Difference between Sitecore 8 and 9

Difference between Sitecore 8 and 9
21st May 2020

Discover the key differences between Sitecore 8 and 9 and how upgrading to the latest version can benefit enterprises.

Before delving into the detail on the differences between Sitecore 8 and Sitecore 9 its worthwhile to understand the importance of a Sitecore upgrade. There are two main reasons why upgrading to the latest version is paramount:

1. Security, support and performance

Sitecore provides patches and updates to its versions and falling behind on these means that your organisation risks missing out on crucial security fixes. With public websites constantly facing new threats, remaining on an old version could mean that your site is vulnerable to these security risks.

The updates not only contain security patches, but also bug fixes and performance enhancements, which help the platform to perform at its optimal level. Sitecore has a fixed support lifetime for each version of its software, this is usually three years for mainstream support and six years for extended Sitecore support. Sitting on an older version for too long will mean that your organisation will no longer have the option of applying the latest security patches or receiving support from Sitecore itself.

2. New features and innovation

The second important reason to upgrade is that your business will miss out on all of the new features and latest technology, which in the digital space can mean you lose that competitive edge. The new features which will be expanded on in the next section have been added to different versions along the platform’s evolution. Failing to keep your solution up to date simply means not seeing the best ROI possible by not fully harnessing Sitecore’s vast potential and value.

What’s the difference between Sitecore 8 and 9?

Typically, if your organisation is considering a Sitecore 9 upgrade then a reasonable considering is, is it necessary? What makes the new version of Sitecore better than our current solution?

The initial release of Sitecore 9 is now a couple of years old and with the latest Sitecore 9.3 release having dropped late last year means that there are now some very key differences between Sitecore 8 vs Sitecore 9.

Why should Sitecore 8 users upgrade to version 9?

1. Sitecore Cortex

The most notable difference between Sitecore 8 and 9 was the introduction of Sitecore Cortex, the artificial intelligence and machine learning feature. This specifically designed to empower the customer to get the most out of the platform. If your organisation’s website is still on Sitecore 8 you may be aware of something called Sitecore xDB. If not, this is where all of the data which Sitecore collects from user interactions on the platform is stored. With Sitecore Cortex this would enable teams to analyse this data and deliver more engaging customer experiences. It assists with making marketing operations more efficient and allowing for even greater insight and understanding of your customers.

2. Sitecore xConnect

Sitecore is one of the best digital experience platforms for collecting data, big data, but it has never been the easiest to share this data or add to it. Sitecore xConnect has changed that, creating a simple way to connect to Sitecore xDB where all of the valuable data is stored. This is all done following industry data standards, meaning that organisations can now easily integrate data not currently held within Sitecore.

This may not sound all that interesting or mean a lot if you’re new to the platform or have limited exposure to the technical detail. But it’s important to be aware that this is a big deal. In the past, all of the analytical data was tightly coupled with Sitecore CMS, so by decoupling Sitecore xConnect and making this available to other systems means that you’re now able to record all analytics from any interaction. You are also able to integrate this with other established systems which you may already have like a CRM. This is a huge benefit to all organisations, as it means you can finally get a unified view of all your analytical data, which in turn means you will be able to provide better engagement on your platform. This gives your business future insight into how your customers interact with the platform and with your organisation as a whole.

3. Sitecore Forms

The main difference between Sitecore 8 and 9 in terms of forms is that in Sitecore 9 the Sitecore Forms feature has been reimagined and written from scratch. The majority of websites include a variation of a form as it is a simple way to collect information from the client. In Sitecore 9 the introduction of Sitecore Forms doesn’t sound that interesting on the surface as previous versions were able to include the Web Forms For Marketers (WFFM) module. However, due to the modern demands for forms this has begun to limit their effectiveness, and thus Sitecore Forms has become a key feature. Now out of the box functionality and not an additional module. Allowing for easy to build forms via a drag and drop interface, allows marketers to quickly build multi-step forms with dynamic questions.

4. Sitecore Marketing Automation

Marketing automation in this day and age has become a necessity and Sitecore have addressed this with their new Sitecore Marketing Automation feature. Much like the forms mentioned above, there is a new drag and drop interface which allows marketers to quickly create new campaigns with goals, events and outcomes easily configurable from once centralised place.

So ‘why is it a necessity?’ you might ask. When set up correctly marketing automation can assist with enhancing the customers entire experience on the platform. As this is a new feature in Sitecore 9 it means that you can take full advantage compared to those still on Sitecore 8. By doing this you will benefit your business in numerous ways:

  • Capture higher quality leads who are closer to conversion
  • Reduce time spent on marketing personalisation
  • Track responses and conversions from improved campaigns

and this is just to name a few!

5. PaaS, subscriptions and auto scaling

Platform as a service (PaaS) is a cloud computing service which provides a platform to run applications such as Sitecore without the complexity of building and maintaining physical infrastructure. As the world moves towards a more cloud-oriented approach for a variety of services Sitecore has gotten ahead of the curve in Sitecore 9. Making some rather large changes, by making the application smaller, well smaller components that is. This allows the customer to get a lot more flexibility and scalability from the platform. By responding to different increases or decreases in traffic the platform can now scale accordingly, which in turn improves performance, while lowering running costs. This meaning that cloud hosting is now the ideal way to go.

6. Sitecore xDB

As mentioned previously Sitecore xDB is where all of the valuable data is stored and in Sitecore 8 architects were limited to MongoDB as the technology of choice. In Sitecore 9 however, with the introduction of xConnect another significant change was made to how the data was stored. Meaning now architects have a variety of choices when it comes to where this data is housed, SQL Server, SQL Azure and Cosmos DB to name a few. This means businesses can choose the technology that best matches the skill sets of those in the organisation.

7. Federated Authentication

In Sitecore 8 and below, identity management and authentication was used solely for the Sitecore website. However, with the industry looking to move towards a centralised system that houses the users identity and security information and allows other systems to connect to it, this made it difficult to do. In Sitecore 9 Single Sign On from an external provider is now standard out of the box.

Find out more about the difference between Sitecore 8 and 9 for your organisation

Making the decision to upgrade your organisation’s Sitecore solution isn’t something that’s done lightly. Considering how an upgrade can benefit your business and help move your organisation forward through digital transformation is key. Discussing the details of your upgrade options with a Sitecore Partner, that has the expertise and experience can be helpful.

We are Kagool, a digital marketing agency that specialises in the design, build and optimisation of Sitecore websites. We have been helping enterprise-level businesses achieve their digital goals since 1999 and have a team of highly skilled Sitecore experts that have smart answers to complex technical questions. Contact us today to discuss your Sitecore 9 upgrade options or to book a demo.