If your company is using Microsoft SharePoint and it has an important role in your internal communication and cooperation, you might be considering a switch to the new version or to Online. Each new version of SharePoint brings new functionalities and new options to improve, upgrade and simplify the work. In the Onpremise world, this happens every three years, while in Online novelties are available all the time.
The transition to a new version of SharePoint or the transfer from the Onpremise world into Online is not an issue of just “a few clicks”. Planning the transition (migration or upgrade) requires time for analysis which must include quite some activities to determine the scope of the transition. One should not forget that the transition to a new version is always a chance to “get rid” of unnecessary contents and in this way gives space to users, developers and administrators to fully use the novelties of the new version.
Agitavit carried out many upgrades of SharePoint to a newer version and also some migrations from the Onpremise world to Online. Not one single upgrade we performed was like the previous one, and each included unique activities. Because we do not lack experience, we would like to share some important analysis activities that should be considered when upgrading to SharePoint 2016 or switching to SharePoint Online (Office 365).
New versions bring new functionalities and unfortunately also omit some functionalities. Therefore, it is necessary to consider in which manner or by what the omitted functionalities will be replaced. A typical example is the quite popular functionality Meeting workspace, available in the 2007 and 2010 versions. There is no direct replacement for Meeting workspace, but not all is gloomy. OneNote or the Agitavit solution eSeje can be used to manage meetings; these will fulfil all needs of meeting administration (minutes, tasks, monitoring).
Changes in architecture
The popular OWA (Office Web Apps) allowed to display Office document contents in SharePoint (web clients) without opening the document in the client. In the new version of SharePoint, the OWA Server 2013 functionality was replaced by Office Online Server (OOS), which provides additional services (for example Excel Services – previously part of the SharePoint server). This means that we need a new server in our architecture. In addition to the integration using SharePoint 2016 server, OOS allows the integration with Exchange Server 2016 and Skype for Business Server 2015. So, when establishing a new architecture, new licences should not be forgotten either.
Power View and Power Pivot
If your portal is using the Power View/Pivot additional components to display reports, and became of vital importance for your superior or management, then the transition to SharePoint 2016 will require also an upgrading of the SQL server to the version SQL server 2016. Namely, SharePoint 2016 does not support the Power View/Pivot additional component of the previous version SQL Server 2014. And once you have the new SQL Server 2016, do not miss the important novelties for Reporting Services: the new HTML5 rendering engine, a separate report portal, mobile device support and soon also support for Power BI Desktop rendering. Compared to the previous versions, the scales of functionality of Reporting Services is very strongly tipping in the direction of the “Native” mode support. In any case, it will be useful to take some time to consider the future use when performing the analysis.
Content migration or upgrade
In the introduction, we mentioned that switching to a new version means a great opportunity to get rid of redundant contents or to reorganise contents (transfer to a new location or to a new database). In practice this means that a new document is created in a new location, with the same attributes/data as the document in the previous location (history). The migration of contents (reorganisation) is common practice in Onpremise and a necessity when switching to the Online world.
The number of versions of each document will of course influence the migration speed and/or time required for the migration. If we are aware of this, the next question is: do we need all versions of a document.
If the document history is important (who, what), the issue becomes more complicated. The problem arises with users who are not anymore at our company, but are recorded as authors of a certain document version. Creating a new version of the document at another location requires an active user account (AD), which is not the case here. This problem can be limited in several ways, using commercial tools. Our experience shows that no solution is 100% and that in case of a content migration, more time needs to be spent with the content analysis of documents. The first critical case will quickly show whether this is worthwhile – as a renewal of the database will be required, either of the entire portal contents or just of selected contents.
When switching from the On premise world to the Online world, we meet with another restriction which needs to be included in the analysis: the transfer of notices. At the moment, the Online world does not support API to import or export information on notices, and this can cause a lot of grumbling from users. Can you imagine the employee reaction to the following notice: “Dear colleagues, the contents of our intranet portal are not available at the new Online portal. The important contents are reorganised into a new transparent structure – available here. Please be sure to make the notification settings for new items and changes for each document/folder.” To resolve such cases, Agitavit developed a tool to automate the creation of notifications in your Online portal.
If your portal uses custom solutions (custom webparts, custom WFs), the transition to a newer version of the Onpremise world will require the translation of existing solutions. This is not problematic if you have access to the source code – developers will do this easily and quickly mark the activity as “completed”. Otherwise, further activities will follow: questions whether you really need the solution, and if you are writing the solution anew, do you need improvements and upgrades. Such activities can distinctively prolong the analysing phase.
When analysing and planning the migration do not spend a lot of time to find out whether your custom solutions are optimal or do they utilise the “new” functionalities which will become available after the transition. Make only a list of your findings and wishes for improvements (which probably already exists) and focus on that after the migration is completed. Keep in mind the new “cloud-ready” development model which has no problem with transitions to new versions. You must be aware that if you plan the switch to the “Online” world, the recreation of your custom solutions (cloud development) is a must.