Significant excitement is building in the IT community as Microsoft prepares for the rollout of the latest version of its flagship collaboration and document management tool, SharePoint Server 2010. Many organizations have already deployed or are in the process of deploying the current version, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, but want to ensure that they are prepared to upgrade their environment to SharePoint 2010 in the near future.

While not all details of SharePoint 2010 are publicly available, Microsoft has released certain key information which can be used by SharePoint architects to prepare for an eventual upgrade. This information, organized into five steps in this document, can help an organization make informed decisions in advance of the release of the software.

Step 1: Plan for 64bit Architecture
For some time now, Microsoft has made it known that this next version of SharePoint will only run as a 64-bit version. To ease the transition, it is subsequently highly recommended to deploy any new SharePoint 2007 servers on 64-bit hardware and software, so as to make it easier to transition web parts or custom components to SharePoint 2010.

Since SharePoint 2010 will only run on Windows Server 2008 x64 or Windows Server 2008 R2 x64, it's subsequently a good idea to consider deploying any new SharePoint servers on one of those OSs, to help prepare administrators for the changes in administration, particularly within Internet Information Services (IIS) 7.0/7.5.

Step 2: Upgrade Clients
One highly significant change from a client support perspective is that SharePoint Server 2010 will NOT support any versions of Internet Explorer previous to IE7. This includes IE6, which is currently highly pervasive at many organizations.

Because it can take a significant amount of time to transition client machines and train employees on new browsers, it is highly recommended to begin this process early. Note that Microsoft also supports Mozilla Firefox 3.x as a browser and has improved support with Safari browsers.

Along with browser changes, an upgrade to SharePoint 2010 can be a good time to upgrade client Office versions to versions that have better SharePoint support, such as Office 2007. Office 2010 offers the most complete integration with SharePoint 2010, but won’t be released until around the same timeframe as SharePoint 2010.

Software deployment tools such as Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007 R2 can assist with an Office client upgrade in advance of a migration to SharePoint 2010.

Step 3: Upgrade to SharePoint 2007 SP2
A prerequisite for migration of an existing SharePoint 2007 environment to SharePoint 2010 is the application of SP2 for Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS 2007) (if installed.) Service Pack 2 contains functionality improvements, hotfixes, and the extensions to the STSADM command-line tool that allow the farm to be checked for upgrade readiness to SharePoint 2010.

When installing SP2, be sure to install it on all farm members. Also be sure that you have downloaded the updated versions of WSS and MOSS 2007 SP2 released after July 29th, 2009, which include a critical SharePoint licensing fix.

Step 4: Run the PreUpgradeCheck Tool and Mitigate Issues
The most useful tool at your disposal when preparing for a SharePoint 2010 migration is the ‘PreUpgradeCheck’ tool, which is really just an extension to the command-line STSADM tool found in all SharePoint farms.

Running ‘STSADM –o preupgradecheck’ from the ‘\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\Web Server extensions\12\bin’ directory on a SharePoint server runs a series of checks that validates if your farm is ready for a SharePoint 2010 migration.

Prerequisites are verified, customizations examined, and remediation steps are listed when running this tool. This tool is also configured to be ‘read-only’ against your SharePoint databases to avoid any concern against running it in production. Note that this extension to STSADM is only available after upgrading to SP2.

Step 5: Take the Opportunity to Rearchitect
Finally, when considering a migration to SharePoint 2010, consider re-architecting your farm topology to comply with current SharePoint Best Practices. This could mean deploying multiple farms to provide for test and development environments; it could mean deploying SharePoint on virtual server infrastructure such as Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V, or it could mean deploying multiple SharePoint servers to provide for high availability. In other words, take the opportunity provided by the migration to fine-tune your environment to better match your organization’s needs.

Organizations planning to migrate to SharePoint 2010 can simplify the migration process by beginning to plan for the upgrade in advance. Performing the steps outlined above can simplify the migration process and help you identify any roadblocks in advance.