Why is upgrading necessary in SharePoint?

The latest version of Microsoft SharePoint 2013 has improved upon its previous releases of 2007 and 2010. The latest version comes with better support for big data, public facing websites and mobile users. However, companies face problems for choosing between server andcloud-based versions of SharePoint 2013. Along with its capabilities like custom web parts for SharePoint, the following are some of the highlights because of which the platform can be considered to be a part of your organization.

It is a known fact that SharePoint has proven to be a billions of dollars business proposition for Microsoft, and with increment of market share in the double digit range every year, we can safely say the SharePoint is a beast in its space. Worldwide, companies are rapidly adopting this platform to tap into the opportunities that centralizing knowledge enables. The platform increases collaboration, and helps in developing applications on top of it, and helps companies gain actionable intelligence about the overall business health.

SharePoint 2013 is a new release in the lifecycle of the product, and you may wonder what the product is and what can it do for the organization before it is deployed. The following are some of the benefits of using the platform along with its ability to develop custom web parts for SharePoint.

Highlights of SharePoint 2013

Improved handling for your brand’s web presence: What used to be a difficult process involving designer assets, style sheets and confusing packaging process is now much easier with the platform integrated within the enterprise. Now, any designer with the knowledge of HTML, CSS and JavaScript can in a short time brand a SharePoint website and create the public facing or internal site that appears good looking. This would reduce the expense of internal support as well as make it less costly to use SharePoint itself for public facing websites.

Improved public facing website hosting:Hosting a public website, to cite an instance, ww.your.com website on SharePoint 2007 which was often frustrating. With the 2010 version, the hosting services became better but the product was yet to be full featured to become capable against some of the other competitor’s platforms.

In SharePoint 2013, the capabilities including custom web parts for SharePointare a natural evolution into maturity. This new version includes various capabilities that includes serving pages to different devices such as mobile phones and tablets based on their characteristics. This also includes search engine optimization, including XML based sitemaps, friendly URLs, SEO settings by different site collections rather than sites, and support for robots.txt to define out of bounds areas for search engine crawlers.

Improved business intelligence capabilities:In the 2010 version of SharePoint, there had already been integrated capabilities to help expose business intelligence and create big data reports. However, in the 2013 version, these capabilities have expanded, giving SharePoint 2013 improved features to dig deeper into business insights and analytics. Furthermore, like the custom web parts for SharePoint, the integration between SharePoint and Excel is even better. Moreover, the PowerPivot program has gotten better with the 2013 version, wherein now the user can work with billions of rows and columns directly into the memory. The platform also contains features like PerformancePoint Services, Dashboard Designer and Visio services which works together to analyse and evaluate your business metrics and health.

End user training:The 2013 version comes with a new feature called the deferred site collection upgrade. This actually allows a specific set of site collections operate under the SharePoint 2010 version while the SharePoint 2013 platform code is being installed. Therefore, the user is operating SharePoint 2010 code with the 2013 product, which makes the whole process easier to test and maintain compatibility with any custom code and applications that might have built on SharePoint.

As with its other features, like the custom web parts for SharePoint, this process actually helps in the transition for your users between the look and feel of how SharePoint libraries and site operates. You can always get the benefit of deploying the new product while you manage the timeline on which you convert the look and feel of the website and turn on the new features and capabilities that face your end users.

Improved mobile support:Along with benefits such as custom web parts for SharePoint, the 2013 version comes with improved mobile support especially with tablets and smartphones penetrating in every pocket of the market. These SharePoint sites becoming more and more work product in all sorts of business, it had become all the necessary for Microsoft to address the problem of poor SharePoint experience in all other versions.

In 2013, there is now an HTML5 coded view known as the contemporary view that is optimized for speedy access across various mobiles irrespective of their operating systems. The system comes upgraded with support for push notifications, therefore SharePoint 2013 can reach out and push a message to your device based on a multitude of algorithms. The location awareness has also been built in the platform, if the business thinks about developing location aware websites and web parts.

However, there are also some issues regarding the SharePoint 2013 platform. The following are some of them.

Migration:Migration to any kind of new platform can be frustrating fraught with deployment issues, troubles and delays and you might end up quite where you never thought you would. SharePoint migrations are no exception to this rule and there is reasonably high bar to even get started. What is important is to remember that to move to SharePoint 2013, there will be the need of purchasing some third party tools that are available in the market. This becomes a huge problem for if the enterprise is still on SharePoint version 2007 and has plans to upgrade to SharePoint 2013 without any prior plans.

