Deciding on a target version for SharePoint 2007 migration

26 Jun 2017

This post outlines the pros and cons of migrating the functionality and content of a SharePoint 2007 farm to a new home, i.e., from one datacenter or hosting partner to another. Given that extended support for SharePoint 2007 is about to end, the question is which version of SharePoint to migrate to. This post attempts to balance the relative merits of three options: (1) staying with SharePoint 2007 but on a new farm, (2) moving to a higher on-premise version of SharePoint, or (3) moving to in-cloud SharePoint Online.

Given the potentially tangled nature of SharePoint 2007 -- with custom development and third-party product intragration -- which target version to migrate to isn't as clear cut as it may seem.

In the options below, green and red is used to denote pros and cons, respectively. Each of the pros and cons arose from a recent migration project.

Terminology used in this post

  • On-premise vs. in-cloud. On-premise SharePoint refers to any version of SharePoint except SharePoint Online. Whether SharePoint is deployed on-premise or in a non-Microsoft datacenter, SharePoint is still considered on-premise. True in-cloud SharePoint is SharePoint Online (SaaS) only, dependent on Azure (PaaS), and hosted in a Microsoft datacenter.

  • Farm. Denotes a collection of Windows servers making up a SharePoint hosting environment. To users and applications hosted on SharePoint, these servers make up a logical cluster with which they interact. In principle, SharePoint's services are provided by a single server or partitioned amongst any number of servers, acting in unison. The more servers, the better performance, fault tolerance, and so on.

Common concerns independent of target environment

  • In-depth analysis of SharePoint 2007 farm. Independent of the options below, a significant investment in time must go into analyzing the existing farm. With little or no governance to rely upon in such old environment, we'll have to document platform settings in reverse, and mirror those setting in the new environment. The consequence of missing or not understanding the ramifications of a setting can result in the new environment malfunctioning in a not obvious way. In general, migration without existing, up to date documentation is best-effort. This lack of guarantee particularly applies to on-premise targets. For in-cloud, likely no current custom code or third-party products will work as-is. In other words, a migration to on-premise is likely going to add latent instability to the platform.

  • Option 1: SharePoint 2007 -> SharePoint 2007

    Considering a SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2007 migration, we need to install from scratch the software stack from the operating system and up. SharePoint doesn't support cloning an existing SharePoint server and restoring its image on new hardware.

    • Microsoft licensing. Existing Windows Server, SharePoint, and MS SQL Server licenses are candidates for reuse in the new farm.

    • Feature parity. Because source and target farms are both SharePoint 2007, and because dependent software such as Windows and SQL Server remain fixed at their current versions, source and target are compatible. As a consequence, we can apply regular SQL Server database backup and restore procedures to move content across farms, making the migration low risk.

    • SharePoint and Nintex Workflows survive migration. Any existing SharePoint or Nintex workflow remains unaffected by the migration, i.e., long-running workflows will pick up where they left off in the old environment.

    • Third-party licensing. For any non-Microsoft product part of the farm, such as Nintex and Bamboo Solution, different license terms may apply. For each product, the vendor must be contacted to clarify license terms, and provide lost installation media and documentation.

    • Third-party products no longer supported. While third-party licenses likely remain valid, for some products support has likely expired. As a consequence, issues with third-party products arising from the migration may not be resolvable.

    • SharePoint 2007 no longer supported by Microsoft. Mainstream support for SharePoint 2007 ended October 9, 2012 and extended support ends October 10, 2017. Following end of extended support, Microsoft no longer provides security updates or general support. With the proper agreements, Microsoft can, however, provide troubleshooting support, but on a low-priority, best-effort basis.

    • No development environment available. In case custom functionality fails as part of migration and needs correcting, likely no up to date SharePoint 2007 development exist to test, update, and re-package the functionality. Worse yet, we can't be certain to have located the source code behind every deployed feature. In case we haven't, and the feature is essential, it need redeveloping.

    Option 2: SharePoint 2007 -> SharePoint 2010 (or higher)

    When referring to SharePoint 2010, we're actually referring to SharePoint 2010 or any higher on-premise version. Besides, with SharePoint it isn't possible to skip versions along the migration path. Migration from SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2016, for instance, requires establishing intermediate farms along the migration path for SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013. By induction, for each farm along the migration path, each point below requires revisiting. Migrating to SharePoint 2016 roughly amounts to a three-fold increase in complexity over staying with SharePoint 2007.

