With the release of SharePoint Server 2016 there are a number of key planning decisions you have to make with regards to the future of using SharePoint as a platform for business solutions.
If you happen to be using any of the following on-premises versions of SharePoint, you will need to start planning for your upgrade or in some cases, moving away from SharePoint to something else.
||Already past support
||No official support from Microsoft however some system integration vendors will provide third party application support. There are no security or vulnerability hotfixes available from Microsoft either.
||Already past official support on 13 October 2015
||Past 13th October 2015 Microsoft only provides security hotfixes and have stopped releasing other updates and enhancements including cumulative updates, public updates, and service packs for SharePoint 2010. If you have a Premier Support agreement, you had the option to enter into an extended hotfix agreement until January 11, 2016 (90 days from 13th October 2015). This entitles you to receive non-security hotfixes. There is a cost associated with this agreement, and it also requires direct contact with local Microsoft Technical Account managers.
||Start planning now or move to Service Pack 1
||Fully supported with Service Pack 1 – Mainstream support for SharePoint 2013 ends on 4th October 2018 and extended support ends will end on 4th November 2023. So a bit more time allowed, however it’s worthwhile to plan the move now.
As you can see if your organisation uses a SharePoint version prior to 2013, it is highly recommended that you start the planning process for migrating existing content/applications to the next version soon.
Some of the risks of not starting the planning process now are:
- Software and solutions that are no longer supported
- Increased dependency on third party vendors and systems integrators for ongoing support
- Threat of business critical solutions being impacted by security vulnerabilities
These are only a few examples for risks associated with letting your SharePoint platform go stale.
As with most projects where a software platform is to be upgraded there are multiple scenarios you will need to consider before creating a ‘project’ to upgrade the SharePoint platform. Whether you have a handful of team sites, customised web parts with integration to line of business systems or a highly structured document and records management solution built on SharePoint, you will have to understand the current status of your deployment before you can make an informed decision on your upgrade path.
This is where an independent upgrade review will provide you with a comprehensive view of the status quo of your current SharePoint deployment.
So what can you do now to get an ‘initial feel’ for the complexity of an upgrade.
|What & Why
|Business Applications by Business Priority/Usage
||This can be done without any dependency on SharePoint specific skills, the key here is that you capture what the applications or solutions are deployed and their usage in your business, as well as their availability requirements. The output is a list of applications that are being hosted on the SharePoint platform and their usage characteristics. (Note that these are not simply names of team sites)
This output will aid in doing availability and capacity planning for your SharePoint deployment.
|Current Infrastructure Capacity Audit
||SharePoint on-premises requires a robust architecture design on capable infrastructure that can deliver to business requirements. This is typically your virtual infrastructure capacity. The key here is to determine what your current capacity is and any new planned expansions/upgrades to your virtual infrastructure. In some cases, your infrastructure team may ask what the requirements are for SharePoint. This can only be determined once you have an understanding of what your business wants to do with SharePoint. In general, most organisations opt for the minimum, however this is not the best approach since it does not take into consideration the business or service continuity of solutions being deployed on SharePoint.
||Infrastructure specialist working with a SharePoint specialist
|SharePoint Platform Audit
||A comprehensive audit of your current SharePoint platform to determine the following:
- Number of Servers in the SharePoint deployment
- Patch level of SharePoint, to be able to upgrade you need to have the latest service packs installed
- Size of SharePoint content databases (these determine the time it takes to upgrade the content)
- SQL Server version and capacity, determine if your organisation can move to the correct compatible version of SQL server for SharePoint
- Security certificate (SSL) expiration and renewal for web applications running in SSL mode
- Number of site collections
- Use of custom solutions (WSPs, Sandbox solutions)
- Use of third party components such as web/app parts from a third party app store
|SharePoint Specialist, Current Administrator of the SharePoint farm
By the end of a successful upgrade review, you should be able to articulate the following:
- The current state of the SharePoint Server deployment from a high level and the motivators for wanting to move to SharePoint 2016.
- An inventory of the current SharePoint Server. This includes all customisations, configurations, software, and hardware that make up the existing farm. The detail of this inventory should only be limited by the amount of time that you’ve allocated for the overall review.
- A recommendation on the most appropriate upgrade approach for your on premises deployment. This largely means identifying between either a database attach upgrade, or a content move using a Third party migration tool or a hybrid approach where both are utilized.
- Deciding whether using SharePoint online is acceptable to your solution workload or moving to a Hybrid topology is most appropriate.
- A recommended plan on how that approach should be pursued. This plan should be sensitive to other information that is gathered about the existing deployment and those who interact with it.
- High-level recommendations on hardware and software requirements for SharePoint 2016. You should tailor these recommendations to what workloads you need (Search, Document Management etc). There are simply no one-size-fits-all when it comes to your infrastructure deployment of SharePoint 2016.
- Recommendations on any pre-implementation tasks that should be pursued or developed in parallel to fast track the upgrade.
To summarise, by the end of this review, you should have a solid idea of what you are about to embark on and the business value of moving forward with the upgrade.
When you work with SharePoint Server deployments, you must ensure that the architecture of the deployment is intuitive to your users (technical and business), that it will scale and grow with your business over time, and importantly, that it performs well. The key to ensuring that your deployment architecture is fit for purpose and meets your immediate business needs without compromising future plans is to ensure you follow a diligent process where you determine what your current state is, what your potential future state may look like and how to get there.
Any questions or feedback please leave a comment.