What exactly is a Drupal service provider, and why does your organization need one? In this post, we'll explain exactly what the term means, how to find a Drupal service provider, and exactly what to expect from your new technology partner.
When it comes to managing a business, whether a startup, SMB, or a multinational enterprise, one factor stays pretty much constant, usually across the board.
However you want to phrase it, cash in bank, overheads, fixed costs, variable costs, return on investment, budgets, funding, annual gross turnover, or net profit, they all link back to an issue that any and every business struggles with, from a brand’s inception all the way to a merger, buy out, or liquidation.
Money makes the world go round, that’s what they say. And, as we’re all adults here, I’m sure that’s something we can all agree on.
Sure, it isn’t fair.
At least, not when you think about it in a personal, existential way.
But today we aren’t here to talk about the moral grounding that’s deeply interwoven into the fabric of society.
Today, we’re here to discuss Drupal. And more specifically, why every business that utilizes Drupal at least somewhere in their business strategy.
As of 2019, over a million people and organizations utilize Drupal, worldwide. Since the software is very much an enterprise tool, it’s probably fairly safe to assume that the majority of that million are indeed businesses.
And as I’ve already introduced above, business equals money.
Other than non-profits, charities, and government institutions, one of the largest driving factors within a business and exactly how it operates very often boils down to money, or at least, one of the many business synonyms for how money is performing.
And even then, not-for-profits and many state run organizations still have to deal with money and its many names, just perhaps from a slightly different standpoint than a commercial enterprise, whether small, enterprise level, or cross-continent conglomerate.
So, let me say it again. Money makes the world go round. And with respect to Drupal, albeit it’s open-source (free) licensing, the same situation applies.
There is indeed an entirely separate conversation to be had about open-source, and what it really means to license and distribute a software as such, but we won’t be getting into that today.
We’ll leave that for another time.
But rather, what I’m trying to do here, is invite you to explore the possibility that in spite of its open-source status, utilizing and maintaining Drupal as part of your organization’s application portfolio is a multi-faceted commitment, and one that isn’t to be taken lightly.
But first, I just want to quickly note - of all the alternative solutions, Drupal is by far amongst the most superior choices, and although there are specific considerations to be made when introducing or maintaining the application within your organizations infrastructure, you’re not likely to find a better solution; one that has such an impressive track record, and proven viability as a long-term tool that definitely deserves a prioritized position within your application portfolio.
As I’ve discussed before, Drupal is a CMS heavyweight (that’s a good thing), and its raw power as a software, particularly when integrated correctly in the cloud, is quite honestly unparalleled.
With two decades of public history behind it, no superior or competing alternative has ever arisen (let alone made a dent in Drupal’s attractiveness), and the software continues to perform in a way that, to this day, impresses audiences worldwide.
Drupal does indeed live up to its name.
And it’s name is most certainly one that is universally recognized and understood by software engineers and developers worldwide.
But let’s get back to my main point, and explore exactly why every business or organization that relies on Drupal, to whichever extent, needs a Drupal service provider.
We’ll also explore some of the key surrounding points to this, such as how, when, and why.
So, let’s dive right in.
Drupal service providers: what are they?
Since you’re here, I’d assume you probably already know that you need a Drupal service provider. Or a Drupal partner; they’re oftentimes the same (more or less) thing.
Drupal’s a beast of a CMS, and that power goes hand in hand with responsibility. Like it or not, that’s the nature of technology, and software and web applications are no different.
Even if Drupal is the driving force behind a traditional website alone, the responsibility of appropriately implementing and correctly maintaining the software is critical to your results, and therefore, by and large, also your success.
Drupal isn’t a one-stop-shop solution to digital solution and maintenance woes.
The technology stack required to operate the majority of complex Drupal implementations is not something to be joked-around with — we’re now getting into some pretty serious stuff.
Drupal has a reputation, a long standing (around 2 decades long) one. And the status that the CMS holds is not something that was achieved by pure coincidence.
