These five steps will help you decide which platform will best support your Drupal project and provide the greatest long-term value to your business.

1. EXPLORE THE PLATFORM OPTIONS FOR YOUR DRUPAL SITE

“Where should I host my site?” is no longer the right question to be asking. Today, choosing infrastructure means considering several things: tools for development and performance, hosting, security, and support. Each is a must for managing a website, but not all platform options will include them. Ask a better question: “What platform can provide me with what I need at the best long-term value?”.

Do an audit of your overall requirements for your website, and compare how each technology stacks up.

DIY Hosting: Basic, inexpensive hosting that offers infrastructure only. You are responsible for setup, config, testing, server maintenance, security, and support.

Managed Hosting: Includes some administrative tasks and support at high additional cost. Ultimately leaves you responsible for security and performance.

Website Management Platform: Setup, developer tools, maintenance, security, and support all included. You are only responsible for Drupal development.

As you prepare to choose a platform, ask yourself the following questions:

What are my infrastructure needs, how do I expect them to grow over time?

What resources can my company dictate to this project in terms of people money, and time? How important are performance and uptime for my overall business goals?

How much flexibility will I need to update the site and add new team members?

Who will be responsible for keeping the website secure and compliant?

2. ALIGN YOUR WEBSITE WITH YOUR COMPANY’S PRESENT AND FUTURE GOALS

Whether you already have a fantastic Drupal site or are just starting the development process, you’ll need a platform that can scale past your current requirements to accommodate future growth. This might mean adding new features, building new sites, bringing on new vendors and partners, and increasing the size of your online audience.

Choose a Platform That Lets Your Website Presence Grow with You

Purchasing the minimum requirement for today leaves you vulnerable as soon as your site needs to evolve. But paying too much for the safety of extra server space isn’t practical either. As you map your web presence to your company’s trajectory, choose a site platform that’s flexible and scalable enough to grow with you—and doesn’t require hours of sysadmin work or overage fees for increased traffic. Avoid sinking funds into technology that won’t support your long-term goals by partnering with a provider that will relieve you of infrastructure management.

Empower Cross-Functional Collaboration to Improve the Site

You know that it takes a team of talent to put together a winning site: developers, designers, vendors, marketers, and project managers. A platform with a collaborative workflow makes it easy for all these team members to make a contribution—and for you to check in on each team member’s progress.

3. USE YOUR RESOURCES WISELY

Once you have designers, developers, and marketers ready to pull together an impressive Drupal site, you’ll need to empower them to do their best work. The next step is to think about managing workflow, infrastructure, and support. Take stock of who you have in-house, which vendors you plan to work with, and how your developers’ time will be best spent. Compare the cost of outsourcing various tasks and map out who will take ownership of server administration, security, and response to distractions like support tickets and site emergencies.

Free Developers from Sysadmin Tasks

Drupal developers do their greatest work when they can focus on what they do best. Your website platform should handle all infrastructure-related tasks so your team never gets bogged down doing sysadmin work. When developers get pulled from their crucial projects, production delays can eat away at your ROI.

Back Up Your Online Presence with a Solid Support Plan

A website platform vendor should provide support so operations don’t screech to a halt when there’s a problem with your site. Otherwise the money you saved by choosing a cheaper provider will be spent as soon as there’s a problem. Consider who on your team would be the on-call point of escalation for site issues and decide whether they are a realistic contingency plan should the site go down during peak hours.

Evaluate the Total Cost of Ownership

Choosing a Drupal platform is about much more than initial cost of deployment. Make sure you include costs incurred throughout the lifecycle of your website and decide if you or your vendors will handle the tasks. Examples of these costs are setup and configuration, testing and tuning, security services, and ongoing maintenance and support. Each of these takes up hours of developer time each month and can cut into initial “savings” from going with a cheaper option.

4. RUN A FAST, RELIABLE WEBSITE

Your web presence is often a prospective customer’s first—and most important—impression of your company. Consider how performance and uptime affects your company: do you count on your site to get leads for new business? If response time is slow or the site doesn’t load, what happens to conversion rates? How will this affect your revenue?

Your website platform should guarantee at least 99.9% uptime at a reasonable cost. This happens two ways: one, when the infrastructure can scale to handle traffic surges that otherwise might crash the site; two, when developers have an environment where they can conduct reliable testing before changes go live. While managed hosting can ensure uptime at a hefty price, a website management platform is the only option that covers both needs.

Smoothly Scale for a Website That Never Fails

On a scalable platform, your website’s performance never gets in the way of its purpose. Site visitors find what they need and walk away with a positive impression of the brand. Prospective customers convert to leads as they explore your content. If you are doing design and UX right but overlooking site performance, it’s like building an aesthetically appealing house on a crumbling foundation. Instead, choose a platform with infrastructure that ensures high availability and uptime, so your hard work and vision pay off.

Look for Tools and Workflow That Support Streamlined Development

It takes best practices and the right tools to adeptly and effectively manage
a Drupal site. The platform you’re developing on should have tools and workflow built in, so it’s easy to make updates and improvements to the site. With them developers can test, fix bugs, and launch on time—all on identical dev, test, and live environments.

5. ASSESS YOUR NEEDS FOR SECURITY AND COMPLIANCE

Standards are high for web security for any company, and some industries—commerce, finance, technology, healthcare—have strict rules in place to safeguard sensitive data. You need to have the resources to ensure site security and compliance, plus a strong contingency plan in place to deal with unexpected threats.

The core Drupal developer community is a big asset—they’re the first line of defense that keeps the software updated and secure. But at the infrastructure level, you should trust your platform to expertly handle security matters.

Do you have someone who can:

Be the on-call escalation point for the server software?

Manage server software, including security updates?

Manage automated backups and offsite data storage?

Ensure partners and vendors don’t compromise the system?

Monitor compliance with industry standards?

Protect Your Company from an Increasingly Hostile Internet

When a security announcement reveals that Drupal or a common piece of website infrastructure has been compromised, attackers seize the opportunity to launch immediate, widespread exploit attempts. This leaves a small window for website administrators to apply updates and protect their systems from hack attempts. And when a website is managed by a few different people in different environments, or a single, overburdened developer, it’s easy for essential security tasks to fall through the cracks.

Traditional hosting places the security burden on you. If you’re dedicated to maintaining a secure site, choose a vendor that will be there to help when a vulnerability arises. Look for support built into the pricing plan and a history of swift reactions to past security events.

Make The Best Choice for Your Drupal Site

It’s important to remember that when choosing a website platform, you’re laying the foundation for years of technology decisions at your company. Ultimately, you’ll need to balance cost with long-term value and adopt a platform that can support your future goals.

Guide originally posted on pantheon.io. Download the full e-book here: https://pantheon.io/resources/drupal-website-platform-buyers-guide