Getting to know Drupal

Getting to know Drupal: 2019 Update

getting to know drupalPHP, an open ended scripting source, has been one of the most ubiquitous scripting languages available since its first introduction. Part of that ubiquity is due to the popularity of many of the frameworks or content management systems built on it. To name one well-known example, WordPress is built in PHP. This makes it an essential technology to be familiar with for any WordPress developer. WordPress’ popularity and overall functionality is familiar to many.

Regardless, there are other popular PHP-based content management systems to choose from. One of them being Drupal, which will be getting to know in this post.
Somewhat overshadowed by the popularity of WordPress, Drupal is an excellent choice for many applications. Often more well-suited than its other PHP alternatives. However, it is important to know which content management system is best suited for your own business. As you continue to read you will further be getting to know Drupal and all its features.

5 Most Popular Drupal 7 Modules

Drupal has an extremely immense amount of modules reaching well over 20,000. However, there are some that have earned more of a likability compared to others. The first being the Chaos Tool Suite, also known as “CTools”. It was created with teachers, students, and researchers in mind to assist them in creating websites.  C Tools combines course management features with project and research collaboration features.

The second most popular Drupal 7 Module is Views.

The views took mainly deals with the management, display, and organization of data lists. The output you receive when using this tool is called a display. As you may already know,  it is possible to have multiple displays in Drupal. If you are working with classified information, the Views tool also “User View” where viewing access will only be allowed to those with certain roles at the discretion of the administrator to maintain utmost security.

Thirdly, the Token module is very commonly used within Drupal.

For starters, Tokens in Drupal are placeholders for another value. For example, many times in media setting usernames that we initially desire are often taken so we are forced to settle for a less desired username. However, with a function like Token the user would be able to replace their username to instead show their actual name. For many of us that use Snapchat you have then seen this when you originally made your account. Snapchat does not allow you to change your username. Although, you are given a display name which you can change and edit as you please, similar to the Token module.

The fourth most popular Drupal module is Pathauto.

pathauto drupal extensionThe Pathauto module also works hand in hand with the previously mentioned CTools and Token to customize URL aliases.

Drupal works by recognizing the Tokens and working on a pattern system changing a URL from something like this: “>/node/123 “>into something like this: /category/my-node-title> in an automated, seamless process.

Finally, the fifth most popular Drupal Module is the Administration Toolbar.

This is a highly used module that provides quick access to a variety of administrative pages through the incorporation of a drop down menu on top of the default toolbar.

Benefits of Drupal

Functionality

One of the primary benefits of Drupal is its functionality and flexibility. WordPress receives continued praised for its ease of use and ability to edit many things without advanced knowledge of PHP or other programming languages. This certainly has its application for smaller projects or those that fall within certain usability standards. Drupal is somewhere in between this ease-of-use and writing PHP code from scratch.

Drupal is certainly a CMS framework with guidelines. Regardless, it is far more agnostic than WordPress in terms of how one sets up their CMS. This platform offers a variety of different modules for common features such as users, content types. These content types are what they refer to as “Blocks”. Blocks are individual sections of a web page’s layout. All of which are very flexible, in terms of how they are put together.

Drupal is ideal for enterprise-level websites, where there may be a need for multiple different user role types, multiple page templates, as well as housing many different sites in the same CMS.

Security

Another huge advantage of Drupal is security. Partially due to its popularity, WordPress can potentially be an easy target for would-be hackers. Since WordPress sites often rely on third-party plugins for its functionality, it is possible for hackers to locate vulnerabilities in these plug-ins. Ultimately allowing the  ability to penetrate the WordPress admin controls.

On the other hand, Drupal is well known for its security reputation. This may explain why this platform comes with a dedicated security team prepared to resolve any issues reported. Upon fixing the issue, Drupal’s security team will even offer advice to mitigate these problems in the future.

A few tactics that Drupal incorporates to ensure utmost security includes Brute Force Detection, Granular Access Control, and Secure Access.

Security: Brute Force Attack

Security: Brute Force AttackFirst, an instance is considered a Brute Force Attack when an individual uses a tool to log into an account that does not belong to them. An individual does this by repeatedly attempting every possible password until the correct one has been found. What is interesting about this particular hacking tool is that not only is it able to hack passwords with the A-Z alphabet as fillers. But if it is aware that a particular establishment requires a special character(!,%,#,etc.) it is also able to adapt to that.

However, the good news is that cracking a 10 character pass-code, built of a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols can take weeks or at times even months. Fortunately, Drupal anticipates cases like this. Which is why they incorporated a feature that limits the amount of times an IP address as a whole can log into the platform in a given amount of time. The attempted login history is displayed for the view of the administration.

Security: Granular Access Control

Secondly, when running a business where there is a variety of tasks for different positions to complete on an online platform, it can get a little controversial when giving complete power to everyone who must make edits/publishes to the site. Thankfully, through the use of granular access control administrators can define and enforce the roles of each individual specifically formulated to what it is they need to complete. Thus, inapplicable features are then blocked. In an attempt to disallow access in entirety where it is not necessary.