The Drupal of today has been, essentially, in the making for the best part of the last twenty years. Think about that. In terms of software — and particularly when it comes to the web — that’s a really, really long time.
The majority of web software and applications don’t make it to twenty years old, and if they do, they tend to be far gone in terms of stability, advancing feature availability, and core maintenance and improvements.
Drupal’s community is compromised of over 1.3 million individuals and organizations, and the popularity of the CMS amongst enterprise groups remains, and continues to be, practically unwavering.
There are massive benefits to streamlining the operations within your business.
In fact, from the experience I’ve gained from working with digital businesses over the last 10 years, resistance to this can cause major internal problems for a business.
In many ways, that’s why service providers exist. The main goal of their custom is to offer businesses the opportunity to improve internal operations by streamlining their management of technology.
And of course, for many organizations, Drupal forms a large part of that. At the very least, the use of Drupal provides additional value to the business, regardless of where, and how, the application is being used.
And given the added value and the responsibility that goes hand in hand with managing, maintaining, and continuously extending the software, service providers and technology partners provide a key asset to any technology-dependent business utilizing Drupal.
Why your business needs a Drupal service provider
I’ve been in the industry for over ten years, and let me tell you, boy have things changed.
Back in the day, perhaps some ten or so years ago – a time when I was only several years into my career of business analysis within the digital and technology sections – organizations often relied on their own, proprietary technology to build the digital applications they needed.
Tools like ASP.NET and PHP ruled the World Wide Web supreme.
For more complex software, organizations would instead opt to build a proprietary system utilizing languages and frameworks such as Ruby on Rails, and in general, conceiving, developing and maintaining of applications were recognized and accepted much as part of internal operations.
Businesses who sought the services or products of third-party, or external providers were often viewed by analysts as likely to be under-performing internally, with their outsourcing of labor and technology being seen as an indication of something slightly sinister going on deeper within the organization.
And, for what it’s worth, even industry insiders and professionals thought the same.
But over time things began to change. Businesses of all sizes have, over time, gradually shifted toward an increasingly powerful strategy, and that is to make use of service providers, often wherever possible.
There are, of course, some limitations. The vast majority of businesses have to retain complete control over certain areas which are critical to their custom. And oftentimes that means keeping this in-house.
But, when it comes to most types of technology, and particularly when it’s open source, much of this can efficiently be offloaded to a tech and infrastructure service provider.
Of course, Drupal is no different.
And one of the biggest perks of Drupal is it’s easily extendable codebase, which is made even easier to manage over the long term by Drupal’s increasing shift toward the utilization of frameworks for delivery.
The very reason that businesses today find service providers so attractive, is the prospect of dramatically improved streamlining of internal operations, which means quite simply that the company can focus on what it does best.
In fact, as a Drupal service provider ourselves, even our own motto falls within this theme: You manage your business, and we’ll manage the rest.
The goals here are really quite simple.
By offloading costly and resource-intensive operations to a Drupal service provider, rather than continuing to manage this internally within your organization, the prospects for overhead and fixed costs dramatically improves.
The benefits of having a Drupal technology partner
Managed service providers, or MSPs (also known as Application Service Providers or ASPs), are the best at what they do. In terms of proficiency, it’s a no brainer that they far outrank the alternative of keeping such operations internally managed.
Drupal technology partners work heavily with the software in large teams, day in day out.
They have an abundance of tools, resources, and personnel who specialize very well in Drupal, whether as a product, service, or extendable framework. And such resources can often be incredibly costly to keep housed within an organization itself.
But additionally, there are so many more benefits to enlisting the knowledge and expertise of a service provider who specializes in Drupal.
Time to market, an important factor, especially in today’s fast-paced digital space, is incredibly important.
And the costs associated with optimizing the performance of this stage and what’s required beforehand, can be drastically improved upon by the utilization of a service provider or technology partner who specializes in Drupal.
