupal 8 was recently released, read about it in more detail.

Drupal is designed to be installed on the LAMP stack - Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP. The latest and most recent version is Drupal 8. Most web hosting companies offer LAMP stack hosting. It can also be installed on Nginx or Microsoft IIS (Windows).

Core Installation Requirements

The core installation takes up 15 MB of space. Remember: you'll need more disk space for themes, modules, and content. Drupal recommends 60 MB of space for more complex websites.

You'll need to check that your database is on the same machine as your website files. This isn't a requirement as such, but it makes a big difference to resource usage. If your database is located elsewhere, you might find that your host objects to Drupal without sophisticated caching in place.

What to Look for in Drupal Hosting

Drupal 8 Demonstration
Launching the multilingual Drupal 8 demo will give you a feel for the required technical understanding - give it a go here.

If you're going to be using Drupal to create a website, you'll need hosting for it. Most popular web hosting companies will support the platform. In fact, they'll probably give you simple, one-click installations of it from your hosting control panel.

Starting with Cheap Web Hosting

If you're just finding your way around Drupal and learning the CMS then you might be hesitant about paying for hosting. Though you can find free hosting out there, companies that offer these free services aren't usually the most reliable.

I recommend picking a really cheap web hosting plan instead while you learn your way around Drupal. Drupal can be used with multiple different kinds of databases. Including MySQL and MariaDB. If you need support for MS SQL then you will need to install additional modules.

Hosting on Shared, Cloud or Dedicated Servers

You can host Drupal on shared servers, cloud servers, and even dedicated servers. As long as your server has PHP support, you'll be good to go. Just make sure that the hosting plan you choose gives you at least 10MB of disk space. This may restrict you from some of the cheapest shared hosting plans at a few web hosting companies.

If you choose to go the cloud hosting route, you'll enjoy blazing-fast hosting speeds. Cloud hosting solutions are faster than shared hosting because it allows you to use the resources of multiple servers. This is compared to being stuck with the resources of a single server that you share with other hosting customers.

Recommendation for Larger Sites

Larger Drupal sites may need to opt for VPS or dedicated server hosting to get the power they need. Shared web hosting is really only adequate for individuals and small businesses.

Most web hosts make it easy to migrate your website to a more powerful plan when outgrows this shared infrastructure.

Drupal Risks to Watch Out For

In October 2014, a large-scale SQL injection hack rendered tens of thousands of Drupal websites insecure. The hack took advantage of a vulnerability in Drupal 7's code, and it meant hackers could create a backdoor that could not be detected or patched.

Drupal Pros and Cons

Drupal Pros and Cons - What's to love or hate?

With Drupal being one of the more popular choices as an open-source CMS, there are still some positives and negatives to highlight. Here is a summary of the key points.

Pros

  • Most web hosts provide it as a free one-click installer.
  • Developers have tried to make it more usable, and are actively investing in getting feedback.
  • It's very flexible, particularly if you can code.
  • It's designed to be shaped to fit your own purposes.
  • It scales up well, even with very large amounts of content; Drupal 7 has been re-coded with speed in mind.
  • It has been used to develop some very high profile sites (Sony Music, eBay, Harvard and Al Jazeera).
  • User roles and permissions are sophisticated.
  • Plugins, known as modules, extend core functionality and make Drupal more versatile.

Cons

  • It's less popular than its competitors, so you'll find it a bit more difficult to pick up.
  • The learning curve is pretty steep if you want to go beyond the basics.
  • You will need PHP skills (or hired helpers) for anything complex.
  • The add-on modules can be complicated and difficult to implement.
  • Big upgrades can render all of your modules totally unusable.
  • One major hack has made many concerned.

Drupal Hosting Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is Drupal?

    Drupal is an open-source content management system (CMS) built in PHP.

  • What types of websites can I build with Drupal?

    Drupal can be used to build just about any type of website including blogs, business, portfolio, ecommerce, social networks, and even custom web applications such as project management tools and customer relationship management. If you are building a complex content-driven site requiring a lot of custom data types, Drupal is worth taking a look at.

  • Is Drupal flexible?

    Drupal is completely modular, even the core distribution is built as a series of modules. This makes it extremely flexible.

  • What are Drupal modules?

    Modules are programs designed to be added to a Drupal website to power specific features. Modules may add:

    • Technical tools, such as caching functionality
    • Presentational tools, such as new ways of sorting and displaying content
    • Functional tools, such as navigation menus and website forms.

    A large assortment of Drupal modules is available for free from the Drupal project website.