Security: Secure Access

One additional known Drupal function that peaked my interest was Secure Access. When a Drupal password is being stored in a database it is not encrypted. Rather, it goes through a process called salting and hashing. For example, the process of encryption is a two way function. This process involves scrambling and the opportunity to unscramble later on. Salting and hashing on the other hand is a one way function. When done correctly, there will be no way to reverse it and reveal the initial pass-code.

Disadvantages of Drupal

Backwards Compatibility

One often cited disadvantage of Drupal is its issue with backwards compatibility. When a new version of Drupal is released, there has been a history of transitioning to a higher type. This tends to be somewhat of complicated process. Certain modules are then deprecated. This ultimately results in features you have become accustomed to are no longer supported in newer versions. Upgrading to a new version of Drupal will no doubt require the experience of a web developer well-versed in the framework.

Learning Curve / Strong requirement of PHP knowledge

As touched on above, Drupal is known and intended for use by developers.  This is due to the fact that it requires a certain command of PHP, and programming concepts that may otherwise be able to be mitigated with choosing WordPress. Learning PHP is not an easy task. Many have stated that to just get down the basics can take at minimum one month. But that is if you are consistent in learning. To master PHP it can surpass even two years. However, compared to other coding languages it is one of the more simpler ones to pick up. If you are looking to sharpen up your PHP knowledge or even if you are aiming to learn completely from scratch there are a number of online forums to turn to for guidance.

That being said, the tradeoff is the flexibility it offers for more complex sites. Which, in some cases, is a worthwhile compromise. Drupal 7 has a more of a distant PHP feel to it. However, Drupal 8 very closely resembles other PHP frameworks. In Drupal 7, a user was able to get decently far without PHP knowledge. But on version 8, many people are saying it is necessary that you come into it previous PHP knowledge. By having new users who are attempting Drupal already educated in PHP this will in turn decrease the learning curve because developers will already be extremely familiar working with similar systems.

 

How is Drupal better than WordPress?

How is Drupal better than WordPress?WordPress and Drupal are two of the most popular content management systems (CMS) today. Drupal has actually been around longer than WordPress but does not have as large of a market share as its competitor. According to a recent study conducted by IMB cloud education via ibm.com, “WordPress has been used to create nearly 60% of all CMS-based websites. In total, it accounts for just over 30% of all sites on the web. By contrast, Drupal has been used for just under 4% of all CMS-based websites and it accounts for 2% of all websites.” Perhaps the reason for this gap in usage is due to the ease of use in comparison with the two. Although Drupal lacks in overall awareness, this platform certainly does not lack in the functions it offers to users.

 

Advantage: Highly Custom Coded Theme

Many people love the fact that Drupal provides a highly custom coded theme, generating uniqueness across the board. For example, say you are running a website for a personal training gym that has ten different trainers. Well, with Drupal you would be able to create a personal trainer directory that can contain various fields. These fields can include anything such as name, number, short bio, and even a picture of themselves. You are even able to choose the display type for this information as well!

Support & Documentation

Like WordPress, Drupal is Open Source software. It is encompassed of a large community actively working on improving the framework and supplying excellent documentation for its developers. Drupal,  is a mature CMS framework with most common uses well-documented, easing the process of getting started, ever since it was first released in 2000. As for support, because it takes a highly advanced developer to be able to accurately maneuver themselves in Drupal, the community is much smaller. Therefore, it can be extremely frustrating trying to find help when dealing with an urgent website issue if you are not interested in paying for a professional

Advantage: Taxonomy System

The complexity of Drupal’s taxonomy system when handling large amounts of content is another plus in comparison to WordPress. Taxonomy is the practice of organizing and classifying content. WordPress allows for a more flat tagging system. On the other hand, Drupal allows the user to include custom made relationships. In addition to potential personalization on the amount of information that is included in each category.

Overall, due to the complexity and potential customization Drupal offers its users it is more geared toward a website that requires multiple page templates: websites like Tesla and Nasdaq for instance. However, a website with a more simple layout will benefit more with the functionalities WordPress offers, such as BBC Professional and Bloomberg America.

Conclusion

After getting to know Drupal, I am certain you have concluded that if you are looking to make a site primarily for blogging purposes, WordPress is your way to go. However, if you are looking to set yourself apart with a site that is unlike all the rest then certainly turn to Drupal.

 

Resources

angelo frisina sunlight media

Author Bio

Angelo has been involved in the creative IT world for over 20 years. He built his first website back in 1998 using Dreamweaver, Flash and Photoshop. He expanded his knowledge and expertise by learning a wider range of programming skills, such as HTML/CSS, Flash ActionScript and XML.

Angelo completed formal training with the CIW (Certified Internet Webmasters) program in Sydney Australia, learning the core fundamentals of computer networking and how it relates to the infrastructure of the world wide web.

Apart from running Sunlight Media, Angelo enjoys writing informative content related to web & app development, digital marketing and other tech related topics.

2 Comments

  • Katty Hill August 17, 2021 at 2:34 am

    Love the manner in which you give the data inside and out, Thank you for sharing this blog….

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