SharePoint 2010 Migration versus Upgrade

No doubt there are hundreds of companies currently reviewing or planning the move to SharePoint 2010 from previous versions.  The excitement and business interest around the technology is very encouraging.  Before picking an “upgrade” path though, I would encourage teams to compare the Migration paths in addition to the normal Upgrade paths. 

Migration Path

Taking a Migration path means you are going to build a new farm or environment and then move content to it.  There are many advantages to this approach, here are some to consider. 

Restructure Information Architecture and Design – The migration path gives you the ability to learn from past mistakes or to make changes to better suit the current set of requirements.  This opportunity does not come up often, so if changes need to be made, this is a good time to enact those changes.  Changes may include restructuring the web application and site collection topology as well as Taxonomies.

Incremental Move – Since you are moving from one farm to another it does not have to be completed at all once, you have the option of breaking the content down into smaller units that can be moved one at a time.  This is especially valuable in cases where custom applications might have been built that cannot be upgraded without rework. 

Take Advantage of New Features – There are some situations where after an upgrade it may be difficult or at least require more work in order to take advantage of all of the new features.  One great example of this is the new Claims Based Authentication model.  In the past though, I have seen other issues which were traced back to compatibility issues with site definitions.  Given the fundamental changes to the Publishing features in 2010, I expect there to be issues when people take an Upgrade path. 

The Downsides – There are costs to taking this approach.  It may take more time than an in-place upgrade and it definitely takes more planning.  There may also be software costs for migration tools which can help automate a migration.

Upgrade Path

The upgrade paths may mean you are using the same hardware, or at the very least you are moving the Content Databases which keep the Applications and Site Collection topology intact.  The main advantages include:

Quicker and Easier – It should not take as much planning, nor take as long to complete. 

The Downsides – All of your existing Site Topology, Security, and general organization issues are moved to the new platform.  The system may be difficult to administer and maintain.

Choosing the Correct Path

Both paths have their pros and cons and offer unique opportunities.  The right path is the path that helps your team meet its objectives within the constraints given.  Most IT leaders push for the regular Upgrade path because it is less complicated within the scope of the short term project, but they do not have the full picture of what the opportunity cost is or what the long term impact will be.  It is implementation team’s responsibility to educate the decision makers as much as possible so that the best decision can be reached.

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