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What Exactly Is a Cloud-Native Application? And Why Would You Care? Main Features and Benefits
What is a cloud-native application in the context of cloud computing? Does “cloud-based” and “cloud-native” refer to the very same type of architecture? Does cloud-native development mean using a specific set of methodologies and tools or simply hosting, running and managing your app in a specific environment? Let's try to define, in plain English:   what cloud-native apps are the key principles of the cloud-native development process   … and to bust some of the myths and confusions around cloud-native technologies and the cloud-native type of app architecture.   1. “Cloud-Native”: What It Means & Key Patterns A cloud-native technology enables you to build and to run your scalable app in a dynamic environment: a public, private or hybrid cloud.  To give you just a few examples of specific techniques supporting the “cloud-native” approach: immutable infrastructure, containers, service meshes, declarative APIs.  What they do precisely is enable loosely coupled systems. This way, you get to ship new features faster, with less effort, more predictably and with zero impact on the end user's experience.   2. What Is a Cloud-Native Application in Plain Words? The most concise definition possible would be: It's an application developped using cloud-based technologies, fully hosted and managed in the cloud. Do you sense the underlying difference between a “cloud-based” and a “cloud-native” application? While the first one might be an older app re-architected to run properly on a cloud operating system, the second one has been hosted in the cloud from the very beginning. It runs in cloud end-to-end... Meaning that it has been written, tested and deployed in the cloud, using technologies and services that are cloud-based and not just rehosted, subsequently, to a cloud computing environment. That opposed to the (just) cloud application. Now, if we were to highlight the traits that set them apart from traditional applications, I would sum them up to 3:   they're built with agility and high flexibility in mind, which translates into better security, top performance, and improved customer experience … and into the high speed at which you can run new features, apply changes and, overall, customize your app there's no monolithic software codebase that they depend on; instead, they're built in a modular manner, leveraging multiple infrastructures and cloud computing frameworks    3. 3 Defining Characteristics of a Cloud-Native App “What is a cloud-native application?” is a question that calls for another one: “What are its definining features?” In other words, how can you identify a cloud-native application? Let me trim down the long list of traits to the most specific ones:   they're not limited to certain public cloud infrastructures they scale better since they tap into the cloud platform's elasticity they're built using a set of cloud-specific DevOps methodologies, technologies, and architectural approaches: lightweight container environments, infrastructure as code, microservices, orchestration   4. Why Would You Develop a Cloud-Native App? 7 Main Reasons If you think that the above-mentioned characteristics don't stand as strong enough reasons for you to opt for cloud-native development, here are some more convincing ones:   4.1. Managing Your Infrastructure Gets Easier Let the serverless handle it for you!  With serverless platforms like AWS Lambda and Azure Functions, operations like configuring your networking, provisioning cloud instances and making sure there's enough storage will get automatically taken care of. All there's left for you to do is upload your code as functions...   4.2. Cloud-Native Apps Are Resilient to Failures “What is a cloud-native application?” It's that “ideal” app that ships with built-in self-healing. Therefore, expect it to handle outages automatically, to be inherently fault-tolerant. If trouble strikes, you cloud-native app processing will move from one data center to another promptly and discreetly. In short: the end user's experience won't get affected and you don't need to worry about downtime costs.   4.3. You Can Release Your Apps Faster Since it supports DevOps processes — streamlining key operations like build, test, deployment automation and collaboration — your cloud-native app will speed up the whole software delivery process.    4.4. Lower Costs And the 4 key reasons behind the inevitable reduction of costs are:   containers: containerizing your app will enable you to manage it easier and safer cloud-native tools, which lead to a certain standardization of the tooling the open-source model the serverless computing, which supports a pay-per-use model and enhances flexibility in pricing   4.5. Your App Scales Automatically to Accommodate Your Growing Needs One of the main attributes of a cloud-native app's architecture is auto-scaling. Basically, your app will scale, by default, to handle your future business needs. And this reflects in the costs, as well: you'll get charged only for the computing resources that you'll use.   4.6. You App Supports Auto-Provisioning Just imagine: your business-critical app will run non-eventful, using an on-demand allocation of services right from the app. It will automatically tap into self-service and programmatic provisioning, so you don't need to manually provide them with the resources they need to run smoothly.   4.7. You'll Provide a Better Customer Experience And it's quite predictable since the cloud-native principles revolve around a fast shipment of new features and continuous iteration.   The END! Is my answer to your “What is a cloud-native application” question clear enough? And what about the above-listed reasons to opt for this type of app development architecture? Are they relevant enough for your own scenario? Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay ... Read more
RADU SIMILEANU / Jul 22'2019
Drupal on Blockchain: Why Would You Want to Decentralize Your Drupal Network?
