Thursday, February 27, 2014

Why your company should migrate to SharePoint 2013

If your company currently uses an older version of SharePoint, you should really consider recommending that they upgrade to SharePoint 2013.


If you are not already familiar with SharePoint 2013, you may not know how many changes Microsoft has made to the SharePoint 2013 platform compared to all prior versions.  In fact, so many dramatic changes have been made to the SharePoint 2013 platform that it is probably safe to say that it is "SharePoint at its finest".  It is basically how the SharePoint platform was "meant to be".

Here are some of the new features to consider:

  1. Built to scale much more.  With the release of the Workflow Manager integration, an entire Workflow Server Farm can be built to handle workflows and support multiple SharePoint Farms.  In SharePoint 2010, the load of workflows would be still handled by the SharePoint servers themselves.
  2. Completely built on .NET 4.5.  If you are using an older version of SharePoint such as SharePoint 2010, you already know that Microsoft has made no attempt to update support for SharePoint 2010 to the .NET 4.0 or later platforms.  SharePoint 2010 still uses .NET 3.5 and therefore misses out on all of the new features that are currently available with this newer version of the .NET Framework.
  3. Can support newer versions of PowerShell such as v. 3.0 and v 4.0.  There are numerous features available in the newer version of PowerShell and even a web-based console included with the newer releases of PowerShell which can make automating SharePoint tasks that much easier on the SharePoint 2013 platform.
  4. Made to support alternative browsers and mobile devices.  If you have struggled with the immensely tight coupling that previous versions of SharePoint has had with the Internet Explorer browser, SharePoint 2013 largely breaks away from that pattern and readily supports Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome.  
  5. Includes many new HTML5 features.  In prior versions of SharePoint, you always had to open up Windows Explorer view to drag and drop files into a Document Library.  However, with the new HTML5 features in SharePoint 2013, you can do this directly using any modern browser.
  6. InfoPath has been updated to support Visual Studio 2013.  In SharePoint 2010, InfoPath was still dependent on Visual Studio 2005 (and therefore .NET 2.0), therefore, many .NET features were missing when writing code for InfoPath forms.
  7. You can write ASP.NET MVC Apps!  In previous versions of SharePoint, you were restricted to writing ASP.NET Web Form Applications.  However, with this latest release, you can finally write applications which use the newer ASP.NET MVC Framework.
  8. You can write non ASP.NET Apps!  This is a very welcome addition to companies and organizations that wish to incorporate assorted applications into their SharePoint Portal to make it a "one stop shop" for their end users to access content from a wide variety of sources.
  9. The API is much improved.  Microsoft has made a significant investment in improving the SharePoint API to make it easily accessible via REST and thereby accessible to any client-side application that can leverage JavaScript as well as any platform that knows how to make RESTful calls.  
  10. SharePoint Designer is much improved.  Even with SharePoint Designer 2010, there were many significant limitations especially in regards to workflows that made dealing with workflows very frustrating.  SharePoint Designer 2013 offers many new features that made things that were never possible in SharePoint Designer 2010 finally possible.
  11. SharePoint 2013 now includes FAST Search Server.  SharePoint 2010 previously involved a long and complex setup to integrate the 2 products that required separate installations.  Now FAST is built-right in and you can leverage all of the additional features that FAST offers without any of the extra setup time.

Of course, an upgrade to SharePoint will require a significant investment in time and effort since SharePoint 2013 no longer supports an in-place upgrade (as was possible with SharePoint 2010) and instead requires deployment to a completely new SharePoint Farm.  

You can continue to use SharePoint 2010 Workflows on the SharePoint 2013 platform, but if you want to leverage new features such as SharePoint 2013 Workflows, these will also have to be entirely re-written since there is no conversion process from SharePoint 2010 Workflows.    

In addition, the hardware requirements in terms of memory are much more significant than previous releases of SharePoint as well, thereby potentially requiring hardware upgrades as well.

Overall, however, your company will find that the investment in migrating and upgrading will be well worth it since the ROI of creating and delivering functionality on this new platform will easily pay for itself within a few months.

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