Best Drupal Web Hosting

Discover how to find the best Drupal hosting. First, what is Drupal? ‘Drupal’ is an English version of ‘druppel’ – the Dutch word for droplet. Just like its competitors WordPress and Joomla!, Drupal is also a content management system. It is open source and free hence can be downloaded and used without any fees.

Improvements or changes can also be made to its source code freely. It mainly comprises of a set of files which form the core on all installations of Drupal. Further customization can be done using plugins and themes available.

Brief Overview of a Content Management System (CMS)

Every blog site or simple website has multiple pages with different content on each. Along with these there are also website features like headers, footers, menu items etc. Some other pages have lists of content like indexes, excerpt pages etc. It will be a big waste of time and generally a redundant exercise to re-create all the shared features on each of these pages each time they are loaded. Also, manual updates to lists will be a bad programming practice in general.

This is where Content Management Systems come to the rescue. They take care of this situation by storing the pieces of data individually in a database and accessing this data to display it at the time the pages have to be viewed. CMS also provide a back end that makes the writing of new pages or updating content a lot easier.

Important Features of Drupal

  • Drupal has subtle differences when compared to WordPress and Joomla!. As they are all Content Management Systems (CMS), they are used to build websites with text, videos and images.
  • Drupal stands out amongst them due to its robustness and ability to handle complexities.
  • Flexibility is also an important feature of Drupal. A diverse range of scripts can be run, once Drupal is installed.
  • It is the best option for websites that expect a high volume of traffic and are constantly growing in their user base.
  • WordPress is the best option for simple websites like blogs. Joomla! is ideal for straightforward web applications. These technologies are not designed to be easily scaled up like Drupal.
  • The use of Drupal requires more technical expertise when compared to its competitors like WordPress.

Due to these qualities Drupal is usually the option taken up for big ecommerce related businesses, secure government websites and major universities.

History of Drupal

The original creator of Drupal is Dries Buytaert. Drupal was initially written by Buytaert as a message board but later turned into an open source project. Buytaert is also the man behind the migration of whitehouse.gov website to Drupal. He now owns a company called Acquia. Acquia provides all round Drupal support.

Drupal has now come a long way. It is used successfully by more than two percent of the websites on the internet. It operates under the General Public License and is owned by the Drupal association which is a non-profit organization.

System Requirements For Drupal Installation and Use

Just like Joomla!, Drupal uses the LAMP stack i.e. Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP framework. If a user wants the latest Drupal version, they will have to install the Drupal version 7. Drupal 8 is still under development.

Drupal can also use the Windows server or Nginx. Other points to remember:

  • The user needs to make sure there is sufficient disk space available before installation. The Drupal themes, modules and other content will take up space after the 15 MB required for the core.
  • The database to be used should be on the same machine.
  • A free trial Drupal sandbox is available on the Acquia website.

Basic Structure of Drupal

Core
This is the main codebase or element of the software. It has been built collaboratively by the user and developer community of Drupal. It can be extended by adding optional modules and features.

Core Modules
The core of Drupal comes with the following modules.

  • Statistics
  • Search
  • Menu system
  • URLs
  • Blogs, forums and comments
  • Caching
  • User support
  • Security notifications
  • User profiles
  • Triggers
  • And many more

Core Themes
There are available core themes which help to customize the look of the website.

Localization
Drupal support is available in many languages.

Update Notifications
The administrators are automatically notified about new updates required or backups to be done for security or other reasons.

Database Abstraction
Drupal provides for a database abstraction layer using which developers no longer need to write SQL queries. PHP data objects are used to abstract the database. As of now Drupal 7 supports the SQLite database engine.

Support For Windows Developers
More and more resources are becoming available for Windows based Drupal developers.

Web Accessibility
Drupal 7 has brought about major improvements in web accessibility. Drupal has been widely used for development of sites specially designed for use by persons with disabilities. Some other major improvements include:

  • Drag and drop functionality
  • Skip navigation
  • Labels for input forms
  • Improvements in color schemes

Advantages and Disadvantages of Drupal

First let us look at the advantages:

  • Usually available as a one-click installer with web hosting providers.
  • Highly flexible
  • Highly customizable to the user’s needs.
  • The developer community is constantly updating it to make it more user friendly.
  • Highly scalable. Does not lose speed even when content is increased by large amounts.
  • More versatility can be provided by use of plugins.
  • Many important websites currently use Drupal.
  • Different distribution packages with specific features of Drupal are available for different web applications. For example, there will be a distribution package for social awareness sites, a different one for education, another one for media etc.