Just imagine: you update content on one of your Drupal websites and it gets automatically synchronized across your whole network! That's Drupal on Blockchain in just a few words... Say you manage a national library's infrastructure of Drupal websites. One for each one of its local branches. Now, here's how moving all the user data stored in there from your centralized database onto a decentralized blockchain system would benefit you:   readers get to validate their own user data since there's no central entity having full (and exclusive) control over it once they've updated their user data on one of the library's websites, it'll get synchronized across the entire network the well-known vulnerability to errors of centralized multi-site structures gets eliminated; there's no longer a centralized database acting as a single point of failure the decentralized architecture speeds up any operation that gets performed across the network you'd avoid scenarios where the same reader enters his login credentials on one of the library's websites and gets asked to enter them, once again, when accessing the website of another library branch   And I would also add: increased transparency, lower transaction costs... But I'd better dive into more details on how Blockchain and Drupal can work together and how you can benefit from the decentralized architecture that they'd put together:   1. Blockchain: What You Need to Know About Its Potential But first, here's Blockchain in plain words: A decentralized shared system where multiple participants store their data, interact directly with each other, manage and keep record of their transactions. How is it different from the “old” way of managing transactions across a network?   there's no more a centralized database for storing data and transactions; participants (nodes) store it among themselves … this grants them total control over their own data/created content users involved in a blockchain network get to interact with one another freely, with no need of a third-party as an intermediary it establishes a system of rule-based transactions each transaction — editing, deleting content, etc. — gets documented it enhances communication between nodes/participants transactions get carried out at higher speed and, implicitly, with fewer costs with no central entity as a unique storage source, there's no single source of failure anymore enhanced transparency   In short: blockchain enables you to set up a secure and immutable architecture for your network.   2. Blockchain and a New Content Distribution Model “Transparency” is the keyword here. Decentralizing a content distribution platform would benefit both content creators and content consumers:   digital publishers become the only ones allowed to update or delete their own content consumers pay producers directly for the content they consume (written content, songs, videos, etc.)   This way: content creators get full control over their own content — there's no platform owner who could remove it to his/her liking — and get paid fairly and in real-time, for each piece of content that gets “consumed”.   3. Drupal on Blockchain: Why, How, and With What Costs? Why would you want to decentralize your CMS — in this case, Drupal — and store your data on Blockchain?  To answer your question, let me highlight just a few of the inconveniences of managing your content on a centralized Drupal database:   each transaction is explicit and irreversible it poses a higher vulnerability to errors multiple-user functionality can turn out to be a serious dread the centralized database acts as a single point of failure: if something crashes in there, the whole system is at risk updating content in your database doesn't automatically update it across your entire network of Drupal websites...   And how would the 2 technologies work together? Considering the fundamental differences between them:   Drupal uses a centralized architecture to manage content Blockchain uses a decentralized, middleman-free workflow based on a verification element   Before I try to answer your legitimate question, let me ask you this: Do you seize any similarity between Drupal's “open data” phylosophy and Blockchain's “decentralized data” principle? Now, here's how your hypothetical “Drupal on Blockchain” architecture would look like:   it'd be a much more secure, decentralized structure (you'd remove the single point of failure, remember?) since a blockchain workflow would use an immutable validation of data, it'll act as a guarantee that no content can get modified by other than its creator/distributor user data/content would be easily accessible across the entire infrastructure (take the example of an enterprise-level business, running a multi-site Drupal network) … and it'd synchronize in real-time across all your Drupal instances, as well... transactions performed within this architecture would be rule-based: every single content update or removal will get documented   “But at what costs?” you might ask. What compromises would you need to make to run Drupal on Blockchain?  What challenges should you get prepared for? Here are 2 potential “dares” to ponder upon:   first of all, integrating your current Drupal data into a blockchain system won't be quite a “piece of cake” secondly, getting the consensus of all the participants (say users whose data would be easily accessible network-wide) is also a serious issue to consider   4. Drupal Development Efforts in this Direction: The Blockchain Module This duo — Drupal and Blockchain — has generated quite a lot of talk these years. And quite a handful of promising initiatives and even prototypes have been presented (integrations with Etherium and bitcoin...) From all these initiatives of the Drupal community, I've decided to put the spotlight onto the Blockchain module (not yet covered by Drupal's privacy policy). Take it as a “scaffolding” to support your future “Drupal on Blockchain” architectures. It provides the functionality you need to:   set up your Drupal installations as blockchain nodes; ”nodes” that are independent, meaning they can get configured independently ensure that your newly set up nodes are compatible with each other   The END! This is the “why, how and at what costs” of this topic. One which has been on the lips (and on the Drupalcon slides) of members of the Drupal community for quite a while now. What do you think? Would such a decentralized Drupal on Blockchain architecture suit your own project's needs and constraints? Would you trade your central point of storage for the convenience of automated content synchronization? Photo by Clint Adair on Unsplash ... Read more
