Sitecore 8.2 officially became outdated in December of 2018. If your organization still hasn’t moved to the latest version (Sitecore 9.3) there’s no immediate need for panic. However, there is definitely a difference between Sitecore 8 and 9.
One of the most important aspects of the update is the fact that Sitecore 8.2 users no longer have access to standard vendor-side support and maintenance services.
Note: If your organization purchased “extended support,” you’re still covered for the next few years (until 2022).
What does this mean for your business? And what’s the difference between Sitecore 8 and 9? Below we cover some of the major features of Sitecore’s newest implementation, as well as go into detail regarding why it would be in your organization’s best interests to start the migration process.
The End of Sitecore 8.2
Sitecore 8.2 was released with the goal of building on the 8.x line’s core architecture (which it achieved). But, like all software, the 8.x line eventually reached the end of its lifecycle (i.e. it needed to be discontinued).
If you’re still running Sitecore 8.2 (or below), you’re probably wondering how the update to 9.x will affect your business, and what the specific difference between Sitecore 8 and Sitecore 9 is.
The good news is that your Sitecore installation will be fully functional, and if you’ve purchased an extended support plan, you’re covered until 2022 (as far as support and maintenance).
However, if you only purchased the basic support plan (i.e. “mainstream support”), unfortunately, your Sitecore installation is no longer valid to receive support/maintenance.
This means that if you experience any errors, bugs, or need support of any kind, you’ll be required to pay an additional service fee (or request service through your organization’s partner that handles its Sitecore installation).
Outdated Software = Organizational Vulnerability
Not updating your organization’s software leads you wide open to numerous vulnerabilities. Updates are released for a reason; new features, UI/UX enhancements, patching holes in bugs, stronger security measures, etc. For example, not taking advantage of a software upgrade can be incredibly detrimental to your organization’s operational capacities:
- Operational Interruptions – Not having access to the same level of support means that your internal team will need to spend far more time figuring out solutions to problems that the provider could solve much faster.
- Higher Costs – Whether you have your Sitecore partner handle your tech-related issues or your internal team, it’s going to be a lot more expensive to deal with problems related to outdated software.
- Lapses in Integration – Sitecore has numerous third-party application integration possibilities, which is one of the many reasons why so many organizations love it. Not updating to the newest version of the software will have a negative effect on integrating with third-party applications.
Sitecore 9 vs Sitecore 8: New Features, Benefits, and Upgrades
When considering the difference between Sitecore 8 and 9, one of the most important aspects to think about is that Sitecore 9 comes with integral provider-side support and maintenance services, whereas Sitecore 8 does not (since it’s been discontinued).
Beyond that, there are quite a few features to Sitecore 9 that nearly all organizations would stand to benefit from (should they choose to migrate to 9.x).
Cloud Deployment Enhancements
Since the introduction of Sitecore 9.1, new features include several major upgrades; however, one of the most interesting ones is the “Experience Cloud.”
Organizations now have the option of having their entire deployment(s) stored, managed, and secured via the cloud (through Azure PaaS).
Headless Application Support and Omni Channel Content Distribution
Coupled with Sitecore Host, Sitecore JSS technology is a main difference between Sitecore 8 and 9 – which allows Sitecore 9 users to fully enable omnichannel technology. This means that your content team is now able to work with a single content management solution.
The distribution of consistent content through all classical channels (e.g. website, mobile, digital boards, screens, etc.) as well as new channels like IoT, VR, and AR has never been easier. With Sitecore 9, you’re able to do much more than simply publish content across all of your brand’s channels.
The main aspect of Sitecore 9 that sets it apart from the competition is its ability to leverage multi-channel content distribution with advanced features such as cross-channel personalization, testing, and analytics.
Automating Marketing Tools
Brand new marketing automation toolsets that allow you to quickly deploy custom experiences to your audience(s). One of the most exciting features is the Sitecore bot detection functionality (which completely removes the need for on-page Captcha elements).
From a CX standpoint, this is a major upgrade. Other features include strong segmentation abilities along with highly customizable automation rulesets.
Sitecore’s Cortex is a brand-new feature that uses AI and machine learning technology to help your organization identify potential opportunities (as well as risks).
Cortex allows you to have a much higher level of insight into your customer’s interactions with your brand (across all channels), which can then be leveraged for enhancements to your CX strategy.
