Migrating DART Creations from Joomla 1.5 to Joomla 3

DART Creations logoWe've been meaning to migrate DART Creations for a very long time. Migrating a large site is a painful experience, and needs time, effort and concentration. Up to a few months ago, we were still (shock! horror!) on Joomla 1.0 - but the End of Life of Joomla 1.5 shook us into action and the great features of Joomla 3 - we were missing out on a lot! We had to migrate asap. Our migration from Joomla 1.0 to Joomla 1.5 was relatively straightforward. Now, the even bigger migration from 1.5 to 3.0 has been finally completed. As you probably know this is a migration not an upgrade. It takes a lot of planning. In our case, this is mostly due to the fact that we use a number of Joomla extensions which are quite crucial to our site. When we do the migration, it needs to be done right!

What did we do?

Main components we want to migrate without issues:

migrating to joomla 3

 1. Content! - we have a LOT of content built over many many years - we want all of that in the site obviously

2. DOCMAN - hosts our free Joomla extensions - we have many, not a good idea to redo all of those
3. sh404SEF - we have worked hard to getting the site optimized for search engines. We needed to maintain all current links to keep all the existing links alive and well
4. ACYMailing - after have worked hard to build a healthy subscription base - it would be a bad idea to lose our subscribers to a migration
5. KUNENA - our support is powered by Kunena forums, so we wanted to make sure that all our existing solutions are still available for users to refer to
6. !JoomlaComment - powers the comments beneath our articles and also contain quite a healthy amount of moderated, non-spam content. This is also something we need to maintain

Time is of the essence here - if we took a lot of time after exporting the 1.5 database, then we would start loosing subscribed users. In order to avoid having to do the export and migration several times, we tried to make sure we had resolved all problems before we did the real migration. All in all, you will be doing quite a few test runs, especially for larger sites.

First of all, we tried to go it alone - this was extremely difficult to complete. In the end we looked at a number of components. The two main ones which we tried to use were JUpgrade, and SPUpgrade. The one which we ended up choosing was SPUpgrade. It's not free, but it did do the work very very nicely.

Kunena - it takes quite a while to get this migrated. In our case it took over 12 hours to complete the full migration, all of this on a local server so that is excluding any kind of latency. The migration is very disk intensive in general - so unless you have very good hard disk drives, good resorces on the server won't really help much.

Issues we ran across

Limitations on a shared hosting server: If you are on shared hosting, rest assured that if you have a significant amount of content you will likely hit a limit and get blocked. What happens is that whilst you are the migration, a huge number of queries are being run in a very short period of time. This will probably cause the shared hosting to hit a limit.

Workaround: Ask your hosting server to export the MySQL database of the Joomla site you want to migrate. Import the database into a local installation of MySQL and run the migration locally.

Limitations in SPUpgrade: SPUpgrade is really a great tool and most times really worked well. It is not very well documented, but it's quite intuitive. One of the things we really did not like is the fact that it does not do batching automatically. So if you have a few thousand items to migrate, then you'll have to run the migration in batches. If the batch is larger than the available memory, then you'll have to decrease the size of the batch and run the migration again. To batch items, simply specify the items from you want to start to where you want to end, e.g. 5000-10000. If you are migrating users, our experience showed it is best to migrate not more than 5000 users at once. If you have a few hundred thousand users from a few years back, that is going to be tedious and will take a long time.

Also, we had to run each extension one by one, just to make sure we didn't overwhelm it. 


If your site is large you are likely to run into a number of problems. Exporting, importing, uploading and migrating large sites is a hassle. Tools you will find useful are 

1. Your hosting support team (to export your databases)

2. FTP - to upload your new large database

3. Bigdump - to import your large new database


When we initally dreamt up the migration in mid last year, Docman migrator to Joomla 3 version did not exist. We had to postpone the migration until the migrator was released in October 2013. When this was released, it was still not possible to migrate directly from Docman 1.5 directly to Joomla 3. So you'll need an intermediate Joomla 2.5 installation, migrate everything to this installation and then migrate to Joomla 3. A bit of a pain in the neck but works well. We also had a few issues when we got the latest version of Docman up and running but the good guys at JoomlaTools did help out and provided us with a fix which sorted out or issues. Incidentally, the migrator from Joomla 2.5 to 3 is a really really simple and trouble-free experience. It simply works. Thumbs up to JoomlaTools for a job well done.

Steps to migrate Docman - Use docman exporter on your Joomla 1.5 site, export data, export configuration. Then install the Docman Importer on the Joomla 2.5 site. Once that is complete, redo the steps for the migration from Joomla 2.5 to Joomla 3. The migrator from 2.5 to 3.0 does not need multiple steps, the import export procedure handles everything.


Although many of the URLs were migrated correctly, there are much changes in the structure of the URL rewriting between Joomla 1.5 to Joomla 3.0. This was a little bit disappointing for us. However, there are some steps you can take to make sure the impact of migration is minimal. Essentially, the best you can do is

1. Setup sh404SEF such that it generates URLs which are identical to your previous installation

2. Check for aliases and 404 errors being generated from your old URLs and create a redirect to the new URL


This is the easiest migration ever. Simply export the tables from the Joomla 1.5 databse, import them to the Joomla 3 database. Install ACYMailing on the new site, and instantly every works. Easiest. Migration. Ever.


Although SPUpgrade does make an attempt at upgrading your template from Joomla 1.5 to Joomla 3.0, the attempt was noble but ultimately unsuccessful. We opted to go for a new responsive template from our friends at Joomlart. Hope you like it. We still need to tweak a lot of stuff, we're getting there slowly ;)

Joomla Modules, and other simple extensions

Your new template is highly likely to be substantially different from your old one. You'll need to rearrange the content and modules according the new positions supported by your template. You'll also might need to find new versions of old plugins you used to use if no version exists, or if the version does not integrate well.

What should you do and don't?

Don't run this on your live server - you might kill both your live site and the site being migrated.

Create a local copy on a test server and do it there. It's going to be faster and easier and with less headaches.

Test over and over. This will help you to find the problems and resolve them so that then you will do one whole clean migration after you've resolved all the problems. If you have many extensions, the likelihood is you are going to need the support of the extension author, and this might take some time to resolve. Better to have found a problem, rather than start the migration and then have to stop and redo.

Have experience with a Joomla migration? Share with us!


One more thing...

Do you have friends or a Facebook group who you think would find this useful? Share this with them and then let me know what they think.

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