Moving from Autonomy (newssite) Worksite 8.x to Worksite 8.5 is no small matter. With so many changes to this 8.5 release, you may wonder why it wasn't called 9.0. 

In part 1 I focused on new features and considerations for some of the backend components of WorkSite 8.5 including the DMS server, Communications server and Web server. For part 2, I’ll discuss what you need to know for the client components as well as the new IDOL indexer and 3rd party add-ins for WorkSite. At the end, I’ll answer the question posed in these articles with my bottom line recommendations.

Read: Autonomy WorkSite 8.5: When Should Your Firm Upgrade? Part 1

FileSite/DeskSite/OffSite

Strangely enough, FileSite and DeskSite have received little in regards to graphical enhancements. The major changes to functionality are really only to support new features in the server products. But the jump to 8.5 is still significant, as the overall experience for the user is different.

Because the new IDOL indexer returns more refined searches, a user will blame this on the new FileSite client being different. But in reality this is a product of the revamped backend. The same goes for DeskSite, which most firms are only using for administrative purposes in new installs.

A couple of things that the user will notice is that the menu now says WorkSite instead of MailSite/FileSite, and they will also see different icons in the FileSite tree in Outlook. One new notable feature is WorkSite Miner being accessible on the context menus in the FileSite tree. It is now installed automatically with FileSite and DeskSite 8.5.

OffSite did actually get a face-lift, however. It was completely rewritten with a new interface, and it runs locally off of SQL Express. In my experience the product works a lot better than 8.2, if you have a stable internet connection.

Unfortunately, many firms utilize VPN connections over air cards, and that’s when it can get ugly. When a connection drops, OffSite will occasionally not know how to handle it, and you can very easily get corrupted local databases. This renders OffSite useless in many cases. But as I will stress throughout the entire process of upgrading to 8.5, you have got to test this out for yourself. Every firm and situation is going to be different.

IDOL Indexer

If you’re a frequent CMSWire reader, then you’ve no doubt at least heard of Autonomy’s IDOL software. IDOL is the only product featured here that didn’t come over in the acquisition of Interwoven in 2009. IDOL replaces the old Verity indexer that WorkSite formerly used for indexing, although you can still couple the 8.2/8.3 WorkSite indexer with WorkSite Server 8.5.

There are two significant differences between IDOL for WorkSite 8.5 and WorkSite Indexer 8.2. The former is a java-based application that requires the latest Java runtimes, and a lot of TLC to tailor it to your firm’s needs. You’ll probably need to invest in new hardware and spend significant time learning the new architecture, but it will pay off in the end.

I’ve seen the IDOL indexer crunch documents as high as 300,000 an hour on an initial crawl, as opposed to about 20,000 with Verity. It will deliver much more relevant search results to end-users, and it is highly customizable depending on your specific needs.

Just keep in mind that your hardware configuration weighs heavily with performance here, so you might need multiple RAID arrays splitting components to have optimal performance.

3rd Party Integration

Herein lies the biggest hurdle that may prevent you from upgrading today. Although FileSite 8.5 SP1 has addressed many bugs, and it really needs to get applied as soon as possible if you’re looking into upgrading; not all 3rd party apps support it yet.

In fact, as of this article's published date, I guarantee that most of your 3rd party WorkSite add-ins will not work at all or at least in some way. The culprit here is API changes as well as new locations for existing registry key settings. My company's own integrated WorkSite add-ins had to be completely rewritten to address these changes, so don't be surprised if you're waiting a considerable amount of time for other vendors to catch up.

If the add-in uses low level API calls, then you may be fine. But if you're talking about compatibility with WorkShare Compare/Professional, then there is no known release date for a compatible version with FileSite 8.5 SP1.

With that being said, every environment is different. If you are running the Communications Server and the EMM client, then you will most definitely run into issues with 3rd party add-ins. If you aren't, you might be okay to roll it out. But because workstation packages amongst firms vary, you will need to thoroughly test functionality for all Office and WorkSite add-ins. 

But you don’t need to apply SP1 to move into production. Just about everything will support 8.5 pre-SP1, so you should be fine rolling that out until other apps become compatible.

Bottom Line

So let me try to answer the question posed in the title of these two articles. If you take everything I have said into consideration, then my answer would depend on your other 3rd party add-ins. If you are only running WorkSite with Office, then you should most definitely upgrade. But, you’ll need to coordinate this with a backend upgrade of the DMS Server to SP1 as well.

But if you are like the vast majority running WorkSite 8.5, then you may have to wait, as not many WorkSite add-ins are compatible yet with 8.5 SP1. A good indicator on the timing for your upgrade will be when Workshare Compare becomes compatible with SP1. This is one of those add-ins that most law firms cannot be without.

The ultimate bottom line here is that you need to test, test and test some more before doing anything. Even if all vendors claim compatibility, you still need to vet your install packages for all scenarios just in case. The worst possible outcome here is that you push an update to your users that degrade feature functionality. Not only will that kill confidence in the product itself, but it will put unnecessary strain on IT.