Different product editions:Not everything is as easy as the development of custom web parts for SharePoint. What most people don’t know is that the product is available in editions, one is SharePoint Server which you can install within your own premises and within your own datacenter, just like the previous versions, the other is Office 365, which is operable from the cloud in Microsoft’s own datacenters. There is a ton of overlap when features and capabilities are being considered between the boxed product version and cloud based subscription service version, but the company is hoping to appease all subsets of customers by offering these two variations.

So why upgrade?

There is both various kinds of internal and external pressure from the IT departments of any enterprise to upgrade. The following are some of them.

Internal pressure:

  • Most enterprises are always in a cycle of doing more with less. The upgradation provides multiple ways to do things in a much more efficient manner, like the custom web parts in SharePoint development.
  • Maintenance of older versions of SharePoint can prove to be challenging. It becomes difficult to find people who have experience or knowledge of SharePoint 2003.
  • The upgrades often provide increased support for standards or newer technologies. Like 2013 version enables development of custom web parts in SharePoint.
  • These upgrades provide increased support for standard or new technologies. In the case of SharePoint, there is improved browser support, device support, windows/ office integration.

External pressures:

  • There is a plethora of options to choose from when there is technology to choose. This puts undue pressure on the IT department who needs to act more responsive to be able to accelerate upgrade cycles internally. This is made evident when leaders within enterprises goes and buys into SaaS or any alternative technologies that may not be helpful.
  • The increased penetration of mobile, tablets and the pressure for remote device support is fuelled from the increased comfort and reliance of these tools in the consumer world. In the BYOD trend, furthermore, there is increased pressure for IT to provide support and options for devices that was previously not supported or considered.

Upgrading to SharePoint 2013

End user enhancements that leads to increased efficiency and rapid adoption:Other than its capability of custom web parts in SharePoint, one of the most significant improvement in 2013 version is that it does not require any deep technical understanding to comprehend its overall value. One of the major factors that encourage even a partial upgrade of the platform even in generalized team sites or content is the potential increase in adoption and productivity due to seamless drag and drop, simpler sharing of content and general UI improvements.

Improvement in social enterprise tools can encourage adoption:SharePoint 2013 platform offers great many capabilities including the ability to build custom web parts in SharePoint. However, besides this, the new version comes with better and easily extensible social enterprise tools. For many companies, this maybe the parameter and act as a driver, especially if they had already invested in SharePoint but not in enterprise social. The rich feature set and improved capabilities are some of the major reasons for enterprises to upgrade to the latest version of SharePoint 2013.

Improved Search experience and engine:In the SharePoint 2013 version, Microsoft has integrated FAST and BING capabilities. This new and improved search core makes it much easier to use the OOTB search experience from an end-user. The following are some of the benefits that are included within the new search:

  • This new feature of search, allows you to see what you have searched for and selected previously in simple and impactful way. This is important for recall scenarios.
  • Content by search enables a user to build the query they want on it and see the results as they build it. It is also a part of custom web parts in SharePoint.
  • There is continuous crawl and general performance enhancements that enable a potentially faster crawl for new or changed content guaranteeing that the results are up to date and are relevant to the search query.
  • Improvements to the overall experience in SharePoint 2013 such as File Type identifiers, native PDF support on indexing and a much more developer accessible HTML or JavaScript model that changed how search results display, have further improved the overall experience of the search feature.

Technical benefits:It is important to understand that technical benefits typically motivate upgrades of platforms only when there is a clear cut cost benefit. For SharePoint, however, there are typically an extra cost on hardware for the new ecosystem that would actually result in budget to go up front, not to mention other costs including licensing costs and cost of the migration or upgrade by itself.These cost benefits become very difficult to explain especially if they do not improve on the overall business value.

To cite an instance, any organization may be able to predict considerable storage savings and performance improvements based on shredded storage, improved control at a site collection level, improved caching, etc. Based on technical changes or factors such as this, the enterprise may be able to provide reasoning and benefits for upgrading that reduce technical limitations or provide IT cost savings.

Solution benefits

Depending on the kind of businesses that you have built and offer, certain SharePoint capabilities like the development of custom web parts in SharePoint may be extremely important for you.

Conclusion

Microsoft SharePoint is a web application platform that is used mostly for intranets, document management and content management. However, the 2013 version comes with more features and capabilities. Considered to be one of the most popular software for creating the corporate intranets, it is also used for a wide variety of features including the development of custom web parts in SharePoint. Out of the box, SharePoint has a Microsoft Office like interface and is close integrated with the Office suite, making it a platform that can be used even by non-technical users.

More importantly, the platform is extremely flexible. This platform can be used to provide intranet portals, document and file management, collaboration, real time document sharing, social sharing, extranets, websites, enterprise search and even business intelligence. This platform is so malleable that it can be integrated virtually into any existing business systems. It also automates business processes such as document approval, development of custom web parts in SharePoint by associating common workflows with data.