Exploring Sitecore 8: The Upgrade Path

Jim Manson Jim Manson
March 05, 2015
Sitecore , Web Development , Web Strategy

Using old software can be a challenge. Upgrading to a more current version of the software and getting used to the “new” ways in which it has been enhanced can also be a challenge. Sitecore 8 is no different but it does have some compelling reasons to make the move.

The Foundation: 6.x to 7.x

Upgrading from a 6.x version to 7.x version (excluding 7.5) can potentially be challenging but is a pretty straightforward path. Sitecore 7.5 and 8 were released in quick succession, during Q4 2014. They both represent a change in the requirements for the install by adding the xDB, MongoDB. Although the requirements for Sitecore 6.X up to 7.2 are fairly straight forward (Newer OS, Newer database version), the addition of MongoDB offers more choices since it can be hosted on premise or hosted in the cloud. Hosting on premise may require additional hardware and licensing of an OS at an additional cost, but you have more control. Using the cloud would provide the potential for more scalability.

The Challenge: 7.2 to 7.5

The real challenge in upgrading comes when going from 7.2 up to 7.5. Converting all of the analytics and marketing data to the new schema can have errors and be time consuming. Sitecore provides a tool for doing the conversions however if you can move ahead without having to do the conversion it is much simpler to start with clean databases for the analytics and marketing data.

The Last Step: 7.5 to 8

The upgrade from 7.5 to 8 is a snap since you will already have the xDB in place and the hardware requirements are similar. Of course, as with any upgrade, there will be bumps along the way so I would recommend that you always do a test run in a local development environment to prepare for the real deal. This also allows you to upgrade the Sitecore modules like Web Forms for Marketers; however, keep in mind that each module has its own upgrades and may have issues in the new version of Sitecore. There are a few Known Issues for Sitecore 8.

As you review your options keep in mind the most significant enhancements for each of the recent releases:

  • Version 6.5 and 6.6 – Major upgrades to Page Editor and DMS functionality
  • Version 7.0 and 7.2 – Massive content scalability with the addition of buckets, developer goodies and publication efficiency improvements
  • Version 7.5 – More analytics and customer experience scalability with the new analytics collection database (xDB) moving from SQL Server to MongoDB
  • Version 8 – Twenty-first century marketing with all-new analytics, reporting, testing and “one view of the customer” full experience management. Sitecore takes a big jump from a tactical solution to an online publisher and finally to a strategic solution to marketing needs in today’s more connected world.

You really do not want to fall too far behind with staying current for several reasons. The first of which is the discontinuance of support for older versions. At the end of this year, mainstream support will end for 6.X versions, so don’t wait until your version is no longer supported. You also miss out on the improvements in scalability, searchablity, performance, security and all of the new features.

Major updates to page editor and DMS Massive updates to scalability like buckets and dev tools Analytics and xDB Experience Editor and Test Management Minor updates to functionality
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