By Janice Uwujaren
This article explores five best practices that guarantee a successful, stable, and cost-effective transition from SharePoint 2010 to SharePoint 2013.
1. Manage your Upgrade like a Development Project
If you think about it, your upgrade is a project because it fulfills a specific business need. Applying the same level of discipline to it as you would any other software or system development project offers many advantages. Not only will you streamline your upgrade execution, but you will also have a well-defined roadmap for getting your SharePoint environment from 2010 to 2013. Most importantly, this approach will ensure that all stakeholders and participants have a single vision for upgrade execution.
2. Know your Environment
One common best practice is to collect and document critical information about your current SharePoint environment. Microsoft provides an upgrade worksheet that you can use for documentation. During a trial upgrade, you can use this worksheet to verify that you have documented all components in your farm. Then use it as a checklist during and after the actual upgrade. You should continue this practice in SharePoint 2013 and update this living document as your environment changes in preparation for the next installment of SharePoint.
3. Evaluate New or Updated Upgrade Requirements
Successfully upgrading your SharePoint 2010 deployment to SharePoint 2013 depends on proper preparation, which involves assessing and comparing hardware and software requirements for both technologies. Using the information gleaned as input, you should document planned changes, potential impacts of planned changes, best practices to employ, and a well-defined strategy as you prepare to perform the upgrade. Changes to consider may include the installation of new hardware, upgrade of existing hardware, and deployment of new system software such as SQL Server 2012. You may also consider upgrading your browser to ensure full support in SharePoint 2013.
4. Complete One or More Trial Upgrades
Oftentimes, lawyers stage mock trials so that they can give their best performances in real trials. Similarly, an effective and recommended best practice is to stage your production environment and perform a trial upgrade until successful. Try to make your staged environment as parallel to the actual environment as possible, retaining the same hardware, software, URLs, database names, computer names, etc. Document aspects of the trial upgrade that worked well, identify lessons learned and best practices with the intent of improving the process for the actual upgrade. Benefits of a trial upgrade include:
1. Determining if your current upgrade strategy will work
2. Testing your environments readiness for SharePoint 2013
3. Investigating outcome of upgrade in a realistic setting
4. Planning how to deal with customizations in your environment
5. Influencing decision to upgrade hardware for better performance
6. Determining how long upgrade process will take
7. Planning upgrade resources effectively
8. Becoming familiar with the upgrade tools
9. Correcting errors
5. Test Your Environment
Testing the readiness of your SharePoint 2010 farm will uncover any possible defects, issues, or problems that you need to fix or address prior to completing an upgrade to SharePoint 2013. Conduct testing in an environment that is independent from the production farm but as similar to it as possible. This environment will allow you to perform testing in a safe and controlled manner that will have little or no impact on business operations.
Do not move forward with the final upgrade until you have fully validated your SharePoint 2010 farm. As part of the testing process, track defects, issues, and risks in a log and assign priorities to each. Run multiple tests until all issues, defects and risks have been eliminated or addressed. Resolving any issues or defects during testing is critical to achieving success in the final upgrade process to SharePoint 2013.
Jumping to the final upgrade process before understanding or testing your environment can produce undesired effects. Implementing the best practices outlined in this article will provide a solid foundation for your upgrade process and can help you avoid common pitfalls, setbacks, and heartaches.