Migrate to SharePoint 2013 - Supported Upgrade Scenarios

Migrate to SharePoint 2013 - Supported Upgrade Scenarios


A SharePoint 2013 migration won't be a simple endeavor. Last time, we looked at some of the new features that could potentially sway you to upgrade SharePoint to 2013. This time, I want to look at the different migration scenarios we are presented with. Follow this series with the outline below.


Introduction – What’s new in SharePoint 2013 that’s worth making the switch?

Part 2 – Supported scenarios for my migration to SharePoint 2013

Part 3 – Don’t just wrap your previous SharePoint with the 2013 look, upgrade

Part 4 – Make a roadmap for your SharePoint migration, start planning

Part 5 – Governance and Information Architecture, Tools and Techniques

Part 6 – What might not work so well anymore after the migration

The official word

"The database-attach method is the only supported method for upgrading from SharePoint 2010 Products to SharePoint 2013"

That is an extract from the official Microsoft Technet SharePoint Upgrade Process model found here.

What does this mean? Exactly what you think, if you are not running SharePoint 2010 there are no supported migration scenarios. I’ll get to that shortly but to tell you the truth, there is no secret to it – you will probably need third party tools to do the migration if you are running a SharePoint inferior to 2010.

Assuming that you do fall in the “Supported Migration Scenario” and are running SharePoint 2010 what can you do to upgrade to SharePoint 2013.

SharePoint migration to SharePoint 2013 Supported Scenarios

I won’t re-write Microsoft’s well explained document but will give you a rough summary.

Basically the migration is simple enough from a high level:

  1. Install SharePoint 2013
  2. Back Up Databases from 2010 - Restore in 2013 and upgrade Databases
  3. Upgrade Site Collections to new 2013 Interface using PowerShell or through Site Collection Administration

What happened to In-Place?

I hope this isn’t a question you are actually asking. Sorry for the boldness but this is never a good idea. It’s comparable to taking your Windows XP upgrading it to Vista then upgrading it to Windows 7 and so on but never actually reinstalling from scratch. But imagine it on a larger scale, with SharePoint it’s a server that the entire organization is using to collaborate. It’s not something you want to upgrade like that.

Therefore, it is no longer supported. The idea is to migrate to a newly installed ready to go SharePoint 2013 rather than staying on the same box and keeping all the “manual patches” that were done over time to the server. Come on… you know what I am talking about.

I remember something called Visual Upgrade – Is that still available?

SharePoint migration to SharePoint 2013 Supported Scenarios

No and yes. Wait what? SharePoint 2013 no longer has the “Visual Upgrade” feature. However, there is something new called “Deferred site collection upgrade”.

When we were on SharePoint 2007 and SharePoint 2010 became available, it came with a “Visual Upgrade”. If you remember, this would allow a Site Administrator to “Preview” his site in SharePoint 2010. This sounded great but the fact was that you needed to migrate our SharePoint to 2010 first before accessing this feature.

Result: Many things were broken as your site “looked 2007” but really was a SharePoint 2010 site already. The only things that were touch were things like Master Page, CSS and HTML files.

Free Bonus: Download our guide to learn How to Increase Your SharePoint Environment's Performance.

The new “Deferred Site Collection upgrade”

I’ll be honest with you, I never really used the visual upgrade except once for a very small business. In organizations, I needed to make sure the upgrade would be successful before I actually migrated. This rendered the Visual Upgrade feature of SharePoint 2010 a bit useless. This time, my gut feeling says I will definitely be using this new upgrade solution for SharePoint 2013.

SharePoint 2013 actually installs the files for SharePoint 2010 when it is installed.

  • Features, site templates, site definitions, and Web Parts

The directories on the file system are duplicated in both the 14 and 15 paths, for example:

    • Web Server Extensions/14/TEMPLATE/Features
    • Web Server Extensions/15/TEMPLATE/Features
  • IIS support directories:
    • _Layouts, _Layouts/15
    • _ControlTemplates, _ControlTemplates/15
  • Solution deployment, which lets legacy solutions work in 2010 mode

(The above information is straight from Microsoft’s Technet Article)

SharePoint migration to SharePoint 2013 Supported Scenarios

This basically means that when you install SharePoint 2013 and migrate your SharePoint 2010 Content Database over, it will actually still be running in SharePoint 2010 mode.

