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SharePoint 2013: Preparing for the future

Putting in place the best policies for a smooth upgrade

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Microsoft SharePoint 2013 will transform the way organisations connect knowledge workers, business processes, and enterprise-wide content worldwide.

New features including enhanced document management capabilities around sharing and contributing content, improved social features, a new app model and marketplace as well as an overhauled search experience for discovery.

This means the platform is firmly positioning itself as the ideal technology for organisations to launch vital initiatives - including enterprise content management, web content management, and company-wide social collaboration.

Before organisations make the jump to Microsoft’s latest platform release, there are major points to take into consideration. A move to SharePoint 2013 means organisations may have to upgrade various end user standard operating environments (SOE) and backend infrastructure. There are also considerations for the different ways in which organisations can make the jump to SharePoint 2013 - through upgrade or migration.

While it’s easy for many to begin diving immediately into the hardware and technology specifications and options for moving to Microsoft’s latest and greatest release, it’s vital to make very clear what it is exactly you’re looking to get out of SharePoint 2013 - in other words, what is the business objective of the deployment? This will unlock the key to what type of upgrade or migration option is best for you.

Why? Depending on the business objective, requirements for SharePoint 2013's physical and information architecture may fundamentally change. For instance, if Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007 is in use today as a collaboration platform with various team sites but your organisation wishes to launch enterprise content management and application development initiatives in SharePoint 2013, the architecture will need to be evaluated to determine if it can currently scale to support the new requirements.

If re-architecting SharePoint is a goal for the move to SharePoint 2013, then tools supporting a granular migration approach - allowing for re-architecture in tandem with migration or simply moving content into the desired destination architecture - could be a requirement. Making sure you have this clear with your business and IT stakeholders first is essential in making sure there everyone’s expectations are met with the move to SharePoint 2013.

With that out of the way, organisations using previous releases of SharePoint have two main options for moving to SharePoint 2013: upgrade and migration. An upgrade involves using natively available tools from Microsoft, while a migration requires the use of a tool from a third-party vendor.
First, let’s look at the major SharePoint 2013 upgrade option: Database Attach Upgrade.

This method upgrades the environment’s content on a separate farm. While each database is being upgraded, though, the content in that database will not be available to users. On upgrade, the site collections within the content database are then in a state where they can be individually selected for the User Interface to change to the new SharePoint 2013 or be left looking like SharePoint 2010, but running on a SharePoint 2013 farm.

Please note that in-place upgrade is no longer an option like it was when upgrading to SharePoint 2010.

Now, let’s examine migration options:


  1. Manual Migration: This migration method starts with the SharePoint administrator installing SharePoint 2013 on separate hardware, then creating and configuring the new farm. Once the environment is ready, users are tasked with manually moving over their content. In some cases, Power Users or Site Owners are given responsibility for migrating over larger sets of content or recreating new web sites in the destination farm. In many cases, users must be trained on how to migrate their own data.

  2. Scripted Migration: In this method, a developer writes the scripts necessary to perform the migration in an automated way. Since SharePoint runs as a platform with rich Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and PowerShell cmdlets, this is a very robust option. Depending on the legacy source system, the custom script may also integrate with that system to ensure a more complete migration while preserving configuration and content metadata.

  3. Third-Party Migration Solution: In this method, a SharePoint farm administrator will install the new version of SharePoint 2013 on separate hardware or a separate farm. Instead of requiring users to manually migrate content or relying on developers to automate the migration using scripts, a third-party solution is used instead. The steps necessary for migrating from legacy content repositories onto SharePoint 2013 with a third-party solution are similar to the ones necessary for upgrading from prior SharePoint releases

SharePoint 2013 is primed to revolutionise the way companies do business, and it is no surprise that many organisations worldwide are already making plans to jump to the new platform. However, it’s vital to know the business objective for the SharePoint 2013 deployment - and which functionality will be utilised most - in order to properly plan. Afterward, then organisations must ensure they have the proper requirements (hardware, software, operating system) in place before deciding whether to use one of the three upgrade methods or migration methods.

As you can probably already tell, there is a lot of planning and foresight that must go into any successful upgrade or migration to SharePoint 2013 that I couldn’t get into in this blog post. For more detailed information, feel free to read the white paper I co-authored with SharePoint Evangelist Randy Williams on Upgrading or Migrating to SharePoint 2013.

Posted by Jeremy Thake, AvePoint Chief Architect and Microsoft SharePoint MVP

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