It’s almost the beginning of the year and certainly the time where IT budgets are reassessed and systems priorities are established. On your list might be SharePoint upgrades – maybe you are finally kicking off your move from SharePoint 2007 to 2010, or perhaps your company likes the (relative) bleeding edge and is moving to SharePoint 2013. In any case, SharePoint upgrades are not something to be taken lightly.

Here are some considerations and pitfalls to avoid as you go about planning and executing SharePoint upgrades.

Be wary of attempting an upgrade directly without third-party software

 Many vendors in the SharePoint ecosystem have created automated tools and utilities that will assist you in many of the stages of the SharePoint upgrade or migration. These tools can help you perform a detailed inventory of the content you already have, and then through an easy to use interface, build out a site collection and site structure in your new upgraded environment, and essentially drag and drop content to its new location – capabilities that the in the box tools that Microsoft provides do not support. Additionally, these third party tools generally support moving directly to a new version of SharePoint without having to upgrade individually to each intermediary version; for example, Microsoft does not support upgrading SharePoint 2007 right to SharePoint 2013, but by using a third party product you can perform this upgrade without wasting your time moving in incremental steps.

Know that in-place upgrades are not supported

Unlike some Windows upgrades, you can’t just perform SharePoint upgrades by sticking the installation DVD in your drive (or attaching the ISO file to your virtual machine, more likely) and clicking Next through a wizard. While it may technically be possible to carry out SharePoint upgrades from one version to another on the same machine, if things go pear shaped, Microsoft will not stand behind you. Here is one of many scenarios where virtualization is your friend—simply spin up an identical virtual machine to carry out your migration and upgrade and then decommission the source servers when you have verified everything is working. Obviously, if your SharePoint upgrades involve moving your deployment to SharePoint Online or Office 365, then this is not a real problem for you.

Don’t just fall for the ‘database attach’ upgrade to SharePoint 2013

If your organization is currently running SharePoint 2010, you are most likely considering an upgrade to the next version of SharePoint. You might think you can just take your current SharePoint 2010 database and pretty much port it over to SharePoint 2013. And technically, this is true—you can simply attach your previous database to the new SharePoint 2013 deployment. But that misses the opportunity, and frankly, the need, to think about your current architecture and consider whether it makes sense to carry forward into your company’s SharePoint 2013 era.

Take the opportunity to question all of your current assumptions

 Many of the new features in SharePoint 2013 require some architectural changes and differences in the way you have set things up, and some features are available that may make your structure unnecessary. For instance, for a SharePoint 2013 upgrade, the SharePoint search crawler now runs continuously. There is no longer a requirement to put sites in certain areas for search to learn to index them or show them in a query result. Additionally, the Content Query web part, which in earlier versions of SharePoint was only able to search within one site collection, has been deprecated in favor of the Content Search web part, which lets you index and return results for content stored in multiple site collections. So if you had structured your SharePoint deployment around site collections specifically set up to optimize content location to get search results working, you may take the opportunity with a SharePoint upgrade to rethink your architecture. Don’t just attach your database and go. Reconsider all of your assumptions upon commencing a SharePoint upgrade.

Many times, SharePoint upgrades are what causes companies to evaluate running workloads in the cloud, either with SharePoint or another cloud based collaboration tool like Huddle. By using a cloud service, you eliminate future worries about upgrade paths, requirements, third party tools, and larger architecture decisions.  Many times, cloud vendor support is available when you adopt the new product or service to help you with your migration as well, saving you some headache.


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