    • SharePoint 2010 still supported by Microsoft. While mainstream support ended October 13, 2015, extended support, covering only security updates, is in effect till October 13, 2020. Updates containing new features have ceased with mainstream support, though.

    • New Microsoft licenses required. Applies not only to SharePoint 2010 itself, but to dependent software such as SQL Server and Windows.

    • New third-party licenses required. For each third-party product (Nintex, Bamboo solution, and so on), we must locate a compatible SharePoint 2010 version. For some products, a SharePoint 2010 version may no longer be available.

    • SharePoint 2010 pre-upgrade check likely reveals issues. Microsoft supplies a pre-upgrade check tool to assess the readiness of a SharePoint 2007 farm prior to upgrading. For a large SharePoint 2007 farm, the tool likely reveals many issues which need fixing before the upgrade can proceed. We must resolve these issues in the SharePoint 2007 farm, running the risk of breaking existing functionality.

    • Not all workflows can survive migration. It's unlikely that all SharePoint and Nintex workflow can survive a migration. It's likely that part of, or the whole of, many workflows aren't supported by a higher version. While SharePoint workflows are covered by the SharePoint 2010 pre-upgrade check, Nintex provides its own pre-upgrade check, targeted at Nintex 2007 workflows.

    • No feature parity. With SharePoint 2010 being newer, Microsoft deprecated some SharePoint 2007 features and added new ones. In practice, it means the migration involves the mapping of SharePoint 2007 features onto SharePoint 2010, and that some customizations may require re-development.

    • Development environment required. Whereas a development environment may be optional in the SharePoint 2007 case, it's mandatory with SharePoint 2010. Customization may have hardcoded references to SharePoint 2007 locations (file system path, registry path, package structure and content) and requires a rebuild from source.

    Option 3: SharePoint 2007 -> SharePoint Online

    • Ability to treat SharePoint as SaaS environment. The responsibility of backing up and restoring SharePoint and of monitoring and patching is on Microsoft. Customers cannot stay on an old version, and accrue technical debt, but are nudged forward by Microsoft continuously rolling out updates to the platform.

    • Decommissioning on-premise server farms. The existing SharePoint 2007 farms may consist of development, testing, pre-production, and production become redundant. The money which goes to their maintainance and associated technical tasks can be focused elsewhere.

    • No need for dedicated SharePoint development environment. With SharePoint Online, any machine with .NET development tools can develop for SharePoint. SharePoint Online and Azure services can make up for the development environment.

    • Possible existing experience with content migration. Custom tools and Sharegate may be used to migrate content from the source environment.

    • Reuse of existing licenses. For a user to access SharePoint Online, the user requires an Office 365 license. Depending on the ratio of employees to externals (with no default license) this may be an issue.

    • Database content migration not supported. With SharePoint Online's development model, Microsoft prohibits direct server access, and thus direct database to database migration of content isn't possible. Instead, existing content needs re-adding through Microsoft's web service APIs using either a custom tool or Sharegate.

    • Nintex on-premise to in-cloud not supported. At a technical level, the Nintex of SharePoint Online differs from the Nintex of on-premise. Even though Sharegate offers some workflow migration support, in all likeliness many workflows require recreation by hand with gaps in functionality to be worked out.

    • No feature parity. The closest parity is with SharePoint 2016 as that's the version behind SharePoint Online. But many on-premise services are unavailable in-cloud or work differently. It's unlikely that any custom code developed for SharePoint 2007 can be migrated as-is. To achieve the same functionality in SharePoint Online, the code needs to be re-developed, following the SharePoint Online development model. As a supplement to missing SharePoint functionality, Nintex Online Workflows and Forms may be called for.

    Conclusion

    Migrating SharePoint 2007 to a new on-premise farm, even SharePoint 2007, is best-effort and will likely end up taking a disproportionate amount of time compared to the benefits realized. Given that SharePoint Online is likely the strategic platform of choice, the migration effort is best directed towards SharePoint Online, skipping intermediate platforms and using custom solutions in tandem with Sharegate.

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