Upgrading SharePoint 2010 - 2013

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Recently I was tasked with creating some documentation on the pros and cons of migrating from SharePoint 2010 to 2013. Clearly, the more modern UI of SharePoint 2013 provides a more engaging user experience, but that won’t be enough to convince an executive team to upgrade across the enterprise. So, I had to dig a bit deeper. Since this was no small task, I thought I would share my overview with the community at large in hopes of making someone else’s job a bit easier.

Submitted: August 18, 2017

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Submitted: August 18, 2017

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Pros and Cons of Upgrading from SharePoint 2010 to 2013

Recently I was tasked with creating some documentation on the pros and cons of migrating from SharePoint 2010 to 2013. Clearly, the more modern UI of SharePoint 2013 provides a more engaging user experience, but that won’t be enough to convince an executive team to upgrade across the enterprise. So, I had to dig a bit deeper. Since this was no small task, I thought I would share my overview with the community at large in hopes of making someone else’s job a bit easier.

Like any enterprise facing an upgrade, our Executive Team wanted to know if it made financial sense and what the benefits were. In particular, we needed to look at upgrading the enterprise to SharePoint 2013 or wait on the upcoming SharePoint 2016 version release. Which was particularly relevant as we were still in the process of upgrading from SharePoint 2007 to 2010 in several different lines of business. Most lines of business were already using 2010, but we did have a few lagging behind. This had to be noted in the equation as well.

With that said, this will not be a full blown feature comparison, but an overview of the stated objective with reference to the key differences and overall value of the two versions to the enterprise as a whole.

I will start where I think every conversation of this nature should start. SharePoint 2013 (Or any other software for that matter.) must deliver value. It’s all about what the business needs, and what users need to get their jobs done quickly and efficiently. Pretty much all of my opinion that follows starts from this cornerstone requirement. Without value or an ROI, what are you left with? An unnecessary expense, right? Which is exactly where you do not want to be.

I will attempt to lay out a brief discussion that focuses on a few key points and, like any discussion about SharePoint, there are many points I can’t address in this short space. There are always exceptions to the rule, and many variables to consider, not the least of which are business requirements, available resources, and costs. I will attempt to provide the key points for the discussion and lay bare the facts so you can choose whether to upgrade, stay where you are or hire a consultant to lead a more enterprise-specific needs analysis.

With that said, let’s look at a couple of things I think are most relevant to the discussion.

1. SharePoint 2013 is, in many ways, a minor upgrade from an IT perspective. There were no high-impact architecture changes to 2013, compared to upgrades from v2 to v3 (SharePoint Portal Server--SPS to 2007) or v3 to v4 (2007 to 2010). There are plenty of smaller changes, and changes that affect specific workloads, but nothing that requires the type of beginning-to-end re-evaluation of your existing or planned 2010 environment, as long as that environment was well thought out in the first place. So, from a value perspective, the upgrade would not cost much in terms of man-hours and infrastructure.
+1

2. SharePoint 2013 is a huge upgrade in usability across typical collaboration workloads. Team sites, My Sites, communities, and ECM all received numerous and important upgrades to the usability story, not the least of which include cross-browser and cross-device availability and compatibility, better offline options (SkyDrive Pro), significantly better sharing features, and team work features (tasks, project management light, discussions, etc.) Again from a value perspective, increased collaboration tools and workloads is a win.
+1

3. SharePoint 2013 is a mammoth upgrade in features in several key workloads. These workloads are WCM, social, search, and mobile access. Although SharePoint is typically used internally, you can get a ton of use from many of the social features. More features and tools creates more value.
+1

4. SharePoint 2013 provides a solution to navigation. This was among the top five issues or challenges I encountered at every internal department. Navigation was a key issue for almost every user in every line of business. As any SharePoint administrator will tell you, navigation has always been a thorn in their side. The out-of-the-box options have been very limited and you need to employ a developer to design and code custom solutions that fit your needs. So, to have more flexibility and functionality with navigation out-of-the-box is a huge win.
+1 (I’d give it plus 2 if I could.)