RADU SIMILEANU / Jun 28'2019
What Are the Most Famous Node.js Applications? 4 Large Scale Apps Built with Node.js
"What are some of the biggest companies using Node.js?" Some Node.js applications trafficked by... millions of users, on a daily basis, processing huge loads of data in record time... Those globally-known projects that are currently leveraging this JavaScript runtime's most powerful advantages: top performance and unmatched scalability... A legitimate question to ask yourself if you're toying with the thought of creating your own project on Node.js these days.  In this respect, here are 4 such global players who've switched over to Node.js to get inspired by:   1. LinkedIn The business-oriented social network, with over +450 million members, has been one of the first global players to feature a mobile app backend built entirely on Node.js. Why Node.js?   because it scales like no other because it outshines Ruby on Rails, the technology that the company switched from, from a performance standpoint because it's the best for calling other services; and it was critical that their app should communicate seamlessly with their database and the platform API   Main benefits for using Node.js:   they doubled their traffic capacity they speeded up the development process: both front-end and back-end mobile developers can now tap into their JavaScript skills and merge into one single team they've freed their resources, reducing the number of servers from 15 to... 4 they've boosted their app's performance on the client-side; it now runs up to 10 times faster   2. Paypal   200 million users, transactions in +100 currencies... Now, that says something about Node.js's built-in capabilities to withstand huge amounts of traffic and to overcome major data processing challenges. No wonder that this globally-known online payment service is now featuring a client-facing side web app on Node.js. Why Node.js?   because it enables development teams to use the same language, JavaScript, for both the browser and the server … and this speeds up the development lifecycle dramatically (removing the need to use Java, on one hand, and JS, HTML, CSS, on the other hand)   Main benefits for using Node.js:   they've built their application 2 times faster it's one of those Node.js applications that's got significantly lighter; it now includes 40% fewer files and 30% less code the “new” network app now serves twice as many requests per second   3. Netflix, One of the Highest Traffic Node.js Applications  Netflix's user interface is the perfect example of how Node.js's built to cope with massive loads of traffic and data-intensive streaming scenarios... In short: you have a global streaming service, a heavy network infrastructure of 130 million users, with its server-side rendering powered by Node.js. Why Node.js?   because it simplifies and streamlines the whole development process: developers now get to use JavaScript for both client-side and server-side coding because it ships with a rich collection of modules for any functionality they might need to implement because it's just... fast; speed and load time sure are some critical aspects to consider in case of a high traffic video content provider like Netflix   Main benefits for using Node.js:    a modular, lightweight and fast application: load time has been reduced by 70% they've cut down their build times dramatically (with JavaScript now being the only language used for both the back-end and the front-end of their app) user customization is now possible   Note: Netflix's UI is, no doubt, one of the most successful Node.js projects out there and it's not just their app's skyrocketing popularity that confirms it, but the company's own intention to move their data access layers to Node.js, as well.   4. Uber Connecting drivers and passengers worldwide, the ever-growing online transportation network dependeds on a system with outstanding data processing capabilities. And Node.js excels at I/O-intensive tasks...  Why Node.js?   because it scales like no other, coping with an increasing demand for mobile taxi services because it's designed to support distributed systems sending a heavy load of network requests because it gets constantly and continuously upgraded by its dedicated open source community because it's built to process massive amounts of data in record time, risk-free because it provides quick error analysis and almost instant code deployment; programs get scanned through and new code deployed in... no time   Main benefits for using Node.js: Uber is one of those Node.js applications processing +2 million remote procedure calls within one second; even when challenged to withstand high spikes of traffic...   The END! Are these heavy-weight names convincing enough? Are these 4 large scale and top performant Node.js projects inspiring enough for you? Photo by Marianne Krohn on Unsplash  ... Read more
Adriana Cacoveanu / Jun 25'2019
Laravel or Drupal 8? What Are the Key Differences? Which One Best Fits Your Use Case Scenario?
