Thankfully, unlike the night of Paul Revere's fateful ride we are happy to see it coming. Side note: If you are bored go read this article talking about Israel Bissell who did the hard work. He managed to ride 345 miles to Paul's 12. Unfortunately Bissell doesn't rhyme as well as Revere. J Ok, enough history back to SharePoint.
SharePoint 2013 is exciting with lots of new features. Two of the biggest will be more social capabilities and the App store. The inspiration for social feature are pretty clear, it is like a hybrid of Twitter and Facebook. That's a really good thing as we move closer to the social enterprise. The App store just makes sense. Everyone these days has more Apps than they can even imagine at their fingertips on their smart phones, it was only logical that other software would start having the same capabilities. These two features are just scratching the surface of SharePoint 2013. Fortunately, if you are interested, Microsoft has some great reading on what is new and the Rackspace team has provided 9 free videos showing off some of the 2013 coolness. This article isn't about what is new.
The thing I want to focus on, the information that is hardest to find, is what you can be doing today to get ready for when the final version of SharePoint 2013 is released. The easy answer is nothing. If you are actively caring for and feeding SharePoint then you have nothing to worry about. On the other hand, if you haven't been showing your SharePoint farm all the love and attention it deserves don't feel too bad, about 95% of farms are in the same situation. If you are a little behind, let's talk a little about your "fall cleaning" plans.
Where are you with patching your current SharePoint 2010 farm? You don't know do you? That isn't a good sign. Luckily Todd has a great post that helps you find your build number and then tells you what that number means. Now, when you look at Todd's list you don't necessarily need to be on the latest and greatest; technically as long as you are at RTM then upgrading to 2013 is supported. Let's be honest though, you shouldn't be running RTM. You should be at service pack 1(SP1) at a minimum. There are 100's of fixes between RTM and SP1 so if you are not there then get a plan together to get there. What about all of those cumulative updates (CU) after SP1? Good question. As a rule of thumb you shouldn't apply a CU unless you have a specific problem and you can point to the CU that fixes it. CUs are not tested like service packs and can introduce a lot of risk. With that in mind be sure to read Todd's note on each Cumulative Update carefully to get an idea of what features they may fix or add. Another important point to remember, there is no way to uninstall a SharePoint CU or SP once you start installing it, so practice on a test farm first and then plan for the worst.
When was the last time you deleted old content out of SharePoint? No, not your field guide to the battle of Lexington and Concord, but all of those SharePoint sites that nobody uses. There have been studies that show up to 50% of collaboration sites that get created are never used. Even if you are 50% better than the average company, did you delete the 25% that aren't in use? Probably not. This is a great way to get ready for your upgrade. Everything about less content is a win when it comes to doing an upgrade. Nothing is worse than troubleshooting upgrade errors for content that you just end up deleting.
Since SharePoint 2013 isn't RTM yet hardware specifics are still a little up in the air, but it is still obvious there will be changes. For example, are you using the Office Web Applications in SharePoint 2010? In 2010 Office Web Apps are required to be installed on a SharePoint server. In 2013 it is required that they not be installed on a SharePoint server. With that one change you have already added at least one server to your farm. What about the operating system and SQL? Windows Server 2008 (not R2) and SQL 2005 or 2008 were supported. Not with SharePoint 2013. Digging into the hardware and software requirements document provided by Microsoft will give you the information you will need to start planning you infrastructure to support SharePoint.
There is a lot more you could do to get prepared, but let's not get carried away. Your server room has smoke detectors, so one lantern by land or two by water might be overkill. If you can get through patching, purging, and preparing then you should be in good shape.
Shane Young – Rackspace Hosting