Blog | Jun 5, 2013

What do you mean you can’t perform an in-place upgrade to SharePoint 2013?

Usually, if you have the proper hardware requirements (64 bit system, mega-fast processors, and plenty of RAM), SharePoint can be upgraded without a lot of worry…except for the custom code challenges.


Many SharePoint administrators and IT departments were shocked when Microsoft announced that SharePoint 2013 upgrades could not be performed in-place.  Immediately, IT professionals began to wonder, “How many more servers will I need to migrate the data from the old to the new systems?”, “How can I migrate all these content databases?”, and “How can I move all of my configuration settings to a new server farm!”

Think about this for a minute…theoretically, if you have a ten server SharePoint 2010 farm and need to upgrade to SharePoint 2013, you would require ten new servers (either physical or virtual) in order to migrate your environment for the upgrade process.  This upgrade process poses a number of financial, technological, and logistical challenges, especially when Microsoft tells us ‘IN PLACE UPGRADES ARE NOT SUPPORTED’.

Sure, you could spin up ten virtual machines pretty fast…or could you?  How many people do you have to contact and coordinate to create ten new virtual machines with operating systems installed, patched, and deployed?  What are the complexities and considerations around security, storage, processor, RAM, etc when creating VM’s on a corporate network?  What additional CAPEX is going to be required?  Most IT shops are not setup to support SharePoint 24x7 with dedicated IT professionals, never mind taking on a challenge of an enterprise upgrade that is actually an enterprise migration like SharePoint 2013.  SharePoint really is an enterprise solution and requires dedicated resources to support and to perform an upgrade. 

SharePoint has become such a mission critical enterprise solution for enterprise collaboration, but yet it is not viewed as such.  All of this begs the question, “How can we upgrade and support SharePoint cost effectively and realize an ROI?”.

You may view the challenges of a SharePoint 2013 upgrade to be too overwhelming and costly and consider ‘skipping’ this version, but is that really the smart thing to do?  Think of the additional challenges you will create for yourself downstream?

So what do you do?  How can you pull off a feat such as this?

You need to organize a team of professionals (internally and in some cases externally) to plan this upgrade and migration.  Planning is essential for a successful SharePoint 2013 upgrade.  Your team must have a strategy, realistic tactical approaches that can be executed, and the full support of your leadership team.

In addition, consider where you can save on budget.  Leveraging a hosted solution versus the CAPEX of procuring new hardware might be the best approach.  The last thing you want to do is skimp on the skill sets required for a successful project.  At the end of the day, the servers are needed to run the application, but the resources are what make the application run correctly. 

In the past, a SharePoint upgrade was viewed as an “IT Project”.  Today, a SharePoint upgrade must be viewed as a “Mission Critical Business/Organizational Project”.  Don’t be scared off by the premise that you can’t do an ‘in-place’ upgrade for SharePoint 2013.  It is possible, we just need to plan wisely, assemble the right resources and not rule out looking to the ‘cloud’ as a solution for your infrastructure needs.

We will blog more about the following areas in upcoming posts:

  1. Assembling the Right Team
  2. The Importance of an Upgrade Strategy
  3. Leadership/Sponsor Support