What does Drupal 8 do that Laravel does not? What key functionalities, that Drupal ships with, do you need to build from scratch in Laravel? And how would opting for Laravel benefit your specific type of project? In short: Laravel or Drupal 8? “It's like comparing apples to oranges” some might say since one's a framework and the other one a CMS. Even so, if it's unclear to you what are their particular use cases and their built-in features, you won't know whether it's a CMS or a framework that best suits your project type, right? That best serves your project-specific needs:   to be super fast to leverage a solid, off-the-shelf content management system for publishing different pieces of content on the website to feature an easy to scale database to support multisite to tap into robust user and content management features that are already implemented to be built on top of a solid framework acting as a reliable back-end application to leverage a highly intuitive admin user interface to be 101% secure to leverage a mixture of server and client-side logic   Now, keep your list of project requirements and constraints at hand to evaluate these 2 technologies' pros and cons against it:   1. Drupal 8: Top Benefits, Main Drawbacks, and Specific Use Cases If a robust user and content management system is critical for your project, then Drupal 8 makes the smartest choice. It's that “thing” that Drupal excels at that, which would take you a whole lot more time to do in Laravel. And it's not just its robustness that might “lure you in”, but the level of convenience that it provides: a lot of the essential features and functionalities that you might need are already built-in. Moreover, you can easily manage them and custom-tune them via your admin interface... By comparison, you'd need to build these functionalities, from the ground up, if you chose to go with Laravel.   Top benefits:   you can rest assured that your website runs on a particularly robust, Symfony-based CMS there's a huge, dedicated community backing it up you get to create various content types, for different parts of your website, assigned with different roles; unlike basic CMSs, that enable you to write... posts and to create new web pages you can set up different editorial workflows and assign specific user roles, with fine-grained access control you can always further extend its CMS-specific functionalities: extensibility is one of the strongest Drupal 8 benefits   Main drawbacks:   you do need a team of Drupal experts (senior-level preferably) to keep an eye on your Drupal 8 website/app and keep everything properly maintained you can't get away with a “get it up and running and... move on” type of philosophy; Drupal 8 is a more of a long-term commitment: there's always a newly launched promising module to consider adding on, a new update to run...   Specific Use Cases for Drupal 8:   large-scale projects that depend on a robust and reliable content management system; one that withstands an intense, ongoing process of creating, editing and publishing lots of fresh content Laravel or Drupal 8? Definitely the later if it's a multi-site, multi-language web project that you plan to develop; not only that it streamlines content publishing  across your whole network, but it significantly speeds up localization thanks to its server-side caching capabilities   It means that no matter the place on the globe where that your users might be located, they get to access your web pages and have them loaded... instantly.   2. Laravel: Pros, Cons, and Project Types that It's Best Suited For Laravel stands out as a highly reputed, powerful PHP framework.  If:   maintainability is one of your biggest concerns you're looking for a robust framework you need to carry out your project fast enough you need a framework that ships with all the latest functionalities   ... then Laravel is what you need.   Top Benefits:   a fast-growing, devoted community you can easily integrate LDAP authentication  it leverages the Model-View-Controller architecture it's just... fast provides you with a great admin user interfaces it “spoils” you with intiutive, beautifully written code it ships with a heavy “toolbox”: scan through and pick the most suitable one(s) for your project in-built code for social login and sending out emails everything you might need to set up during the development process is right there, already integrated into your code: cron jobs, database queries, routes...   Main drawbacks:   more often than not identifying performance issues isn't that straightforward upgrading to the latest version of Laravel can turn out to be quite a challenge: be prepared for “buggy scenarios” and for the need to rewrite code you can't just jump straight to Laravel: learning the basics of OOPS first things first is a must   Specific Use Cases:   your project needs a back-end application (rather than an off-the-shelf CMS) when the benefits of the MVC architecture (faster development process, suitable for large-scale projects, multiple views, etc.) are critical for the given project  whenever you need to mix client-side with server logic whenever time is the main concern for you: you just need your project developed super fast   3. So... Laravel or Drupal 8?  Now, I'm sure that you already anticipate my answer: The choice depends strictly on your project requirement and objectives. On your own hierarchy of priorities in terms of features and functionalities. And depending on these key aspects, that should be clearly defined, one technology will benefit you over the other. So... what type of project are you looking to build? Photo by Raquel Martínez on Unsplash  ... Read more
Adriana Cacoveanu / Jun 20'2019
How You Can Improve the On-Site Search User Experience: 8 Simple Best Practices- Part 2