When you put these together, you arrive at one of my primary points of guidance: If you start implementing new solutions or workloads on SharePoint 2010, you are guaranteeing that your users will suffer the feature and usability gaps that plagued 2010. You’ll be locking yourself into battles that Microsoft has already fought (and, for the most part, won) in SharePoint 2013. That’s particularly true for the collaboration workloads.

And, for any of the workloads mentioned in #3, I honestly wouldn’t want to even consider starting down those roads in SharePoint 2010, now. (I highly recommend that you don’t start a new search, social, WCM, or mobile-intensive project on SharePoint 2010.)

At a bare minimum, I would highly recommend considering a rapid move to SharePoint 2013 for a “clean service farm,” running Search, Managed Metadata, User Profiles, and BCS. Those services can be published to and consumed by SharePoint 2010 farms, so your users can continue to work in their existing (2010) environment but you can leverage the features of 2013 for shared services. There is a great article over at TechNet regarding this.

OK, on to some additional points:

5. SharePoint 2013 retains “everything” that 2010 had. Yes, it retains everything, as far as support for Office 2010 clients, forms, workflows, and customizations (As well as full trust and sandbox solutions).
+1

6. There is no more “in place upgrade” to SharePoint 2013. Instead, you attach a 2010 content database to the 2013 farm. You have the option of retaining the content database as a 2010 content database and to perform what is called a “deferred site collection upgrade.” In essence, this means that the 2010 site collection continues to be a 2010 site collection, just running on a 2013 farm. This is very different than the “visual upgrade” from 2007 to 2010. To the layman, this could be confusing and to many others it seems like you get nothing from this other than the ability to run both version of the same server. For the most part that is right, however if you are a developer then you can see the benefit of having a 2010 install running on a 2013 server. The only issue is, not everyone is a developer, so good luck convincing your executive team that this is a benefit.
+ - 0 (No change.)

So, in theory, all of your 2010 sites will work perfectly well, customizations included, in 2013. When you perform a deferred site collection upgrade, you are conceptually “flipping the switch” so that the site collection now runs against the “15 hive.” (A special folder which is created during SharePoint 2013 installation. For Developers and code geeks.)That is when compatibility might matter.

Keeping this overview very high level, the theory is that you could upgrade your farm this weekend to 2013, and your users would be none the wiser. That’s certainly the type of platform upgrade path that Microsoft wants and needs in the cloud (Office 365).

We will see, shortly, just how well it works in the real world. But my guess is we will be much closer to a happy ending than to an unhappy ending. And, obviously, you will want to test the upgrade process before you actually perform it. (Backup and test ETL your Databases, load your themes, CSS, JavaScript, etc. in a sandbox first to identify problems before you upgrade.) The goal is to get close to a point where upgrading the platform will become a non-issue, a very minor issue, or at least not a multi-month, insane project.

Because you are likely going to find that you can upgrade smoothly, you can move collaboration workloads from 2010 to 2013 quickly, or implement plans for 2010 in 2013 instead, as 2013 still supports 2010-style customizations, workflows, etc. (Workflows being one of the most important features to retain, allowing you to create custom applications on the fly. In my opinion, this is the most powerful feature of SharePoint right now.)

You can learn more about upgrading to SharePoint 2013 in the TechNet library. As with all other upgrades, there’s no direct upgrade path from 2007 or earlier versions of SharePoint to 2013. You either have to go through 2010 on the way, or use a third party tool. And—knowing that you probably did things in 2007 that you would not choose to do the same way in 2013—I’d strongly recommend a good third party migration tool.

This should give you plenty to chew on as you decide which option is right for you and your organization. Hopefully you found this article helpful. Please contact me with any questions or comments. Thank you!

 


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