How to Install Drupal
Drupal is an open source content management system. At the start of 2010, the latest version is 6.15, and version 7 is promised during 2010.
There are two ways to install Drupal. I have learnt from experience that there is an easy way and another way which is quite a lot harder.
The application is open source and downloadable from www.drupal.org. It provides a range of facilities for developing and maintaining a web site. Its core functionality includes static pages, blogging and forums. It generates an RSS feed from its core content. A wide range of third party add-on modules are available to be uploaded to add additional facilities.
If like me when I started, your ISP does not provide direct Drupal installation then you are stuck with the more difficult way.
How to Install Drupal: The More Difficult Way
The installation requirements of Drupal are a web server, PHP and a database server. Apache is recommended for the web server. Drupal will work on Apache 1.3 or Apache 2.x hosted on Unix/Linux or Windows. Drupal will apparently work on Microsoft IIS5 or IIS6 if PHP is configured correctly, but I did not test this.
Drupal requires PHP, version 4.3.5 or higher is required for Drupal v6, and PHP 5.2 is recommended and will be required when Drupal 7 is released. Finally, Drupal requires the MySQL database server, and Drupal 6 supports MySQL 4.1 or higher.
The download is of a tar.gz compressed file. For the Windows user, this requires the use of the freeware 7-zip decompression utility or similar. This proceeded smoothly. In order to develop an application and learn more about the system, I tried to install Apache2triad on my Vista PC. This proved problematic, due to issues with Vista, but web research and some trial and error showed that opening a command line window and typing httpd at the C:\ prompt enabled Apache2triad to run successfully. Installation of Drupal from there proved straightforward.
Installation of Drupal to a web server depends crucially on the degree of control offered by your Internet Service Provider. It is essential to investigate this before embarking on a web installation. I use a shared server and have only limited control over the environment. I found that PHP5 made installation much smoother. My ISP does not facilitate the running of cron.php, which is necessary for the smooth running of Drupal. However, Drupal offers a module called poormanscron, which once installed appeared to be an effective workaround.
My ISP also does not support the Drupal clean URL facility, designed to improve search engine optimisation. As a result, my home page had a URL of https://www.alangillies.com/drupal-6.4/index.php?q=node. This can be addressed to a certain extent by specifying paths using the Drupal path and autopath module.
Overall for a web developer without experience of PHP and MySQL, this installation process takes some patience and research. However, the application is strongly supported by the open source community and this means that there is much useful information available on the web. The biggest barriers are the limits of your control over your environment imposed by your ISP, but workarounds appear to exist for many of the issues.
How to Install Drupal: The Easier and Better Way
After about a year with Drupal running OK, but with some frustrations and more work than seemed necessary when I wanted to make changes, I switched my TSP (Internet Service Provider) to one that was more sympathetic to Drupal. Migration involved backing up my database and copying the files from my FTP site, but the new installation was very straightforward.
Enter Control Panel. Go to Fantastico, or a similar facility, if your provider uses an alternative. Select Drupal as your preferred installation. Tell it to set up a new installation and what folder the files should live in and that’s about it. The new site has a URL of https://www.alangillies.info/academia. All the frustrations listed above were removed. Just make sure the cron job is set up to run correctly and you can do this from a menu driven system in Control Panel.
The Take Home Message
If you are a new user of Drupal and not an ubergeek, then find an ISP who supports Drupal and offers one-step installation. I wish I had! I now run four Drupal sites and a Joomla site because installation is so much more straightforward.
This post is part of the series: Drupal
Drupal is a powerful open source content management system. This series of articles reviews its usability for an intermediate user with no prior knowledge of PHP and MySQL developing on a Vista running PC and a third party server.