The View from England

Magento 1.8 Is Here: Upgrade or Not?

Magento 1.8 has finally been released. When Magento first came out, releases were frequent. But this time it has been over a year since 1.7 came out. It was beginning to look like the takeover by Ebay had stopped all development. Unlike previous releases there has not been a flood of complaints saying how buggy it is. This is either because no one has upgraded and installed it, or because it is better quality than previous initial releases. In my opinion, however, it is more likely due to poor timing. This is a very bad time of year to change an ecommerce site.

We are in the run up to the busiest time of the year for most ecommerce companies. No one ramping up their systems and services for the holiday season would consider doing any non-essential upgrade to their cart. It’s a case of if it is not broken, then don’t fiddle. I suspect that most operating sites would like to upgrade to 1.8, but do not need to. I will be scheduling my upgrade in January or February when it all goes quiet.

It is also likely that any new site will either be well under way in development — or not started yet — and thus not using 1.8. It is not a good idea to open a new ecommerce site so late in the year.

In a way this is a pity. It means that by the time I get to upgrade, there may not have been lots of early adopters going before me finding all the bugs. In general it is normally better to upgrade to a .1 or a .0.1 release rather than the brand new .0 release.

There is no doubt, however, it is worth upgrading in the New Year, for the following reasons.

  • It is meant to be faster and less resource hungry (always a good thing).
  • The tax calculation process has been extensively re-written (and might therefore fix the tax bug that has been in my system for 2 years and no-one can find or fix).
  • It will have the latest security fixes.
  • It is better to move forward with all releases, because it is done in “little” steps, rather than falling behind and having a major upgrade problem when you are forced.

I understand that the development of 2.0 of Magento continues. It might even come out in 2014. So if it does this means that I know what I will be doing in January 2015.

Version 2.0 of Magento promises much. It will likely mean that Magento has finally come of age. It will demonstrate that Magento still has a future and an upgrade path, and that its purchase by Ebay has not been detrimental — assuming that what is currently promised gets delivered.

When Ebay purchased Magento, there was the worry that they would stop development, or twist the whole concept into some kind of hybrid linked somehow to Ebay. It is good to see that this has not happened. It is good to see that development continues. It is good to see that my investment in Magento has been worthwhile, and that it has a future that I can subscribe to.

So now that I know that I will upgrade to 1.8, and know that I will almost certainly upgrade to 2.0, this decision also determines how I will upgrade. Whilst I am certain that there will be some kind of upgrade path from 1.8 to 2.0, I personally will not use it. For so significant a change in architecture I would plan to do a clean install and re-import my products and customers. I believe that it is always better to have a clean break. You are less likely to carry forward old bugs, and it gives you the opportunity to review and not use any extension that you no longer need. It is always worth doing this every few years. Because I will do this for version 2.0, there is no need to do it now. So instead I will be simply updating the running site.

The upgrade method always appears the easiest, but with Magento it is never trouble free. In previous years I have found that waiting a few months, and then updating, has resulted in a relatively trouble free update because you have not gone first. It is likely that someone else has the same problem and has fixed it. So it is simply a matter of Googling the problem and applying the fix. Hopefully with 1.8 it will be the same. As with any upgrade however it is essential to try it out first with a copy of your system.

So that’s my January, all sorted out. Now all I have to do is keep busy until then.

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