Have you got the chance to apply the simple tweaks and techniques shared with you in the first part of this post? Ready now to further improve the on-site search user experience by focusing on the usability of your internal search results? For, in vain you make your search box fully visible and usable if the options that the user gets once he/she enters his search phrase are just... irrelevant, unhelpful. That's why in today's post we'll be shifting focus from the search box to the internal search results themselves: What can you do, as a website owner, to ensure that your search functionality triggers the most relevant, most useful options only?   5. Improve Your Page Load Speed “Don't make your website visitors search for the... search bar!” is equally critical as: “Don't keep your users waiting too long for the search results to get displayed!”  Speed is crucial, so make sure you've applied all the due techniques. And there sure are a lot, ranging from common sense ones to truly sophisticated performance tweaks to keep your page load speed below... 3 seconds. Note: If loading takes more than 2-3 seconds, just get resourceful. Display a progress indicator or a suitable animation to keep users distracted from the waiting process.   6. Prepare a Back-Up for the “No Results to Display” Scenarios How are you planning to manage the “empty searches” situations?  For, there will be instances when there's no content on your website that could possibly match the users' search terms. In this case, you can always apply the 2-step “emergency plan” to improve the on-site search user experience:   first, you make sure that your search functionality has scanned your entire website content: PDFs and other file formats, CMS pages and full copy here included, not just metadata, etc. you present them alternative search options related, to some extent, to their entered queries: broad matches, contextual category links, etc.   Word of caution: providing a list including all the categories on your website or displaying top searches do not qualify as alternative search suggestions that could boost the UX.   7. Improve the On-Site Search User Experience: Add Filtering Options Another one of the highly effective internal site search best practices is adding filters that narrow down the user's options to the most relevant ones. For instance, you could segment their search options into “Blogs”, “Support”, “Products” etc. and thus speed up the search process. Note: set up your analytics so you get the most of them; the most relevant data that you can then use to constantly optimize your filters   8. Leverage Semantic Search to Provide More Relevant Search Results Tune the result relevancy and you'll improve the on-site search user experience.  In your quest for relevancy, semantic search makes your most powerful ally:   the whole process taking place “behind the curtains” will be much more than a mere keyword matching, thanks to natural language processing. you avoid the risk of frustrating the user by returning too many search results instead of displaying the most relevant ones only you won't convey the message that you have no regard of the user's effort to enter a specific, long-tail query a semantic search implementation leverages a “context vs intent” formula and generates results that are 100% relevant to the user's search intent...   Note: if you can't make use of semantic search on your website, there's always a better alternative than the free text search box. For instance, you could set up a constrained search and guide the user towards the most relevant search phrase... The END! These are the last 4 simple techniques that you can apply to improve the on-site search user experience.  Now, to sum up the key advice that we've shared with you in this 2-part blog post:   search result relevancy should be your main goal a well-designed UI is worthless without a well thought-through logic behind it predictive and semantic search should be the pillars that you base your on-site search function on... Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay   ... Read more
Adriana Cacoveanu / Jun 17'2019
How You Can Improve the On-Site Search User Experience: 8 Simple Best Practices- Part 1
Are you using your website's search functionality to its full potential? Do your users always get the most relevant site search results? Do you think... it could be better and you wonder how you could improve the on-site search user experience? Now, let me guess: you'd want to optimize it quick and easy, by just incorporating some simple internal search best practices into your optimization routine. It can be done. We've already selected 8 easy-to-apply techniques to boost the user experience from the on-site search standpoint.  But first, let's clear up a few key aspects:      optimizing the internal search user experience doesn't mean just checking that your search box gets, displayed on your targetted web pages and that it delivers some... results opting for an on-site search tool that ships with built-in search functionality doesn't automatically guarantee you the best on-site search user experience your implemented site search tool won't just work on its own, by default, with no “tweaking” effort from your side   In short: there's more to the user experience than the user interface (the fact that the well-designed search box gets displayed is not enough).  And in this respect, the relevancy of your site search results is key and, in order to achieve it, you need to consider the whole logic behind the UI, as well. Now, let's pinpoint these 8 best practices that'll help you improve the on-site search user experience. They're aimed at enhancing the usability of both your search box and your search result page.   1. Make Sure Your Search Box Has a Clear Call to Action  Is the user action of your search box... self-evident? Is it obvious for your website users, the instant they land on that page, that that is a... search bar? Now, here are a few tips to ensure that your search box does have a clear call to action:   support your text prompt with a “Find” or “Search” button or with a magnifying glass icon pay attention to your search box's design; make sure it leaves no room for ambiguity over what role it serves enter a placeholder text (“Find events”, “What are you looking for” etc.) in your search bar 2. Give Users Predictive Search Suggestions on Their Entered Queries Another effective way to optimize the on-site search user experience is by giving them a helping hand with... entering the right input. Predictive search suggestions and autocomplete drop-down menus will narrow down their search term options and speed things up.  What you can do is to make sure that:   your drop-down suggestions display “in category” search results your autocomplete suggestions partly disclose specific content (maybe even pairing it with images, as well)   Note: in order to enhance readability, feel free to highlight the matching parts between the user's entered query and the query suggestions provided by your search function.   