The terms migration, upgrade, and update are commonly used interchangeably, but they are different processes.
An Update is when you install the newest stable version of a program or extension over the top of the older version (all data and settings are retained). Updates include bug fixes, security fixes, and can include several patches. They increment update releases (sometimes called bug or patch releases) by the third digit (3.10.9 to 3.10.10) and happen ad hoc whenever needed. For example, in June, Joomla 3.10.10 was released that included a few very minor bug fixes.
We include updates as part of the weekly maintenance we do on your site.
An Upgrade is similar to an update, but will often include new features in addition to simple fixes and patches. An upgrade is when an application is moved from one minor point release to another. They increment the releases by the second digit (3.9 to 3.10) and are scheduled to happen every six months. For example, in August of 2021, Joomla 3.10.0 was released. The key new feature provided in this upgrade, was a compatibility checker that helps make the migration to Joomla 4 easier.
Upgrades are also included in the weekly maintenance we do on your site.
A Migration is the most complex as it involves “migrating” data from an old system to a new system. Migrations often include major software overhauls, and they increment releases by the first digit (Joomla 3 to Joomla 4).
Migrations involve creating a staged or sandbox version of your site (not accessible to the public) and working through the process to export all your content, extensions, templates, and data from the old software and importing it into the new software. Because of the significant software overhaul involved in migrations, the import process often causes major site errors that have to be identified and resolved. Sometimes, if sites are significantly out of date they have to be completely rebuilt in the new software version. Migrations happen years apart and have historically gotten less complicated (and less costly) with each major release of Joomla. There have only been 4 major releases (3 migrations) since Joomla was created 17 years ago.
Due to the infrequency, expertise, and time required to do migrations, these are not included in regular site maintenance. We work with our clients to plan for migrations for both Joomla and other extensions in a way that allows you to budget for the costs and causes little to no downtime for your website.