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For organizations contemplating the upgrade from SharePoint 2010 to SharePoint 2013, there doesn’t seem to be a concrete answer to the “when” question. Upgrade now? Upgrade later? Upgrade at all?

Upgrading – With a Plan

Whether it’s next week, next month or next year, upgrading is a smart choice. No matter when your organization makes the move, start the planning ahead of time, says Shane Young, director of SharePoint Stuff at Rackspace Hosting in his office in Cincinnati.

Why in a nutshell is it a good time to make the upgrade from SharePoint 2010 to SharePoint 2013?

“Because everyone always wants a bigger, cooler, hipper nutshell,” says Young, one of the speakers at this month’s SharePoint Technology Conference in Boston. “Really there is not much that I would say makes now a better time to upgrade than any other. What I do push people for is they need to upgrade, and they need a plan.”

Some organizations may plan to hold off the upgrade until Microsoft releases a Service Pack 1 (SP1) -- they have yet to for Windows 8 -- and that is a fine strategy. However, you can still start the planning now, so that when SP1 does show up you can start executing, Young adds.

New Features – Only in 2013

Microsoft’s push for new features like Yammer integration and new BI wiz bang tools is in full swing. Available for SharePoint 2013, there’s no guarantee they’ll be made available for SharePoint 2007 or 2010. 

I am certain there is no chance that any new features are going to be made available for SharePoint 2007 or 2010,” Young says. “The sooner you get to 2013 the sooner you can evaluate if the new hotness they release can make your SharePoint better.”

Initial Upgrading Steps

You’ve decided to upgrade. Where do you start? Get your hands around your current farm, Young says. Audit the current farm for the amount of data, type of data, structure of the data, SharePoint customizations, third-party add-ons, and patch level. 

With that information in hand you get a much better feel if you are trying to turn the Titanic or really just head for a cruise down the lazy river,” Young says.

Solution Packages (WSP) are the only way a good administrator should allow any changes to their farm, Young adds. Good developers should only be producing their customizations in WSPs. 

“Back in SharePoint 2003 we had to allow manual modifications to files in order to customize SharePoint,” Young says. “That was 10 years ago. If you haven’t switched to WSPs yet something is very wrong.”

It’s also important to define the key tasks during your upgrade among your SharePoint team. 

Hardware Requirements

Simply, you’re going to need more hardware during your upgrade from 2010 to 2013. Plan for at least one more server and maybe more depending on what features you want to implement. 

“It never ceases to amaze me the corners people want to cut here,” Young says. “When they see the minimum requirements for SharePoint they are always trying to skimp and see what they can get away with.”

However, when these same SharePoint team members within organizations see the minimum requirements for Windows 8 (1 GHz and 1 GB), they want at least four times those requirements. 

If you have more RAM in your primary work computer than you do in one of your SharePoint servers something is wrong,” Young says. 

Further, don’t complicate things by switching up URLs. The last thing end users and administrators need during upgrades is error messages in links. “Keeping the same URL just makes life easier on your users,” Young says. “Upgrades have enough stress; making their bookmarks not work shouldn’t be one of them.”

Changes And Carryovers

Users will find in SharePoint 2013 changes around social and the Office Web Apps (OWA).  

“Social is very different, and you can certainly see the influence of other popular social media tools in the design and features,” Young says. “Then with OWA view access being free to the world it is pretty awesome all of the capabilities it introduces. It seems like previews are everywhere.”

As for features without change in the upgrade, the Ribbon is still around, “and it just gets better with every pass,” Young says. “Core functionality around document management is very much the same so getting work done should be as easy as ever,” he adds. “And once you get used to how the OWAs enhance it life is even easier.”