SharePoint 2010 Upgrade Options, Considerations & Best Practices

By David Kruglov posted 09-28-2010 20:48


Many companies are preparing to upgrade from earlier versions of SharePoint to the recently released SharePoint 2010 version.  As such, I thought it might be helpful to do an overview of the upgrade options and considerations.  The intention here is not to give you step-by-step instructions but more of an overview and a series of checklists, along with some best practices.

The most obvious reason to upgrade is that you need some of the new features in SharePoint 2010.  While the new features may be very attractive, it makes good business sense to do the requisite cost/benefit/risk analysis to determine how big an effort the upgrade will be and to try to ascertain the ROI for your organization.  Special consideration is warranted for large SharePoint deployments and those that include a significant amount of customization.  Furthermore, you cannot upgrade directly from Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003 to Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010.

Server Requirements

Before you do anything, you’ll need to make sure you’re using the right hardware, operating system and software, as well as that you’ve installed the necessary patches from Microsoft.    Below is not the definitive checklist but, it’s a good start:

SQL Server (one of the following):

SharePoint Servers

  • Minimum 8GB RAM
  • 64 bit O/S Required
  • Windows Server 2008 Standard + Service Pack 2(or greater)
  • SharePoint 2007 Service Pack 2+ October Cumulative Update(or greater)
  • Note: The October Cumulative Update updates the preupgradecheck STSADM command
  • WCF Hotfix- this not part of the prerequisites installer and must be installed separately

Upgrade Options & Considerations

Once you’ve checked off the server requirements, you will need to choose an upgrade path.  There are four upgrade options as follows, each with pros and cons depending on your specific SharePoint implementation and environment:

  1. In-Place Upgrade - recommended for small or non-production environments
  2. Database Attach - recommended if farm level configurations are minimal
  3. Hybrid Approach 1: Read-Only Database Upgrade - recommended over Database Attach as downtime is mitigated
  4. Hybrid Approach 2: Detach Database Upgrade - recommended if farm level configurations are significant

Detailed information about these options can be found on the Microsoft TechNet site.

In addition to choosing the optimal upgrade approach, there are several considerations that relate to how customizations will be affected by the upgrade.  You will want to consider the following with regard to any customizations your organization has made to SharePoint:

  • Modifications to out-of-the-box files will not be upgraded - you will want to inventory these prior to upgrading in order to determine the effort involved in redevelopment or workarounds
  • Code performing large queries will fail due to SP2010 throttling features which are designed to ensure performance by controlling  their execution
  • Custom Site Definitions & SP2007 Themes  are deprecated - you’ll want to revisit your use of these when moving to SP2010
  • Don’t forget to check 3rd party vendors for updates to installed packages
  • Some assemblies will need re-compilation
  • You may want to consider doing a “Visual Upgrade” which allows you to decouple the user interface upgrade from the system upgrade buying you time to work thru any customization issues

Best Practices

The following best practices will help you prepare for a successful upgrade:

  • Evaluate doing an upgrade versus doing a migration - i.e. in some cases it may be advantageous to build your new SharePoint 2010 farm from scratch and then migrate over only the content that is actually being used
  • Freeze your Farm during the upgrade – you want to have a clean backup in case something goes wrong and you do not want changes made during the upgrade
  • Identify all customizations (features, solutions & assemblies) before you choose an upgrade path so that you can determine the level of effort required to get everything working again
  • Use the pre-upgrade checker to determine/identify:
    • If all servers and components in the farm meet upgrade requirements
    • Alternate access mappings that are being used in the farm
    • Site definitions, templates, features, and language packs that are installed in the farm
    • Unsupported customizations 
    • Orphaned content such as list items, lists, documents, Web sites, and site collections
    • Invalid configuration settings such as a missing web.config file, invalid host names, or invalid service accounts that exist in the farm
    • If the databases meet the requirements for upgrade
  • Don’t upgrade a broken farm
  • Perform a trial upgrade on a test farm
  • Archive old site collections prior to upgrade
  • Update desktops to Office 2010 for enhanced features
  • Plan for additional capacity
  • Review upgrade status and logs
  • Provide user training
  • Backup, Backup, Backup!!!

Some of the material in this post is from a webinar series that we did on the topic several months ago.  For more detailed information and to give credit to the presenters who pulled this information together, please see the following:

If anyone has additional tips and best practices for upgrading to SharePoint, please feel free to share them as comments to this post!

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