SharePoint 2013 Preview has a lot of interesting and improved features and I am really interested to see how they will be used as 2013 starts to gain traction in the market. That being said, most SharePoint 2013 installations aren’t going to be fresh environments, they are going to be upgraded from SharePoint 2010. I look at SharePoint farms everyday, and frankly a lot of them aren’t ready for that upgrade. I am not blind to the fact that, as a consultant, I wouldn’t be looking at most of these farms if there weren’t some sort of problem, but there is one very common issue that I see over and over that could be solved simply.
Here is the issue. No one knows anything about the farm. Why are there 3 different names in the AAM for this web application? What is http://www.madeupaname.com:13345 for? Why are 3 web applications attached to the same content database, using the same type of authentication? No one knows, or no one remembers, and in some cases, no one cares. What is the password to the farm account? What is the password to the account that has farm/site collection/local machine and SQL administrator permissions? Which of the 37 farm solutions installed in the farm are actually used? Where are the wsp files and license codes for those purchased solutions?
So here is the “Quit Your Job!” part of the post. Imagine you just won the lottery. You are about to quit and move to your private island, but first you want to be nice to the person who has to take your place. Write all the accounts and passwords down, put them in a sealed envelope/password safe program and give them to your boss for safe keeping. Put a text file named info.txt on the root of the C: drive of the machine that has Central administration on it. Write down all the things that you know about the farm. All the little settings, all the reasons for unusual setups, anything that that is out of the ordinary about your farm. No passwords, no in-depth information about your network or firewall, just why and when little changes were made. In this little thought exercise, the notes are for the person taking your place, but in reality if you keep that little text file up to date the notes will be for you a year or two from now when you can’t remember why you created a web application, or host header. This one little text file will save you time, money, and possibly a few therapy sessions.
Upgrading SharePoint to 2013 (or 2010, or 2007) is a lot easier when you know what databases need to be available in the new farm and what settings are needed to make it work correctly in your environment. Right now it may look and sound like SharePoint 2013 is the hard part of the upgrade, but the new product is almost never the problem. It is the accumulation of truly necessary but unsupported customizations, day to day workarounds, and forgetfulness, that make the upgrade hard. Information is your best tool for working around a lot of obstacles caused by that accumulation.
So quit your job right now! Write down everything your replacement needs to know (or everything you need to remember in a year). Sure, you have a better chance of being hit by lightning than winning that lottery, but those notes might come in handy someday.