Now For The Disadvantages:

  • Hard for beginners to pick up.
  • A lot more support and user guidance is available for WordPress and Joomla!
  • Advanced development requires good PHP skills.
  • Any new modules or plugins are not easy to work with. Mainly because they aren’t as organized as compares to those in WordPress.
  • New upgrades can make old modules completely useless.
  • Shared hosting is not a very good option for the large and complex sites for which Drupal is generally chosen.

Best Drupal Hosting Providers

There are many web hosting companies providing Drupal hosting packages. Bluehost is supposed to be the most highly recommended one amongst them. Other good options include InMotion and GoDaddy.

Drupal Frequently Asked Questions

What is Drupal?
Drupal is content management system framework distributed under the GNU – General Public License. It is written in PHP and has been used for more than 2% of the websites on the internet today. The type of websites that use Drupal range from personal blogs to political, government sites and also knowledge management sites.

What is a content management system?
In general, a content management system or CMS is a computer application that enables the users to create and modify all kinds of digital content. It can also handle multiple users working together. Most of these CMS applications have useful features like online publishing, format management and version control. WordPress is the most popular CMS currently used.

Is Drupal a content management system?
Yes, Drupal can very well be used for content management. However, along with this it is also a very efficient application development framework. It is highly powerful and flexible.

What is the difference between Drupal and WordPress?
WordPress is primarily focused on blog posts. It can work with other content types like pages, media, comments, images etc. but blogging is still its main feature. Drupal on the other hand is not majorly focused on any one content type. All content types are given equal importance.

What are the special strengths of Drupal?
Drupal offers a lot of custom data types and is perfect for building complex content-driven sites.

Is Drupal available in multiple versions/distributions?
Drupal has its own distribution project for building different distributions. It is based on the Linux culture of distributions. The developers involved in this project have created distribution packages for specific applications. Each distribution will have its own set of features. Hence, there are different
specialized distributions for education, non-profit management, news, e-commerce etc.

Can themes be customized in Drupal?
Drupal’s themes can be highly customized based on the user’s requirements. It could be for changing the look, layout and general feel of the site or for providing content through a RESTful API or RSS feed.

What kind of content types can Drupal be used for?
Drupal does not focus on any one content type like WordPress primarily deals with blogging posts. Drupal gives equal weightage to blog posts, media, images, pages, comments and a wide range of other content types. It also enables the user to create new types through plugins or added code.

What about the flexibility of Drupal?
Drupal is a highly flexible application framework. This is mainly because of its modular nature in which everything including the core is a series of plugins.

What are the system requirements of Drupal?
Drupal uses the PHP 5.2+; Apache, Nginx or IIS servers; MySQL or PostgreSQL databases. The latest versions of Drupal i.e.: 7 and 8 provide support for many more databases.

Does Drupal work on shared hosting plans?
Shared hosting plans will be adequate if the site built using Drupal is small or moderate in size. However, Drupal is typically used for building large and complex sites. For sites of such complexity the resources offered by shared hosting plans will not be enough.

What are the important advantages of using Drupal?
There are many important features that make website owners loyal to Drupal. The easy one-click installation is always a plus. Drupal has the strong features of usability, flexibility and high customizability. It also scales up very well and the recent versions have been programmed with speed in mind. Plugins make Drupal more versatile. The user roles and permissions are very sophisticated.

What are the major disadvantages of using Drupal?
In spite of its advantages, there are some points that make Drupal less popular than its competitors. For starters, Drupal is a little harder to learn for beginners and due to its smaller user community the help and guides available online is a lot lesser than for WordPress. This makes the learning curve very steep. For complex development using Drupal, the developer will need good PHP skills. The big upgrades in Drupal can make the original modules completely unusable. Also, the add-on modules can be complex, less organized and difficult to implement.

Are one-click installation wizards available for Drupal?
Yes, many hosting providers offer one-click installation wizards for Drupal through the control panel. Manual installation can be requirement for some of the distributions of Drupal.

Drupal Resources For Beginners