Keys to Long Term SharePoint Stability and Success

Recently I have been called into a few environments where the customers were having some serious performance problems or had features that were no longer working.  It really nailed home the point that Capacity Planning should really be Capacity Management as Microsoft now refers to it in their Capacity Management and Sizing Overview guidance for SharePoint 2010.  These environments also tend to have some other issues with patching and large un-used content databases.

The Keys below will help establish long term success for your SharePoint environment.

Initial Design and Planning

The planning and design work that typically goes on prior to an implementation is based heavily on assumptions and the understanding of current requirements.  In any environment where an application like SharePoint takes off, those assumptions change quickly, the needs of the business evolves, and therefore all of those requirements change.  In many cases though, the SharePoint farm topology is not changed and can no longer meet the needs.  With the current state of IT many resources are stretched and do not have time to make major changes to the system, but in many cases a few proactive changes would remove some of the ongoing system support and troubleshooting efforts.

Continued Monitoring

Every system needs regular monitoring.  The frequency and depth of the reviews depends on how complicated the implementation is, but below I have listed out some generic topics that can be reviewed.

Quarterly Review

  • Memory and CPU Utilization
  • Patches – Review new patches and install if appropriate

Semi-Annual Review

  • Review Content Databases – Number of Site Collections per Content DB and the size of each Content Database
  • Search Index Health – Number of items in the index, length of the crawls
  • Average and Peak Usage Stats – Review the average and peak user stats and add hardware if needed.

In addition, in some cases new features are enabled or leveraged months after the initial implementation.  If for example you are going to use SharePoint to host your BI solutions additional capacity may be needed.  If the system was initially designed for a pretty basic Intranet and the BI capabilities are added then the system may not be able to keep up.

Patching

Patch management also contributes to keeping your SharePoint installation stable and high performing over time.  Installing Service Packs or the bi-monthly Cumulative Updates can be difficult in some environments where maintenance windows are tight, but these patches will also help keep services running smoothly and bugs at bay.  I worked in one environment where at least three major issues were all resolved with previously released patches.  Unfortunately a lot of time was spent troubleshooting needlessly.

Prune the Hedges

Most information stores get bloated over time, SharePoint is not immune to this.  IT groups have been fighting this for years with shared drives and mail servers.  It is important to have some good retention policies in place to make sure you are keeping the right content, but also getting rid of the stale content.  At the very least you can implement an archiving solution that can move the content to cheaper storage, while keeping it accessible.

Summary

Following these recommendations will greatly increase your chances for maintaining a highly capable, well performing environment.

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