There are many questions that have stumped wise men and philosophers since the beginning of time; “What is the meaning of life?”, “Why do fools fall in love?”, and “How do you stick Teflon to a pan when nothing sticks to Teflon?” I am neither a wise man or a philosopher, but I have been getting asked an equally important and vexing question for many years, “Should I upgrade my SharePoint N-1 farm to SharePoint N, now that SharePoint N+1 has been announced?” I know that looks a lot like bad high school algebra, but I promise it’s important and it’ll make sense in a minute.
Microsoft recently announced SharePoint 2019, using SharePoint Conference North America 2018 as its coming out party. They gave the rapt audience its first small look at SharePoint 2019, but it was enough to whet our appetites and get us excited. I’ll cover the announcements themselves in another blog post, but suffice it to say, the consensus was that we liked what we saw. I know, because even before the conference began, I started getting the question,
“Should I even bother to upgrade my SharePoint 2013 farm to SharePoint 2016 now that SharePoint 2019 is out?”
This question comes up each time Microsoft announces the next version of SharePoint. It really started in earnest in 2009 when they announced SharePoint 2010. At that point there were a fair number of SharePoint 2003 farms that had not yet made the jump to SharePoint 2007. They were hoping to avoid the scary and dangerous 2003 to 2007 upgrade. I don’t blame them a bit. As someone who did a few 2003 to 2007 upgrades, I still have nightmares about them, cold sweats and all. But, my advice then is the same as my advice now, upgrade to the current version of SharePoint.
Should I Upgrade to SharePoint 2016? The Answer is…
While we got our first look at SharePoint 2019 this May, Microsoft has said we won’t get our hands on any beta bits until some time in the summer of 2018. I assume that means sometime around midnight PDT on September 23rd. We won’t see RTM bits until the second half of 2018, so I’m assuming it will be a late Christmas gift, arriving sometime between Christmas and New Year’s. Both many months from now.
And even if we get bits sooner, you’re not going to upgrade your Production environment immediately anyway. You’re going to need to get familiar with the new functionality, make a migration plan, test the upgrade process, have your users verify it, months of work. So now we’re looking at probably no less than a year, if you get bits early and everything goes swimmingly, which it never does. All this time, your SharePoint 2013 farm is getting another year older, and no better off for it. SharePoint is not like a fine wine, it does not get better with age.
And let’s not forget, that even the RTM bits might not be what you want. SharePoint 2016 RTMed in May of 2016. One of its new capabilities was a self-healing process called MinRole. In order for a SharePoint 2016 farm to be MinRole complaint and fault tolerant with RTM code, it needed to have 8 servers. This added a lot of expense to some smaller installations, but they wanted to be fault tolerant, and they liked the added security that MinRole provided. Six months later, the November 2016 patch, called Feature Pack 1, enhanced MinRole and allowed for a fault tolerant MinRole complaint farm to only have four servers, instead of eight. These kinds of changes happen often, so being an early adopter can have some drawbacks.
With all of this in mind, my advice is to continue your upgrade plans to SharePoint 2016. Don’t let the shiny announcement of SharePoint 2019 distract you. Upgrading to SharePoint 2016 buys you some time. It allows you to move to SharePoint 2019 at a more controlled, measured pace without your SharePoint 2013, or heaven forbid, SharePoint 2010, farm getting older and forcing you to upgrade sooner than you’re ready.
How Do I Start?
Of course, the heart of any good upgrade is knowing what you have and making good decisions about how to upgrade it.
It’s a good time to reflect on decisions you’ve made in the past and determine whether they’re still correct. This could be information architecture decisions concerning site collection size and scope. It could be the use of subwebs versus site collections. It could also be functionality decisions based 3rd Party software that is installed in your farm. Do you still need that functionality? Does the new version of SharePoint include this functionality, or something that will meet the same needs? It can be a lot to keep track of. Fortunately, SPDocKit can help you see where your content is and how your farm is configured. Check out a trial today.