  • Is Drupal good for beginners?

    When it comes to building a website or web application, Drupal is considered to be the least beginner-friendly option among the leading CMSs. Even experienced web developers can expect to encounter a challenging learning curve when setting up Drupal for the first time.

    The power and appeal of Drupal lie in its flexibility, security, and speed, and not in its ease of use. However, once a Drupal site has been completely built, non-technical users can learn to add and update content without too much trouble.

  • What types of content can Drupal be used to manage and display?

    Any that you need. It has a number of built-in or already available content types for a wide range of applications – blog posts, content pages, products, people, projects, media. New content types can be created easily through the admin interface, provided by modules, or added with code.

  • Does Drupal have a customizable website theme system?

    Drupal has a theming system which allows for extreme customization of website presentation. This includes changing the look and layout of your site, but also for providing content in other ways, like through a RESTful API or an RSS Feed.

  • What are the hosting requirements of Drupal?

    Drupal requires PHP 5.2+. It works with MySQL and PostgreSQL databases, and versions 7 and 8 of Drupal provide support for even more databases. It can run on Apache, Nginx, or IIS web servers.

  • Is Drupal available in a one click installation?

    Many hosting plans provide one-click installation of the Drupal core through the control panel. However, use of any pre-built Drupal distributions – which can be a real time-saver – usually requires manual installation (although some hosts provide installation support for a small set of popular distros).

  • What are Drupal Distributions?

    One of the most powerful features of Drupal is its Distributions Project. Taking their cue from Linux culture, Drupal developers have created a system of packaged distributions which provide organized sets of features for specific applications. For example, there are distributions for education, non-profit administration, churches, government agencies, musicians, podcasters, and news publishers.

  • Will Drupal work on shared hosting?

    Shared hosting environments are usually technically adequate for a basic installation, but the types of large, complex sites for which Drupal is a good choice do not usually do well on shared hosting plans. If you're just wanting to learn how to use Drupal, shared hosting will work just fine. However, if you plan to host a large, busy, complex website, a VPS or dedicated server would be a better choice.

  • Do Drupal Distributions have any additional hosting requirements?

    Some do. If you plan to use a specialized distribution, be sure to check the specific hosting requirements for that package, as some distributions do include additional needs.

  • What is a content management system (CMS)?

    Content-driven websites consist of two major components: the content itself and the presentation of the content, also known as the website design. CMSs take care of both components by making it easy to manage lots of content and control how that content is presented.

  • Is Drupal a CMS or a framework?

    A CMS is an application used to build and manage a content-driven website. By that definition, Drupal is a CMS. A framework is a set of tools used to build a web application. Drupal is a highly modularized CMS with enough power and flexibility that some developers treat it as a web application development framework as much as a CMS.

  • How does a CMS manage website content?

    With a CMS you can define the types of content on your site: webpages, blog posts, products, customer testimonials, visitor comments, projects, and so forth. Then, you can create as many individual instances of each type of content as you wish.

    Further, the CMS enables you to define where each piece of content should appear on your site, how it should look when viewed by a website visitor, and how users should interact with the content. When you publish a new piece of content or make a change to an existing piece of content, the CMS automatically updates every affected webpage.

  • How does a CMS manage website appearance?

    If you think of a typical website or blog, all of the pages share elements like headers, menus, sidebars, and footers. A CMS uses a template-based system, called a theme, to duplicate these elements across every page automatically. Add a new piece of content and it's presented with the same header, menu, sidebar, and footer as every other page of your site. If you want to change the entire look of your website, you can do so by modifying the theme. Modify a theme file or install a new theme and every page on your site will be updated to reflect the change.

  • How does a CMS manage website updates?

    CMSs provide a "backend" or administrative interface for adding and editing content, which makes the act of writing a new page or adjusting the menus no more or less difficult than writing an email message or adding contacts to your phone. This means that anyone can use a CMS to update the content of a website. As soon as a change is made to the CMS backend, the presentation of that content is immediately updated on the public facing website front-end.

  • How is Drupal different from WordPress?

    In WordPress, blog posts are the primary content type. Additional content types have been added to the core, such as pages, media, and comments, but the blog post is still central. Like WordPress, many CMSs have some type of bias toward a single type of content. This can be problematic when "content" becomes something very different than originally envisioned.

    Drupal doesn't prefer any one type of content over another. All content types are on an equal footing. This makes it especially good for building complex data manipulation applications such as project management tools, customer relationship management systems, online stores, and social media networks.

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