3. Improve the On-Site Search User Experience: Make It Visible An apparently insignificant UI improvement like:   making your search box wider putting it on a more visible section on a web page or even site-wide   … will definitely boost the user experience. And here are some actionable tips for you to make your search box more visible:   make sure the input field is wide enough to accommodate a minimum of 27 characters don't “bury” it in a hamburger menu don't reduce it to a small, easy to miss icon don't put it too close to boxes triggering different CTAs (e.g. the sign in box) display it on every relevant web page on your site   And also, a few simple best practices on how to make your search box more... usable, as well:   consider triggering search interface in a separate window if your website's a multiple-category one (e.g. an online store) consider opting for an overlay search window if you have infinite scrolling functionality implemented on your website make sure the search bar changes its color/size when the user hovers over, just to signal its functionality use a flashing cursor to prompt the user to enter his/her query   4. “Train” Your Search Function for Imperfect User Input Scenarios Another basic, yet effective way to improve the on-site search user experience is by preparing your search function to handle the imperfect search queries... gracefully. In other words, it should be perfectly adapted to deliver search results even when users enter:   synonyms stop words singular or plural variants casing numbers misspellings   … in the search bar.  Note: remember to display the user's original misspelled phrase, as well, and to accompany it with a clear search option, relevant for his/her initial query...   END of Part 1. Stay tuned, for we have 4 more tips to share with you on how to improve the on-site search user experience. “Tips” that address search result page usability issues, as well. Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay ... Read more
Adriana Cacoveanu / Jun 07'2019
Using Drupal for Project Management and Team Collaboration: 2 Drupal Distributions to Consider
“Can I use Drupal for project management?” Definitely.  Given all its content-oriented baked-in capabilities — file management, version control, easy content creation, and editing — Drupal makes the perfect software for:   managing your projects the easy and the... smart way streamlining communication among your team members and with your contractors   In this respect, Drupal provides its own feature-rich distributions to help you put together your robust setup in no time. “Distributions” that come already packed with a set of useful sub-modules and themes, that all support the core functionality: project management (and smooth collaboration). And without further ado, here the 2 most popular Drupal distributions for project management and team collaboration for you to evaluate first: RedHen and Open Atrium.   1. RedHen CRM       Loaded with robust and modern features, this Drupal-native CRM is designed with flexibility in mind. Meaning that it integrates seamlessly with the enterprise solution that you're using (Blackbaud, Salesforce) and it supports a wide range of use cases... And speaking of its functionalities:   engagement tracking and monitoring data management: information about your contacts, the relationships among them and with your own company (e.g. memberships) event registration integration one-page donation forms to custom-tune to your liking   As for those many use cases that this Drupal distribution's built to accommodate, let's pick just a few real-world examples:   It's the best choice if smoothly integrating your CRM with your other enterprise solutions is critical for you   It streamlines tracking interactions with your contacts and organizations. Furthermore, since you can easily integrate it with your website, you get to leverage the provided data in order to adjust the user experience accordingly...   It allows you to customize it and thus to give it a Drupal-like look and feel: to integrate it with modules like Rules or Views, to go for the same field creation UI, etc.   Is your contacts list a huge one? This CRM comes to your rescue with some powerful baked-in tools: an efficient find-and-dedupe interface, an automated filter built in the UI, that you can use to filter your contacts by specific fields, etc.   It automatically syncronizes data in your Contacts list with any newly updated data on your Drupal Users list   In short: RedHen CRM makes one of the top choices when you consider using Drupal for project management purposes. It's a lightweight, self-contained framework, more of a “cluster” of multiple specialized modules:   Organization Activity Fields Organization Group Dedupe Registration and a few more...   2. Open Atrium    Looking for a Drupal-native distribution built around the team collaboration functionality? One that should be:   convenientyly extensible “loaded” with robust collaboration and information sharing features?   Then Open Atrium fits the profile in the slightest detail. Built on top of the Organic Groups and Panopoly modules, it's a framework flexible enough to support discussion configurations by key criteria like team, project, organization... And here are some more powerful features worth considering when you're still thinking whether you should use Drupal for project management:   an access control system, that grants granular control to certain sections of your project a drag and drop layout with plenty of widgets to select from for customizing your landing pages and dashboard file storing and sharing features built-in Events, Files, Discussions, Issue Tracking, Document Wiki an easy to customize, responsive theme   The END! These are but 2 viable answers to your “Can I use Drupal for project management and team collaboration?” type of question. 2 of the options available that best meet some of your main requirements when looking for a project management software:   to be easy to use to ship with an entire collection of file management and communication features to be flexible enough and allow quick customization and seamless integrations   Have you tried other Drupal modules/distributions built around this functionality so far?  Image by jessica45 from Pixabay ... Read more
Adriana Cacoveanu / Jun 06'2019
Migrating from Magento 1 to Magento 2: A 7-Step Plan to Migrate Your Theme, Extensions and Data