Return on investment can usually be expected to increase in all areas that Drupal is involved, and it’s typically the case that this has a knock on effect on many other areas on the business, due to increased levels of productivity within internal teams and departments.
Processes, work flows, and progress reviews can benefit unanimously from the streamlining of Drupal-related technology and services.
And naturally, this means that your organization can continue to focus on what it does best.
And while Drupal may indeed form a significant part of your technology and application stack, it’s likely not what your organization really wants to devote its time and resources to maintaining.
Long gone are the days where this was viewed as an efficient approach; we all now know differently.
I’m a strong believer in not reinventing the wheel. And many of the clients I work with certainly believe the same.
Where possible, if businesses can avoid reinvention of established frameworks, and instead focus on their specific integration and implementation of these frameworks, managing operations becomes so much easier over the long-term.
This is a model that I always recommend.
How do you choose a Drupal service provider?
Of course, Drupal is a fairly niche technology, when it comes to the web at least. In 2019, the solutions that are available to businesses are not in short supply.
Perhaps, now more than ever, businesses have an abundance of tools, frameworks, and applications equally fighting for the opportunity to be included or introduced into your infrastructure.
And it comes as no surprise, what with the unparalleled innovation that rules the digital space. Applications are no exception. And in fact, I’d go so far as to say that applications are one of the most changeable assets within corporate infrastructure.
Oftentimes, it’s a huge task for businesses to shift the actual foundation layer of their infrastructure and technology itself, but software and applications aren’t nearly as fragile.
They’re interchangeable. You can shift them. Providing the backend is well-engineered (and quite frankly, it often isn’t), applications are usually a matter of plug and play.
Sure, your Drupal installation, self-hosted webmail application, and private cloud calendar software probably hold plenty of grid-locked data, but if you identify an area that’s draining resources (money), and can be significantly optimized, possibly by the switching of application and substituting its use with something superior in performance (possibly from a ROI perspective), the efforts involved are relatively less.
And so, at least from my experience, it’s imperative that an application sufficiently meets the business’s demands.
Drupal, for the most part, does this very well. In fact, it does this incredibly well, so long as the client is (by and large) right for the application.
Drupal, as a software, generally scores high in its capabilities and its performance. But that’s also fairly dependent on how it’s being used, and how well the application has been implemented.
The successful execution of a Drupal-powered solution is, as far as my 10+ years of experience in the platform is concerned, just as much (if not more) dependent on its appropriate implementation as its core functionality.
What does this mean?
It means that if you’re running Drupal, the means and methods by which it’s been implemented, optimized and is being maintained, play a pivotal role in how successful of a tool it is for any given business.
Drupal’s viability for a vast array of use cases is definitely evident, but how it performs and the ROI that it provides depends quite largely upon your Drupal service provider — or, if you prefer, your Drupal technology partner.
Therefore, who you choose to work with is of fairly significant value.
There are several points and factors you need to consider here, particularly if you’re a major decision maker within your organization.
From my experience with Drupal, and digital software and applications as a whole, it’s oftentimes simply not worth the compromise when it comes to who is managing your technology.
Increasingly, businesses rely on their technology as a key driver of success. In fact, in 2019, it’s hard to envisage a company who is not heavily reliant on their particular use of technology.
And as we all know, applications make up an increasingly large part of any organization’s technology stack.
The gradual shift from in-house, complex development and engineering, toward widely supported plug-and-play enterprise applications continues to increase over time.
And quite frankly, I don’t see this trend slowing down. For businesses, ease and simplicity of technology and infrastructure is an incredibly increasing phenomenon, and we see this hugely evidenced within the Drupal ecosystem, too.
If you take a look at some of the leading Drupal hosting platforms, such as Acquia and Pantheon, it’s quite clear that there is a growing market for businesses taking the initiative to effectively outsource a significant responsibility; maintaining the underlying infrastructure that serves to power their Drupal solutions.
