The Perfect SharePoint Upgrade

Upgrading WSS or MOSS to SharePoint 2010 at times can be an interesting challenge.  Microsoft gives plenty of guidance on how to perform an upgrade, either in-place or with a database attach method.  Having done a few upgrades now for different clients, I’ve recently completed one that could be described as the perfect upgrade, and thought I’d my experience.

The client already had a SharePoint 2010 environment, and a number of other legacy WSS and MOSS installations.  One of their WSS sites had previously been attempted by someone else but had failed when they tried to go live.  This meant that there was already some negative notions from the business that trying this again could be a problem. 

The only way forward was to start afresh.  Not knowing all the details from the previous attempt meant that I would need to get back to basics.  I decided that the best way to cover off all the issues would be to complete a trial upgrade, and have it thoroughly tested before attempting it for real.

We also managed to get great business buy-in to help us ensure they were happy that everything was working as expected.  The business representative even devised a very comprehensive test plan.

From performing the trial upgrade, we found a whole heap of problems, including:

  • Network communication problems
  • Authentication issues
  • Problems around search
  • Excel service issues
  • Absolute URLs
  • User understanding

Methodically, I worked through all of the issues and one-by-one solved these such that the business was happy to sign-off of the trial upgrade.  Surprisingly, there were not any problems with the actual SharePoint upgrade process itself!

I was very confident that the upgrade would be fairly smooth sailing.  I had made notes with every single step I performed to get the site ready for acceptance.  I had even made some timing notes so I could expect when things were happening. 

When it came time to perform the upgrade for real and go-live, everything worked perfectly.  There were only a handful of minor issues raised after the upgrade, all cosmetic and easily fixed.

There are some takeaways from this particular project:

  1. Have a good relationship with your client, and set their expectations that this is going to be a potentially complex process.
  2. Perform a dry run, and get business buy in for testing – including test plans.
  3. Generate a procedure document as part of the dry run, and document everything you do to make the dry run successful.  Having a re-executable plan should make the upgrade process a no-brainer.
  4. Communicate to everyone involved and keep them in the loop when appropriate.
  5. Be available after the upgrade to assist with any problems that may arise..

Reflecting on this, it is clear that process over technology is what helped make this a perfect SharePoint upgrade.