This means you won’t have to wait to start using SharePoint 2013.

Take your Databases and move them to SharePoint 2013, continue using them as SharePoint 2010 and create new sites in SharePoint 2013.

So how do I actually upgrade the sites?

Ok so you moved your sites over to SharePoint 2013 but they are still running in SharePoint 2010 mode, so how do you upgrade them? And is there a way to preview them before we push the button?

Absolutely, and I think Microsoft did a great job this time around for the migration process.

When you’re SharePoint 2010 is running on SharePoint 2013 you will need to start upgrading. The difference this time is that it’s by Site Collections and not by Site anymore. Much better, because let me tell you, going to individual sites to upgrade will quickly leave you with a bitter taste.

SharePoint offers you 2 possibilities:

-PowerShell command to upgrade all Site Collections to 2013

-Deferred Site Collection Upgrade; Each Site Collection Administrator upgrades when he’s ready.

In "Deferred Site Collection Upgrade", the Site Collection Administrator can request a preview of their site. This is called upgrade evaluation site collection. The site will placed in queue to be copied by a once per day timer job to a SharePoint 2013 mode Site Collection. In other words SharePoint creates a copy of your Site Collection into SharePoint 2013. This will be available for 30 days before another timer job deletes it. Of course the 30 days value can be changed.

Many other options can be configured for throttling and such to make sure your farm doesn’t go down while previews are created but the information is available on TechNet already. Find resources at the bottom of this article.

The Site Collection Administrator can also choose to upgrade without looking at a preview.

Upgrading from SharePoint 2010

Well you have the official word above, when you migrate to SharePoint 2013 from SharePoint 2010 it seems everything was thought of and should be an easy enough upgrade. Granted it does not allow you to restructure or re-architect your SharePoint while you upgrade since it’s a Database Attach upgrade. But overall you should have all the tools to migrate to SharePoint 2013.

In my introduction post, I talk about reasons you may have to make the switch. However, looking at the supported scenarios and how Microsoft handles SharePoint 2010 to 2013 upgrades I may take a different approach.

It might just be worth it to upgrade SharePoint to 2013 since it can run in SharePoint 2010 mode as well. But this will only work if there is a lot of Education and Training on this subject early on by Microsoft.

Cool story, but what about us in SharePoint 2007 or even SharePoint 2003

That’s where it becomes not so easy. We’ve established that from 2010 there is little if any issues, but what about the others with still over 20-30% still on SharePoint 2007.

Simply is not supported.

You don’t have many possible solutions, either you upgrade to SharePoint 2010 and then SharePoint 2013. Or, use migration tools that can by-pass this limitation for you.

I wish I had better solutions and I will keep this part of the blog updated as time passes and new creative ways of migrating immerse in the world of SharePoint but for now, there simply isn’t any.

Sources to get you prepared – you need to actually read them

TechNet – Upgrade to SharePoint 2013

TechNet – Plan for Upgrade to SharePoint 2013

TechNet – Upgrade to SharePoint 2013 Resource Center

Obviously this blog series… I’ll keep this list updates as time passes

Migrating to SharePoint 2013 isn't easy

In fact the same could be said when migrating from any version. Hopefully this presentation will provide you with some help, ideas or just confirm what you're doing.

**NEW** TechNet - Changes from SharePoint 2010 to SharePoint 2013 and reason for change

Meanwhile to hesitate to reach out if you have any questions @bniaulin

Migrate Straight to 2013 With Sharegate
Get your Free 15-Day Trial and start your SharePoint 2013 migration now.
Get Sharegate Now
Benjamin Niaulin
About the author
Benjamin Niaulin

Well known as the SharePoint Geek, Benjamin has been helping people all around the globe reach their goals by simplifying SharePoint solutions. You haven't met Benjamin yet? Look for him at SharePoint conferences and events!