Magento Versions & Upgrade paths
For those on Magento, or hoping to build a new Magento store, understanding which software version you’ll want, and what maintenance and growth will be like, may seem elusive. However, understanding the right version of Magento for you and how to grow with that version, doesn’t need to be vexing.
By the Versions
For starters, you have a choice between Magento 1.x and Magento 2.x. Magento 1 is tried and tested but it’s scheduled to change as of November 2018. Unless you have very specific needs, such as connecting with other systems that aren’t ready for Magento 2 yet, there’s no reason to go to the older version for a new site. For businesses already on Magento 1, you’ll want to begin creating a plan for what you’ll do if, in fact, Magento stops publishing security patches in late 2018. This may mean planning to upgrade to a new site. While Magento 1 and 2 have many similarities, they are not quite the same.
There is no “one-click” upgrade from 1 to 2. There are some pre-fab tools to migrate over standard data, but you’ll need to go back to the drawing board for more of your needs. This includes purchasing extensions that are compatible with Magento 2, installing those extensions, addressing your frontend theme, migrating in any custom data, and so forth. We generally look at a switch from Magento 1 to 2 as a rebuild.
By the Editions
Magento offers Community and Enterprise editions. While the community version is robust and extremely popular, the Enterprise version comes with a range of built-in extras, such as:
- Gift Card, Gift Wrapping, and Gift Registry support
- Store Credits
- A Loyalty Program with Reward Points
- Order tracking without logging in
- Returns Management (RMA)
- Add to Cart By SKU
- Advanced Customer Segmentation, Targeting, and Personalization
- More Customer Attributes
- Drag & Drop Virtual Merchandising
- Enhanced Site Search
- Abandoned Cart and Wishlist E-mails
- CMS Page Versions for static content pages
- Automated Related Products, Upsells, and Cross-sells
- Support for additional Gateways like Cybersource and WorldPay
- Private Sales, and the ability to restrict access to view or purchase items for specific groups
- Automatic Imports and Export
- Order Archiving
- Additional Admin user features, such as Admin Logging
There are also default features to better address performance for larger businesses. This includes more advanced caching and indexing and better support for large numbers of concurrent Admin users. There are also more developer-friendly features to help check database help, maintain PCI Compliance, and keep the site safe, secure, and fast.
Magento Enterprise 2.x contains additional extras such as the ability to preview and schedule updates, to categories and products, such as in advance of sales.
In general, Magento Enterprise licenses come with direct support from the Magento team. This support may be pretty generic, as they won’t be the one’s building or maintaining your site, but it does give you some direct communication with their team. It also comes with benefits such as limited indemnity from Patent or Copyright Infringement Lawsuits in some circumstances.
However, Magento Enterprise requires an annual licensing fee that starts around $18,000 per year. For small businesses, startups, and businesses that don’t need the extra bells and whistles, or that would be happy to get such extra features from Magento Extensions, this license fee may not make sense. Magento agencies will often look at a range of metrics including your eCommerce traffic, sales volume, product catalog and other needs before making an official recommendation.
While the Magento team has a vested interest in selling you an Enterprise license, agencies that work with both Community and Enterprise will often be able to provide feedback too. They can help with your needs in either edition and should be more focused on what it will take to get to a successful launch and a healthy long-term relationship. They would be the one’s helping you to resolve any issues, so they have a vested interest in pointing you in the right direction.
Just like upgrading between Magento 1 and 2, switching between Community and Enterprise requires a rebuild, so it is important to anticipate your multi-year needs before choosing and to anticipate your marketing budgets and other costs that you’ll need to account for in order to make your website a success.
Incremental Versions and Updates
Once your site is live, you can expect the Magento team to release periodic updates and patches that you’ll be responsible for installing. This is best done in the development or staging copy of your website, as your theme, extensions, and any other customizations may or may not be instantly compatible. In some cases, you’ll need to upgrade extensions in order to support the core updates that you’ll be making. In other cases, you’ll need to solve issues through custom coding. This doesn’t mean that you or your developers did anything wrong, rather this is simply part of owning a custom eCommerce website.
While you can’t anticipate what these patches will be, when they’ll come, or how invasive they’ll be, they are necessary. Without them, your site will continue to have known security vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit. While these security holes may have existed before, once a patch is released, it’s public knowledge.
On the other hand, incremental upgrades are up to personal preference. We recommend upgrading versions (as opposed to only installing patches), as upgrades (example Magento CE 188.8.131.52 to 184.108.40.206) may include bug fixes and other improvements above and beyond security issues.
As upgrades are incremental, once you start falling behind, it can be harder to catch back up. Keep in mind that when installing one patch, or addressing one minor version upgrade to your Magento site, if there are conflicts or issues then the number of possible culprits will be limited when compared to applying lots of patches, or making a bigger leap in minor versions in one fell swoop (example Magento CE 220.127.116.11 to 18.104.22.168). To some extent, the law of averages does kick in. In other words, the more changes that you’re applying simultaneously, the more likely it is that you’ll run into issues, and the harder it can be to diagnose and resolve such issues.
When possible, it’s best to address maintenance incrementally. In layman’s terms, keep up with oil changes and recalls, or risk headaches when you do finally take your car into the shop. In this case, keep your Magento version up to date, as well as having the most updated versions of Magento extensions.
~Robert Rand, CTO, RandMarketing.com
This guest blog was contributed by the CTO of long time Simple Helix partner Rand Marketing. Thanks very much Robert! For more information about how they can help your business call 888-707-RAND or visit their contact page at https://randmarketing.com/contact/.
If you need help updating your Magento store contact Simple Helix Technical Support today.