Reasons to Migrate to SharePoint 2016?
Debates on migrating SharePoint solutions to its 2016 version started even before the version was officially released. All the stir is basically about the assertive promotion of new features that promise to bring substantial improvements to the implementation process, user experience, and post-deployment support. However, since the migration of SharePoint-based solutions is much trickier than just pushing a button, the doubts on starting the migration process are still persistent. So how to know it’s just about time to migrate, and how to make the migration less painful?
SharePoint 2010 is no longer supported by Microsoft, Hence, do remember there are no more updates or patches released by Microsoft for SharePoint 2010.
Choosing your migration scenario
If you find yourself in either of the following 2 scenarios, you should know it’s about time you upgrade your SharePoint:
- You have SharePoint 2010 (or earlier versions), and your current solution don’t support your business processes properly.
- You have SharePoint 2013, and aim at improving end users’ experience and increase buy-in.
The first scenario is relevant for those companies that still use solutions developed on SharePoint 2010 or earlier versions. First of all, SharePoint 2010 is no longer supported by Microsoft anyway, so no updates and patches are released. Secondly, it’s obsolete in terms of the development capabilities and user experience. Moving to SharePoint 2013 or 2016 would mean gaining access to Representational State Transfer (REST) services and client-side rendering (CSR) that open large opportunities of delivering custom SharePoint solutions without server code involved. It’s also worth mentioning substantial changes in the UI and UX introduced in the 2 latest SharePoint versions, including improved collaboration features such as Community Sites and Community Portals, redesigned MySites and Newsfeeds, enabled mobile views and apps, and more.
The second scenario applies to companies planning to upgrade their SharePoint 2013-based solutions to SharePoint 2016 in order to enhance user adoption and get the newest features. The latest version of the platform has become much quicker and offers valuable updates ensuring an improved user experience and more solid protection of stored data, for example:
- Durable links now allow users to freely move files to a new location or change their names without breaking the file’s initial link, which was impossible in previous versions.
- Cloud hybrid search enables users to search across on-premises and cloud site collections simultaneously. Search results gathered from all site collections are then brought together and ranked by relevancy for users’ convenience.
- Mobile apps finally give users the possibility to access their SharePoint-based solutions on their mobile devices.
- Data loss prevention is now a part of SharePoint 2016 and allows SharePoint administrators to identify, monitor and protect sensitive information across all their site collections. At the moment, there are two options available: to create a DLP query to identify sensitive information within your site collections, and create a DLP policy which can be used to monitor and automatically protect any sensitive information within your site collections.
Watching out for the pitfalls
Even if migration opens the doors to improved SharePoint features, it also requires companies to get ready for possible difficulties on the way:
There is no direct migration from SharePoint 2010 to SharePoint 2016 and hence deeply customized solutions are at risk
No direct migration from SharePoint 2010 to SharePoint 2016:- So can be bad news for owners of SharePoint 2010-based solutions. In this case, organizations will need either to use a third-party solution enabling an automated direct migration or to fulfill a two-step migration: first, from SharePoint 2010 to 2013, and second, from SharePoint 2013 to 2016.
Deeply customized solutions are at risk:- Obviously, the number of companies using purely out-of-the-box solutions is close to zero. Since SharePoint is deeply customizable as a platform, the degree of customization of particular solutions can be very high. Here, the following principle applies: the deeper a solution is customized, the bigger the risk of migrating it with visible deviations. The risk is close to 100% when migrating from SharePoint 2010 or for solutions with rich custom branding.
At the same time, our own migration experience turned to be more than positive. While migrating a bunch of SharePoint 2013-based site collections to the 2016 version, customized solutions (the My Sites home page with custom tabs, custom solutions for corporate presentations, custom Master page, etc.) were migrated with no deviations.
Additional tuning is required:- Even if the content part has been migrated easily, there will still be work to do, especially if your current solution is integrated with other corporate systems (e.g. ERP, CRM). Adopters of custom mobile SharePoint views are likely to face the same problem since the latter will require additional adjustment in order to keep their sleek performance after the migration is complete.
Project duration and costs can be weighty:- All the pitfalls mentioned above logically cause the next painful point of the migration which is cost and time. These parameters highly depend on the migration scope, which takes us back to the matters of customization and complexity of the current solution. Thus, the more sophisticated the solution is, the more time-consuming and costly will be the migration process.
Elaborating a well-thought out strategy for a painless migration
Although migration takes consecutive technical procedures, it also requires a thorough preliminary analytical work. To be satisfied with the migration process and its outcomes, companies need to take a few important steps beforehand, which is crucial for the success of the project and help developers accomplish technical tasks correctly and within a shorter timeframe:
- Assess the current solution This should cover the degree of customization, the complexity of branding, performance, existing gaps and user buy-in.
- Prepare a suitable migration architecture SharePoint migration means sustaining both the current and upgraded solutions concurrently. That’s why a separate farm will be required to migrate without interrupting users’ activities.
- Analyze existing content databases to evaluate the scope of the future migration and reveal critical defects. If content bases are damaged or have been unmanaged, they need to be fixed before the migration starts.
- Develop a step-by-step migration plan The plan should rely on the findings of the previous stages and outline all the activities to be fulfilled before, during and after the migration.
In the absence of in-house SharePoint experts, organizations will likely need the assistance of a SharePoint consulting company to prepare the ground for the future migration.
When done professionally, assessment and analysis of the current solution can reveal existing weaknesses to be fixed and avoided in the migrated version. One example from our SharePoint practice proves that. While getting ready to migrate a corporate intranet, a SharePoint developer revealed 10+ poorly adopted site collections with scattered features for different departments. SharePoint consultants optimized the solution and brought together numerous site collections into one with a more user-friendly functionality available in the migrated solution.
Summing up all the pros and cons of SharePoint upgrade, it worth saying, its success depends above all on planning and the benefit-pitfall ratio. The migration scenarios covered above shows that migrating from SharePoint 2010 to 2013 or 2016 will be a substantial step towards a much better functionality and convenience, so the benefits are likely to outweigh pitfalls. At the same time, migration from SharePoint 2013 to 2016 is more about making your solution more user-friendly, secure and easily manageable. This step will be definitely justified for companies relying on intensive collaboration and team activities, or those aiming to shift to the cloud in the future. Since SharePoint 2016 absorbed best practices incarnated in SharePoint Online, the further move towards the cloud version will be smooth and transparent.
Author: Sandra Lupanava