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SharePoint Upgrade Approaches

Here is a brief analysis on different Upgrade Approaches for SharePoint: We have three different approaches to the Upgrade Process, I’ll briefly discuss each of them, with a conclusion in the end:In-place Upgrade


  • Upgrades the content and configuration data in-place, at one time.
  • Easiest approach. Sites retain original URLs. Updates existing databases and servers using existing hardware.
  • Environment is offline while it runs. No ability to revert to original site.
  • Single server or small server farm.

Gradual Upgrade

  • Installs the new version side-by-side with the previous version. The server administrator determines which site collections to upgrade and when to upgrade them.
  • Enables a more granular approach: You can upgrade at the site collection level. Reduces time any single user is affected. Sites retain original URLs. Can revert to original site. Uses existing hardware.
  • More complex and resource-intensive. Must redirect URLs during upgrade process, which causes issues for some client applications such as Microsoft Office. Requires extra storage in SQL Server. Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services 2.0 scalable hosting mode is not supported.
  • Medium or large server farms (without shared services) with many sites for which you must limit downtime. Good for when your environment has many customizations.

 Database Migration 

  • Requires the server administrator to install the new version on a separate farm or separate hardware, and then manually migrate the databases into the new environment.
  • Enables moving to new farm or new hardware. SharePoint Portal Server 2003 environment is available and is untouched by upgrade.
  • Complex process that requires many manual steps and a higher risk of error. Requires additional manual steps to retain original URLs for sites. Search scopes must be re-created and search settings must be reapplied. Requires new server farm, and twice the amount of SQL Server storage space.
  • Those who are moving to new hardware or a new architecture. Those who need to maximize upgrade throughput. This approach is required for Windows SharePoint Services 2.0 environments that are using scalable hosting mode or Active Directory directory service account creation mode.

Note: We need to upgrade to WSS 3.0 before we could upgrade to MOSS 2007.

My vote goes with the Gradual Upgrade; for the following reasons:

  • As each group of site collections is upgraded, the upgrade process copies the data in them from the original database to a new database before upgrading the data. The original data is maintained in the original database until explicitly deleted by the server administrator. Because of this, upgraded sites can be easily rolled back to the previous version if necessary.
  • Most sites are available to site visitors during the upgrade; only those site collections that are currently being upgraded are offline. (Note that the previous version sites are marked as updates only after they have been copied in preparation for upgrade.)
  • The upgrade impact is limited to only those users who need the site or sites being upgraded.
  • After upgrade, the original URLs point to the upgraded version of the sites. This way, users can continue to use the same URLs they used before the upgrade.

I am against the In-Place Upgrade for the following reasons:

The previous version is overwritten with the new version, and the content databases are changed. Because of this, an in-place upgrade is not a reversible process — that is, you cannot roll back to the previous version.The original sites are upgraded in place, and you cannot view the previous versions of the sites after upgrade.All sites are unavailable to site visitors during upgrade.The period during which the sites are unavailable is the full time it takes to upgrade the entire server or server farm.

Last but not the least, we need a ‘Communication Plan’ to keep site owners and users updated on what to expect during the upgrade process. 

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