The Joomla! Community Magazine™

When Should You Upgrade Your Joomla 1.5 Site

Written by | Thursday, 01 August 2013 00:00 | Published in 2013 August
According to W3Techs, as of the beginning of July 2013, 63% of all Joomla sites are running version 1.x. Of these, some 92% are running version 1.5. That works out to a rather large 58% of all Joomla sites running 1.5! The other 5% are mostly version 1.6 and 1.7. [Aside: if your site is one of those 5% please just upgrade now. It's not going to be that painful and you are a sitting duck for hackers. By "now" I mean stop reading this and go upgrade. Seriously.] So why is the number so high? There are usually a long list of factors, and most of them are valid. Here are the ones I hear regularly:
  • Simply porting the site is going to be a lot of work.
  • We just did our site a few years ago and don't have the budget for it.
  • Things we rely upon didn't make it to 2.5.
  • We hate change.
  • The site is outdated; if we're going to update it we want to redesign it and that's a big job.
  • There's no reason to upgrade (AKA "if it ain't broke, don't fix it").
  • You're only telling me I need to upgrade because you want more business.

Every web site is different, so each of the reasons above can be more or less relevant depending on circumstances. At one end of the spectrum is the hobby site that generates no revenue, and doesn't have much traffic. A site that could be off line for a few weeks or months and not suffer. I'm going to exclude them from this discussion.

For everyone else, the question to ask is "what's the cost of having my site suddenly go to an 'under construction' page?" What's the monetary value? What's the value of lost reputation? Take a serious look at your situation and try to come up with a reasonable number. Compare this with the cost of upgrading your site. If the numbers are close, it's probably a good idea to start budgeting. If the cost is significantly higher than upgrading, find the budget now because it's time to start planning!

Here's the key issue: the technologies that Joomla uses, most significantly PHP, are also changing over time. This chart illustrates the problem for Joomla 1.5:

PHP Version Runs Joomla 1.5? Status
5.2 Yes Unsupported, past end-of-life, no updates.
5.3 Yes End-of-Life cycle started March 2013, critical updates only.
5.4 NO Supported.
5.5 NO Supported (available as of June 2013).


To put it clearly: there is no currently supported version of PHP that will run Joomla 1.5! While that shouldn't be panic-inducing, it is not something to be ignored. There's a lot of code out there (not just Joomla) that will have problems running under PHP 5.4, and lots of hosting companies will continue to support it, including Abivia. But – and this is a big one – sooner or later your host is going to send out a notice saying that they're moving to PHP 5.4 or 5.5. Depending on the host, you're likely to get anywhere between a week to 90 days notice. Even at 90 days, that's a pretty tight timeline for a mid-range site, particularly if you want to throw in a redesign at the same time.

This problem is made particularly challenging by the fact that the PHP folks chose to stick with the same major version number, even though they made some major changes to the language. There are some hosts who are just now retiring PHP 4. This was made possible because hosts could run PHP 4 in parallel with PHP 5. By not making recent versions PHP 6 and PHP 7, this mechanism is no longer available. If a host wants to support 5.4, they have to drop support for 5.3 at the same time.

So put your finger on the calendar a month from today, whatever day you happen to be reading this. Imagine that at the same moment you're doing that, you get a notice from your host saying "PHP 5.3 will not longer supported after..." and substitute the date under your finger. If that makes you uncomfortable, then it's time to start planning your upgrade!

Image credit: cta web (Flickr) Used under a CC-SA-ND license.

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Alan Langford

Alan Langford

Toronto based developer, Open Source Advocate, deeply committed to the Joomla project. Founding member of Joomla Security Team, former develeopment team and JBS member, etc., etc.

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"If a host wants to support 5.4, they have to drop support for 5.3 at the same time."

This is not true, you can run different PHP versions paralelly (doesn't matter which versions) and configure each virtualhost to use a different one. Many hosts already support this.
VOTES:5
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A better post would be "How to upgrade from 1.5 to 3.0"
VOTES:1
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actually my question is: should I upgrade from 2.5 to 3? like now? Thanks!
Sofia
VOTES:0
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If a host wants to support 5.4, they have to drop support for 5.3 at the same time.
- this is not even true
makes you uncomfortable, then it's time to start planning your upgrade!
- as today I have 10 sites that run J 1.5.26 half of them 5 were badly hacked due to some exploits in J (which I didn't catch on time so it's on some part my fault) but the fact remains. It turns out to be easier to port them to Drupal then to upgrade them to J again so I switch sides for now and shallowly port my sites one by one. I truly envy all the WP gays out there which do not have to struggle with such things as to need to spend a month (90 days are not enough really ?!!) upgrading
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NexusStar wrote:
It turns out to be easier to port them to Drupal then to upgrade them to J again so I switch sides for now and shallowly port my sites one by one.

Whoever said this to you is smoking some unhealthy thing.

Joomla upgrades on huge portals 90% of the time can be done within a day, to switch to Drupal and replicate the url structure, modules and components takes several days (or a full rewrite in case of a custom component).
VOTES:0
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But I tried to upgrade my 1.5 site, first to 2.5, using jUpgrade, but it did not work, no matter what I tried. My concern is getting all the registered users and passwords to a new version. How to?
VOTES:0
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Mashvee wrote:
A better post would be "How to upgrade from 1.5 to 3.0"
Why are you goin' to migrate to 3.0?
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Our website launched in the autumn of 2010 and is Joomla 1.5

Now we're being told by the company that did it we need to upgrade to Joomla 3 and it'll cost four times as much as when they first did it! (as well as taking up to 10 weeks to do)

Over the three and a half years we've had this site they have never told us we need to update or upgrade (a bit naive on our part I'll admit) and they say the cost is because our site now needs a complete rebuild. Is this the case?
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