Now that Sitecore has announced CMS 6.5 as the official recommended release, you should be considering and developing your Sitecore Content Management System (CMS) upgrade plan.
Why Upgrade Now?
There are two main reasons to upgrade now: you will get new and enhanced features, and you’ll achieve enhanced stability with your CMS system. The enhanced stability comes from fixes that Sitecore has implemented to resolve known issues found in previous releases. As for new features, depending on the version you’re upgrading from, the improvements can include:
- Digital Marketing Suite
- Inline personalization
- Profile cards & patterns
- Sitecore AppCenter
- Enhanced page editor user interface: Edit page content and design simultaneously
- Support for ASP.NET 4.0 application pools
- Dedicated publishing server capabilities
- Native RSS feeds
- Microsoft Outlook-based workflow management
- Web Forms for Marketers 2
- And more…
Key Steps for a Successful Upgrade
There is no doubt—upgrading is easier said than done. The upgrade process is complex and you’ll want to use the skills of advanced Sitecore developers to get it done smoothly and maintain the integrity and operation of your current installation. Nothing beats having an experienced team by your side while planning a Sitecore upgrade.
To help you get started, here are 5 key checkpoints to consider when planning your Sitecore CMS upgrade:
1. Check the Sitecore version recommendation
Even though 6.5 is the recommended version, there may be technical or operational reasons for you to go with an alternate version. It’s worth taking the time to double check. Sitecore has documented a recommended release policy here: http://sdn.sitecore.net/SDN5/Support/Versioning%20Policy.aspx
2. Do a high-level assessment of your current implementation
Review your existing implementation to determine compatibility with the target upgrade version. There are things you might need to revise first before the upgrade. For example, in some installs, it’s necessary to remove references to deprecated fields. It may also be necessary to upgrade the .NET framework before an upgrade. You’ll want to document these issues for inclusion in your upgrade plan.
3. Perform a Sitecore module assessment
You’ll want to review installed modules to determine upgrade compatibility with the target version. Following that, you should define and document the upgrade path for each module. Not all modules are supported from version to version, and specific steps or changes may be required to ensure compatibility.
4. Assess your Sitecore Hotfix status
If you have installed some Sitecore Hotfixes, they may need to be removed or replaced before a version upgrade.
5. Perform a new feature assessment
Review all new features in the target version for the effect they will have on other aspects of your implementation. Extra planning is required to ensure that there are no collisions with existing components of your CMS and website operation.
When you take the time to research, plan and test at each milestone of your upgrade process, you’re helping to guarantee a successful upgrade.
Rick Minozzi is Director of Consulting Services with the Application Development group at mindSHIFT Technologies. Rick has been working with Sitecore for more than 4 years and has worked on dozens of successful Sitecore upgrades.
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