Sitecore 9 Identity Server and Federated Authentication
Sitecore 9 features an improved authentication framework represented by Sitecore Identity, Federated Authentication functionality, and Sitecore Identity server.
New functions allow users to configure complex sign-in flows and other scenarios featuring token-based authentication, single-sign-on, and API access control to various applications (e.g. implementation of OWIN authentication providers like AzureAD, Microsoft Account, Google, Facebook, Twitter, as well as the option to create custom providers).
Ensuring organizational-level GDPR compliance should be the goal of any business operating on the web, and Sitecore 9 has made several improvements in this area (and is fully compliant with GDPR rules).
The Difference Between Sitecore 8 and 9: Performance Improvements
From a performance standpoint, Sitecore 9.3 features several vast improvements over version 8:
- Enhanced reference data service
- Optimization of session state providers and the way in which they process data storage.
These improvements directly translate to a highly optimized customer experience (and a much faster backend).
Many of Sitecore 9’s newest features (such as xConnect service layer) implement a modular Service Oriented Architecture supported by Sitecore Host Framework.
This means that new services are built as .NET Core applications (completely independent from Sitecore Kernel) which allows them to be separately hosted and scaled.
Sitecore Host, introduced in Sitecore 9.1, is a framework that adds even more flexibility and extensibility for developers by sharing common services for new applications and plugins – effectively turning the whole philosophy towards microservices (with a plugin-based architecture).
One of the most interesting features of Sitecore 9.3 is blob storage. Sitecore used to store media items (e.g. documents or images) in a Sitecore database by default. However, with the introduction of blob storage, you can now store these files through Azure’s blob storage module, thereby reducing hosting costs (and improving performance).
Sitecore 9 and Salesforce CRM & Marketing Cloud
Another major difference between Sitecore 8 and 9 is that enhanced integrations (with industry-leading CRM and Marketing platforms like Salesforce) were introduced in Sitecore 9. Sitecore Experience Platform now has reciprocal syncing ability Salesforce CRM (which translates to a significant improvement in analysis capabilities).
Salesforce CRM and Sitecore Experience Platform
Sitecore 9 features several improvements to its integration with industry-leading CRM and Marketing platform, Salesforce. Sitecore Experience Platform now has reciprocal syncing ability with Salesforce CRM (which translates to a significant improvement in analysis capabilities).
Sitecore Connect for Salesforce Marketing Cloud
Sitecore Connect’s integration with Salesforce Marketing Cloud means your organization will be able to deliver personalized customer journeys via email campaigns, social media, and ad networks (based on historical engagement and interaction with your site’s content).
Sitecore Experience Commerce 9
In terms of eCommerce, Sitecore Experience Commerce 9 is a significant improvement compared to Sitecore Commerce 8.
This groundbreaking cloud-based commerce experience platform allows for a complete personalization of your audience’s journey (through every single part of the sales cycle), with new features like:
- Experience Accelerator Storefront – which includes over 40 commerce-specific ready to use components specific components. As with any accelerator, this allows for faster implementation of the solution.
- New Inventory Management tools – New capabilities to manage multi-store, multi-warehouse, and multi-site inventories, as well as track shipments, multi-currency support, and robust user notification features.
- Migration to Sitecore from legacy eCommerce is easier in Sitecore Commerce 9. Importing catalogs and customer profiles from legacy systems (and transforming them for use in Sitecore Commerce) is one of the new capabilities introduced in version 9.
- New user-generated content integration: Via partnership with Stakla – Brands are now able to dynamically streamline user-generated content across Sitecore-based stores through the User Generated Content connector.
If you’re looking to maximize your brand’s ROI while simultaneously providing your customers with highly customized experiences, Sitecore Experience Commerce 9 is the best solution currently available.
Upgrading to Sitecore 9
A couple of things that you may consider are whether or not your business would benefit from migrating, as well as whether or not your current deployment is producing results.
Upgrading to Sitecore 9 is an excellent option for businesses looking to take their web-based experiences to the next level. Increased marketing capabilities, along with several application integration-related enhancements are some of the main reasons why you should migrate.
SaM Solutions offers free consultations for Sitecore 9 migrations and has an industry-leading team with decades of experience in Sitecore support, management, and maintenance.
Dmitry KoshkinManaging Director, SaM Solutions USA