On one hand, you “crave” improved site performance, improved checkout process, improved scalability and all the other improvements that Magento 2 “seduces” you with. On the other hand, just the thought of risking to compromise your data, your Magento extensions or the various customizations in your store simply... paralyzes you. It's obvious: you need a bulletproof, actionable and 101% safe plan for migrating from Magento 1 to Magento 2... A step-by-step guide to:   reduce some of the intimidating complexity of the process  secure each one of its phases (from the preparation phase to the data migration phase... all the way to deployment) streamline it   Well, here it is: the 7-step migration roadmap that you need to safely and efficiently structure your Magento 2 migration process.   1. Evaluate Your Current Implementation and Try to Estimate Your Migration Effort The first step to take in the preliminary part of your plan is to review your Magento 1 implementation. Start by assessing your current environment and setting it against this list of Magento 2 software and hardware requirements:   PHP: 7.0.13+ or 7.1.x +2G of Ram MariaDB 10.0,10.1,10.2 or Percona 5.7 or MySQL: 5.6, 5.7 PHP extensions: soap, curl, mcrypt, gd, iconv, PDO/MySQL, openssl, intl, ctype, bc-math, libxml etc.   Next, take some time to analyze your current e-commerce store's provided user experience, extensions, configurations... Then, reflect on the following key questions:   How many storefronts and domains are included in your Magento 1 architecture? Needless to add that moving a highly customized multi-site infrastructure is going to be a lot more challenging than migrating a single store... How large is your current store (run an inventory of all your products, users, attributes, orders, categories)? How bulky is your ecosystem of third-party extensions, Magento core customizations, custom themes, various integrations (CRM, ERPs)? It's only after you've performed an in-depth analysis of your current online store (or multi-store) that you can roughly estimate the migration complexity. Word of caution: remember to backup your Magento 1 online store (secure your folders, database, and files) and to always migrate data from your cloned database instead of transferring it straight from your live online store...   2. Make an Inventory of Your Extensions: Search for Similar Versions in Magento 2 And this step makes a perfect opportunity to... declutter: Run an inventory of all the extensions on your current e-store and decide which ones are to be kept and which of them you should let go of... Next, divide your “pile” of extensions into 3 categories:   Magento 1 extensions with corresponding versions in Magento 2 Magento 1 extensions with third-party alternatives instead  Magento 1 extensions that were custom-built for your current store, that you now need to rebuild Run a 1:1 analysis and identify the extensions, themes and custom code on your e-commerce store that are compatible with Magento 2...   3. Migrating from Magento 1 to Magento 2: Choose the Right Migration Tool In this respect, the Magento 2 data migration tool is a highly reputed one. It will greatly streamline the whole process, but do keep in mind that:   you'll still need to write custom code to seamlessly merge data into the new platform you'll need to adjust your custom code to fit in; for instance, tables and columns aren't considered standard dataset in Magento 2   Note: now it's the best time to reconsider your third-party extensions. Do they really compensate for all those data entries and product parameters that they injected into your Magento 1 store? If you still consider them relevant and valuable enough to be moved over to your new Magento 2 store, you might want to consider the Magento 1 to Magento 2 code migration tool for this.   4. Migrate Your Theme And this will be possible only if:   your current Magento 1 theme is compatible with Magento 2 there is a version of your current theme available in Magento 2   If not, if you've been running your e-commerce website on a custom theme, let's say, then you can either:   create a whole new theme from the ground up purchase a Magento 2 theme   Note: this is also that step of your “migrating from Magento 1 to Magento 2” roadmap where you integrate your new online store with your key corporate systems.   5. Migrate Your Extensions  As already mentioned, there are 3 possible actions that you can take regarding your current load of extensions:   check whether they have Magento 2 counterparts if so, incorporate those Magento 2 versions into your new store if not, integrate some brand new extensions, that provide the same or similar functionality   6. Migrate Your Code Customizations Rely on the Code Migration toolkit for this and let it do all the heavy lifting that the code migration process involves. Word of caution: after you've let it perform its function, remember to go back and focus on all those files that need manual editing.   7. Migrate Your Data  As already mentioned, the Magento 2 Data Migration Tool is one of your most reliable “allies” in migrating from Magento 1 to Magento 2.  And I'm referring here to the orders stored in your store, products, settings and configurations, categories and so on... How do you use it? It's no more than a 5-step process:   Use Composer to install the tool Enter your authentication keys (Magento Marketplace > Sign in > Click on My Access Keys) or generate a new pair configure your tool migrate your Magento 1 store's settings (system/store configurations, shipping, tax settings...) Migrate your data by entering this command: php bin/magento migration:data --reset <path to your config.xml>   Next, it's testing time: test, test, test, then... test some more! Check whether your new Magento 2 store works properly. Make sure you run your performance analysis and optimization process on real data. This way, you can check whether the actual Magento 2 store is capable to withstand real-life loads of data... Also, do keep in mind to update the existing data with the newly added one before deploying your Magento 2 store. And that because at this point you might end up with identical data: identical products, users, categories... Once you've fixed this issue, you only need to pick the right time — preferably not the “peak traffic” hours on your website — to launch it...   The END! Have I missed any key step(s) that anyone migrating from Magento 1 to Magento 2 should take?  Image by Ross Mann from Pixabay ... Read more
Silviu Serdaru / May 31'2019
Cache API in Drupal 8: How Is It Any Different from Drupal 7 Cache System?