In a niche space such as Drupal, this is rather unique. And in fact, it’s even surprising.
In comparison to alternate software, Drupal has long been recognized and understood as an application of complexity and segregation. It’s never been understood as a one-size solution, but rather a tool that has the innate technological capability to deliver a highly tailored end-software.
In many ways, it’s been seen as less of a software, and more of a software for creating software. And as time has gone on, this strategy has only become further prevalent, in large due to the changes and progressions we see in the core, bare-boned architecture of Drupal.
The rewriting of the CMS, in order to transition to a Symfony-powered framework, as opposed to an application developed using raw PHP.
The introduction of officially supported headless (or decoupled) functionality within versions since Drupal 8. The support in Drupal core for the implementation of widely functional RESTful APIs.
The introduction of Configuration Synchronization in versions post Drupal 7. And of course, a more modular system based increasingly on Views and the larger availability and extension of entities in Drupal, first introduced in version 7, and heavily expanded upon since version 8.
These advances in the structure and workings of Drupal point heavily toward a solution intended for business use cases.
And where that is the case, there’s usually an indication of intent toward massive flexibility and various implementations of the software. After all, this is how businesses work.
No two businesses are ever the same. And with the advances that Drupal’s made, it appears that this is something that the software is keen to head further toward.
Fundamentally, this has long been what Drupal has been recognized for. And yet, we’re seeing a parallel shift, which goes seemingly in the other direction.
As I mentioned previously, if we direct our attention momentarily toward the big names in the managed Drupal cloud space, services offered by companies such as Acquia and Pantheon seem to cater to businesses who prefer to have their bare infrastructure maintained outside the realms of their internal team.
This doesn’t impact Drupal’s ability to function as an enterprise software, but it shows a growing shift toward businesses choosing to offload application implementation and maintenance.
This is a trend I’ve seen take the corporate digital space by storm, but it’s not something I expected so much within the Drupal ecosystem.
But in some ways, it makes sense. Businesses have been offloading “Drupal” for years; it just took the infrastructure layer a while to catch up.
Understandably, it’s simply taken infrastructure, technology stacks, and even application-layer managed operations a while to catch on, too.
For the most part, I believe this a genuinely positive shift within Drupal’s wider ecosystem, as such tailored infrastructure for Drupal is likely to increase internal productivity while reducing overheads associated with strained infrastructure implementation or lack of effective optimization.
Businesses have grown more trusting in service providers, with the industry for MSPs having grown wildly in recent years.
According to a recent study, the amount spent by businesses will reach nearly $200bn.
But during this process, many have also realized that offloading entire operations to a single managed service provider often presents potential drawbacks, which is a key area which remains important to consider.
Managed cloud providers, for instance, may be the highest-performing at delivering cloud technology for an innovative next-generation organization.
After all, this is something wildly important in today’s market. But entrusting your managed email requirements to the same provider might not be the best solution.
In a case like this, a best-case solution might instead be to shift cloud management to your managed service provider, while employing the expertise a specifically email-centric service provider instead. One that quite quickly comes to mind is Microsoft Exchange.
There really are benefits to diversifying your arsenal of managed service providers, and utilizing highly specialized MSPs in conjunction with one another. Overall, you tend to lower your overhead while increasing performance this way.
Using this example, it’s fairly clear to see why a Drupal-specialized service provider becomes of much greater benefit than employing the managed operations of an expansive do-it-all technology service provider.
Look for Drupal specialists. Research, source, and find a digital service provider that specializes in Drupal as one of its core managed operations offerings.
This way, you’re likely to see a much better ROI of your Drupal solution, as well as increased performance, both technologically and financially.
Cocoon is an award-winning Drupal service provider, offering both managed Drupal infrastructure and managed Drupal operations.
We have always specialized in Drupal, and the application remains an integral focus of our agency.