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Different Approaches for Up-Gradation of Windows SharePoint Services

First of all let us tell you about the different ways in which this upgrade can be done. Currently there are three well known ways to do this:

1. In-Place
2. Gradual
3. Database Migration

The first two approaches are carried out on the same machine as the current server. However, for the third approach, database migration, a separate server is required to complete the upgrade process.

Now let us explore all three of these one by one in a bit detail.

The In-Place Approach

Let’s start with the “In-Place” approach. This approach can also be called the ‘overwritten’ method. It is called so as the older version is completely replaced by the newer one. Once this process is complete, the older version cannot be accessed anymore. During this process, the system is said to be ‘offline’.

This upgrade method is suitable for a single server or a small environment. The advantage is that a separate server or a different machine is not required. Also, as soon as the process is completed all the URLs start pointing towards the new upgraded server, Windows SharePoint Services 3.0.

The Gradual Approach

The second in line is the “gradual” upgrade approach. In this method both the Windows SharePoint Services 2.0 and 3.0 run side by side on the same machine. The data is copied from the running SQL Content (original) database to the new SQL Content Database.

While the upgrade process is going on, only those portions would be online that are actually getting backed up at that point in time. The rest will remain available. Like the ‘in-place’ approach, in this approach as well the old URLs will point towards the new server after the upgrade process is complete.

If you choose to follow this approach, you must take care of the storage requirements. Since the whole process is taking place on one machine, disk space is required for the SQL log files.

The good thing about this method is that unlike the “in-process” method, this approach allows you to roll back to the previous state. This approach is best for bigger SharePoint applications. You can keep almost everything online the whole time. Only different portions will become offline as they get up-graded.

The Database Migration Approach

In the third approach, ‘Database Migration’, another machine is required for the upgrade process. All the data does not have to be taken offline at once. Like the ‘Gradual’ approach, only that data will be offline that is being upgrade at that time.

The data needs to be migrated manually; therefore, this is a much more complex approach than the previous two. Like in the ‘Gradual’ approach, the current as well as the new version is maintained side by side. The complexity is introduced only because of the hardware requirements and due to the need to do things manually.

Since we need a different server, we do need to go though the trouble of installing Windows SharePoint Service 3.0 on it. We will copy all database but we do not need to copy the configuration from the 2.0 version. We will configure the new server on the new machine from scratch to version 3.0.

This approach is particularly good for the situation where you are planning to upgrade your hardware as well, along with the Windows Service.


There is no hard and fast rule as to which approach to follow and no verdict that which approach is the best. It all depends on your requirements and you can improvise using the knowledge of all the three approaches that you have.

We personally am in the favor of the ‘Gradual’ approach. This approach requires less hassle than the ‘Database Migration’ approach because we do not need a separate machine. It is slightly complicated than the ‘In-Place’ approach but it provides us with the ability to roll back to the previous state any time we like. And we feel that this provision of roll back is highly beneficial for a novice as well as a seasoned professional.

This was the brief overview of all available approaches to upgrade. In my next posts, we will describe the process in steps.

At the end of this part, we would like to wish all the best to everybody who is about to or is already doing this upgrade process. Happy up-grading!

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