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Eight ways to prepare for the next release of SharePoint

27 Apr 2012

Just two years after the the latest version of Microsoft’s enterprise application platform, SharePoint 2010, was released, attention is already starting to turn to the next update, signalled to be coming as early as the beginning of 2013. 

For this reason, US-based IT company Quest Software has released a ‘next version readiness’ action plan offering eight steps organisations should take to make sure they are ready for the next release.

"There are many things IT can do early to make a future SharePoint upgrade quick and feasible,” Quest strategic product manager Chris McNulty says in the release.

"There are also plenty of things that would make the transition difficult, if not impossible. Being aware of both... will let organisations maximise their investment and take advantage of all the exciting new functionality expected in the next release as soon as possible.”

The eight action points are:

1. Optimise the environment: IT managers should start optimising their organisation’s underlying infrastructure by refreshing hardware if necessary, updating operating systems and applying current software patches. If the organisation is operating on an old version of Windows or SQL Server, now is the time to upgrade to the latest version. 

2. Consolidate content: eliminate the islands of SharePoint within the organisation and other legacy platforms, such as Windows File Shares and Exchange Public Folders, by centralising the content and, if applicable, migrating content to SharePoint 2010. Doing so will ensure a much smoother upgrade upon the next version’s release. 

3. Consider data externalisation: now is the time to consider an externalisation strategy, getting the systems in place to move large, old and unused data from SQL Server content databases to secondary, less expensive repositories.  Taking advantage of SharePoint’s data externalisation features will deliver performance efficiencies in the short term and ease the upgrade or migration process in the long term.

4. Develop a governance plan:  investing in a strong SharePoint governance model now will pay huge dividends later, letting IT implement a mature governance system from day one in the new version of SharePoint. Plus, having a good governance system in place from project inception can mitigate many of the risks inherent in migration projects. 

5. Take control of enterprise content management: now is the time to take inventory of what content exists and get a better handle on what content should stay and what content should go. A well-defined retention policy is a governance best practice and ensures that only relevant content makes the move to the new environment.   Taking the time to define and implement your retention plan now ensures you’re set for a successful upgrade later. 

6. Prepare to be social: if IT hasn’t done so already, now is a good time to think about whether SharePoint’s social capabilities have a place within the organisation. Consider whether social is a good fit culturally and, if so, whether it’s a ‘nice-to-have’ option versus a business priority. With this assessment completed, you’ll be ready to immediately capitalise on whatever features may become available in the new release. 

7. Avoid heavy custom coding: simply put, developers shouldn’t invent their own solutions that require a lot of heavy custom coding. Upgrading customisations can be risky, costly and time-consuming, and can result in potential downtime or data loss, especially after an upgrade or migration. Instead, developers are advised to use tools and techniques they know will be supported going forward. 

8. Establish a cloud strategy: similar to preparing for social networking capabilities, start building a plan by determining whether a cloud, on-premises or hybrid implementation is right for the business. If SharePoint Online will play a future role, identify potential pilot projects and build out a phased approach for deploying SharePoint in the cloud. Armed with this assessment, you’ll be ready to move as soon as the next version is deployed.

Based in California, Quest Software’s nearest offices are in Sydney and Melbourne.