What makes the Cache API in Drupal 8 any better than Drupal 7's cache system? What's so revolutionary about it? Which of the old limitations does it remove? What are those new concepts and terminology that you should learn about? And, most of all: how complex is it to set up a cache in Drupal 8 for a specific use case? You might have already bumped into terms like “max-age”, "context cache" or "cache tags".   But how precisely do these new concepts, part of Drupal 8's cache system, refine and streamline the way you cache data on your website?   Let's try to demystify the terminology of Drupal 8's Cache API and to translate its new “fancy” terminology into... crystal-clear benefits for you:   1. What Is Caching More Precisely? Why Do We Cache Data? To your “What” question I'd answer:   Caching is a... strategy (or layer) for storing data from your website. Or: it's a software or hardware component where you store your data.    Why would you want to store your data?   Because this will streamline the way your website serves all future requests for that cached data.   And it goes without saying that reading data straight from the cache takes less time than... retrieving it from a slower data container or fully recreating the result. In short: caching data translates into faster page load time. 2. Cache API in Drupal 8: The Automatic Cache System A brief, yet accurate definition of cache in Drupal 8 would be:   Storing data that takes too long to load.   And if I am to detail it a bit I'd have to add that:   Caching can be either permanent or time-limited and that you're free to cache any type of data on your website.   Now, talking about Drupal 8's cache API, what everyone points out is that: it is much improved. That it's so different from the cache systems of the previous Drupal versions that... you even risk turning your website uncachable if you're not familiar with its new concepts.   “But how different/sophisticated can it be?” you might ask yourself.   Before we delve deep into details let me add just one thing:   We're talking about an... automated cache system. Basically, your Drupal 8 website retrieves cache data for both anonymous and logged in users with no configuration whatsoever. All by default.   And now, let's shed some light on all these new fancy concepts that the Cache API in Drupal 8 is based on:   2.1.The Cache Tags We all do agree that “invalidating cache” is one of the most challenging tasks of any cache system. Luckily, not anymore. At least not in Drupal 8, where you now have the concept of “cache tags” that you can use for tagging:   specific pages specific page elements various types of content   … and thus invalidate them all. Improved efficiency and high accuracy through... basic tagging. Basically, using these cache tags you can easily identify outdated data stored in multiple cache bins and... invalidate it. This way, you no longer run the risk of invalidating “still green” cache items, in bulk, not knowing which data to invalidate.   2.2. The Context Cache Here's an all too common scenario:   You're faced with multiple variants of the same data; only one of them should be cached, based on a specific criterion like language, user, country, content access permission...   Well, how do you automate targetting the right variant to be cached? And how do you automate caching the other left variants, as well, depending on the... context. You use “cache contexts”, that's how... They're one of those new remarkable features that the Cache API in Drupal 8 ships with, that allow you to specify the criteria to be used to vary for the cached content on a page. By user, by language, by country, by path...   2.3. The Max-Age (The Cache Duration) Maybe you don't want certain data to be forever cached. Maybe you need it stored for a certain period of time only. In this respect, the “max-age” property in Drupal 8's cache system allows you to define that time limit. To invalidate data that will have run... out of time.   2.4. The Bubbleable Cache Metadata What does this even mean “cache metadata... bubbling”? Let's take this example:    You have a parent item with its own “family” of... children items. In this context, “bubbled tags” makes it possible for the parent item in this render array to receive cacheability metadata from its children.   Bubble cache metadata streamlines the whole process of invalidating outdated cached data. As simple as that...   The END! Is it any clearer for you now what makes the Cache API in Drupal 8 so powerful? How its new features come to remove most of the limitations that you've already faced in Drupal 7? And how you can use them to refine and automate caching on your own Drupal 8 website? Image by Pexels from Pixabay   ... Read more
RADU SIMILEANU / May 24'2019