Q&A

What Are the Upgrade Options for SharePoint Server Users?

Expert and consultant Vlad Catrinescu offers some thoughts for organizations contemplating impending SharePoint Server moves.

Microsoft gave notice this month that SharePoint Server 2010 has but two years of product support remaining, with the server reaching the end of "extended support" on Oct. 13, 2020.

The notice, by Bill Baer, a senior product marketing manager at Microsoft, also explained that the underlying Windows servers supporting SharePoint Server 2010 will be reaching their end-of-life dates around that time, too. End of support means that no more security patches will arrive.

This time around, organizations may be feeling the pull of a move toward Office 365 and SharePoint Online, especially as Microsoft has revamped it with more user-friendly "modern" enhancements. Many of those modern user interface additions found in SharePoint Online also are showing up in the latest SharePoint Server 2019 product, which was released last month.

If organizations can't make a move to the cloud, there's still no support yet for them to perform "in-place upgrades" of SharePoint Server, where the underlying bits get upgraded to the latest version. In-place upgrades from Windows Server 2016 to Windows Server 2019 are possible. However, getting to SharePoint Server 2019 is more of a multistage process.

Since it's maybe hard to recall the basics of SharePoint Server migrations year over year, I asked a few questions of Vlad Catrinescu. He's a consultant, a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) and co-author of "Deploying SharePoint 2016." What follows is lightly edited Q&A.

Redmondmag.com: Do organizations using SharePoint Server products, and under compulsion to upgrade, use the in-place upgrade process, or is wipe-and-replace the preferred method?
Catrinescu: SharePoint Server does not have an "in-place" upgrade process in the traditional sense. When you want to upgrade a SharePoint farm, let's say from SharePoint 2013 to SharePoint 2016, you first need to create brand-new virtual machines, install SharePoint Server 2016, and then migrate the content databases to the new SharePoint farm. Every time you want to upgrade to a new version of SharePoint Server, it's the same process!

How much time is needed to do a SharePoint Server upgrade?
As a SharePoint consultant, I would have to say, "It depends!" When doing a SharePoint migration, you have to plan for the following things:

  • Creating the new SharePoint farm on the new version.
  • Deciding which data to migrate and which data you don't need any more.
  • Analyzing your current customizations and, if needed, make sure they work on the new version of SharePoint.
  • Deciding whether you will do an "as-is" migration (meaning you keep the same information architecture) or you plan to change it.
  • Doing the migration.

I would say a decent-size organization is easily looking at a multimonth project for sure.

"With the solid foundation built in SharePoint 2016, SharePoint 2019 was able to add features for the business user, such as modern Team/Communication Sites, Conditional List Formatting, SharePoint Home, OneDrive for Business with the Next-Gen Sync Client, and so on!"

Vlad Catrinescu, Microsoft Most Valuable Professional, consultant and author

How would one move from SharePoint Server 2010?
An organization that would want to migrate from SharePoint Server 2010 today would need to create a SharePoint 2013 farm, a SharePoint 2016 farm and their SharePoint 2019 farm. The "middle" ones (2013/2016) can be one-server farms -- they don't need to be powerful. The admin would then have to migrate the databases from 2010 to 2013 to 2016 to 2019 in order to migrate from SharePoint 2010 to SharePoint 2019. At this point, most organizations needing to skip one to two versions would probably buy a migration tool and use that to migrate their content directly from 2010 to 2019.

Are organizations that are faced with SharePoint Server upgrade deadlines finding that moving to SharePoint Online is a compelling option? Has Microsoft facilitated such moves sufficiently with the SharePoint Migration Tool and other support?
I think that most organizations in general are looking at whether they can move to the cloud or not. However, the fact that Microsoft released another on-premises version of SharePoint [SharePoint Server 2019] is a good indication that there are still a lot of customers out there that cannot or do not want to move to the cloud yet, whether it's [because of] regulations, customizations or other limitations. The SharePoint Migration tool only supports SharePoint 2013-to-Office 365 moves, and no other migration scenarios at all. So if you're on SharePoint 2010 now, your only option to migrate to Office 365 is still to use a third-party tool.

How viable is it for organizations using SharePoint Server to shift to using the modern user interface from the classic user interface? Doesn't it mean that their developers have to shift over to using the SharePoint Framework and that their customizations and extensions may not make the shift, and would have to get redeveloped?
SharePoint Server 2019 still supports classic sites and development methods if an organization wants to migrate quickly to SharePoint 2019. However, in order to go to modern SharePoint, it is correct that they would have to migrate their content and customizations to modern SharePoint sites. The developers would have to learn, and adapt their code, to SharePoint Framework. This is, however, a good thing, as it will make it easier for that organization to move their customizations in the cloud in the future, and should make the next migrations, even for on-premises, a lot easier!

Is SharePoint Server 2019 a compelling upgrade prospect? It lacks the Hub Sites modern interface, right? Are there any other notable (or absent) aspects to note?
I think that SharePoint 2016 was a solid version of SharePoint, but mostly for the IT pro, and it lacked end-user features. With the solid foundation built in SharePoint 2016, SharePoint 2019 was able to add features for the business user, such as modern Team/Communication Sites, Conditional List Formatting, SharePoint Home, OneDrive for Business with the Next-Gen Sync Client, and so on! Because of this, I think we will see a bigger push by business users to get on SharePoint 2019 sooner so they can benefit from the latest modern features that they've been seeing in Office 365 and that Microsoft has been marketing for a few years now. You are correct that the whole modern stack is not there yet, and things such as Hub Sites and Site Designs are missing.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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