Drupal Best Practices Within Acquia Cloud Site Factory

In today’s super-competitive marketplace, staying ahead of the competition means being able to respond to changing markets instantly. Launching a new marketing campaign, a new brand, or even a new family of brands can mean the difference between success…or trailing the pack. Acquia Cloud Site Factory offers a turnkey solution for deploying one site—or hundreds of sites—quickly and efficiently, without sacrificing the branded experience expected by your visitors.

Today, I want to talk about how Site Factory turns your IT organization into business enablers, ensuring your marketing teams can consistently craft and launch beautiful web sites in record time.

Start With Ours Or Bring Your Own Drupal Distribution

If you are new to Drupal, Acquia Cloud Site Factory provides you with the perfect starting point for building sites – the Drupal Gardens distribution. It’s an out-of-the-box Drupal site building environment with over one hundred of the most popular Drupal modules – you can think of it as a “best-of” collection from the Drupal community. If you’re already Drupal savvy and want to use your own Drupal distribution, Site Factory makes that easy too with a super easy workflow:

  1. Access your Site Factory Git code repository and check out the code repository
  2. Deploy the Site Factory connector "glue" module into your distribution.
  3. Initialize your distribution to run on Site Factory.
  4. Commit your codebase changes back into the Site Factory Git repo
  5. Deploy your codebase tag to Site Factory

That’s it! You’re now ready to build new sites with your own distro.

Customize Through Drupal Best Practices

A key part of Drupal’s value proposition is the ability for developers to add custom modules to extend the Drupal feature set to meet marketers’ site feature requirements. With Site Factory, you’ll have full, self-service freedom to add the modules required to create the digital experiences your visitors expect.

Site Factory provides a central Git repository in which you manage the Drupal codebase that powers all Site Factory sites. Just add a SSH key to your Site Factory account and you’ll have command-line access to the Git repository, enabling you to check in your own custom module code or any of the thousands of contributed modules available from drupal.org.

Site Factory also allows you to add custom Drupal themes so you'll be able to create the amazing visual experiences that are critical to your brand’s identity, while keeping your marketing team happy. You have a couple of options for working with themes, depending on whether you are using the Drupal Gardens distribution or your own. If you’re using the Gardens distro, you can use the ThemeBuilder point-and-click WYSIWIG interface in the Drupal Appearance tab to customize your site’s appearance. The ThemeBuilder is optimized for use with Drupal Gardens’ base themes so you won’t be able to add custom Drupal themes to the Gardens distro if you require the ThemeBuilder.

If you don’t need the point-and-click convenience of ThemeBuilder and your designers prefer to work with a version control system, the Site Factory allows you to deploy custom Drupal themes if you are using a custom distribution, or you can disable the ThemeBuilder when using the Gardens distribution. The version control-based theming approach will be instantly comfortable to your designers and will let them manage the CSS, Javascript, and media content for their themes through per-site Git repositories.

Deploy Changes at Scale with Drupal and ACSF

Once you’ve checked in your module and theme code changes, Acquia Cloud Site Factory allows you to deploy the new code to all sites in Site Factory with confidence. With our many-site continuous integration (CI) workflow you’ll be able to dodge major code conflicts by merging module and theme changes several times a day. You’ll then be able to test your latest code in Site Factory’s many-site staging environment before deployment to all of your production sites with a single click.

Preparing the staging environment is done through the Site Factory workflow interface. Select the production sites you want replicated to staging and hit the Deploy button. You’ll get real-time status reports and logs to ensure the staging process completes smoothly. Site Factory automatically scrubs the staged sites to eliminate sensitive production data, such as user email addresses, so you don’t accidently email those users during your testing. If you experience any problems with your new code, issues will be limited to just the staging environment while your live sites continue to serve visitors as usual.

Once you’ve validated your code changes in your staging environment, you’ll be able to deploy the code release to your production environment through the Update code link in the Site Factory Administration menu. Monitor the deployment status while it’s performed automatically on all of your production sites. The deployment process sequentially places each site into maintenance mode, updates the code, performs DB updates if necessary, and then makes each site live again within minutes. This minimizes the site update impact on your site visitors, with no extended outages across all production sites while the updates take place.

The speed, flexibility, and control provided through Site Factory combine to enable marketing teams to create customized sites rapidly through a single interface. With three tiers of available service, Acquia Cloud Site Factory is the perfect platform for all your sites, whether you’re starting out with Drupal or you’re an expert who wants complete control over your own codebase.