Sitecore upgrade recommendations and best practices

If you are planning to upgrade your Sitecore to latest version, there are a few different ways of doing it. But be careful. Sitecore upgrades aren’t always straightforward.

Sitecore upgrade could introduce many problems if it’s done without planning. Here I will talk about recommendations and best practices to follow-up while doing upgrade

There are two upgrade approaches mentioned below–

  • Install of 8.X and migration of content
  • Incremental upgrades as per Sitecore’s documentation

Lets talk about each approach in detail

Install of 8.X and migration of content

o   In this approach we can move content (content items and media library) from old Sitecore installation to new fresh Sitecore installation via Sitecore packages. It’s a quick upgrade approach for small websites but it’s not the recommended approach.

o   Pros

  • Quick upgrade process for small websites

o   Cons

  • Not supported by Sitecore
  • Migrating content to a new solution can be a bit risky since the moved items are not updated and new versions of the UpdateInstallationWizard performs some post installation steps which fixes some field values on standard fields
  • Migrating Sitecore users to new solution reset their password. Admin has to resent password to all the users
  • Migrating content to new solution does not work well for larger projects, it’s become time consuming as compare with installing the upgrade packages

Incremental upgrade

If you are upgrading from 6.6 to 8.1, for example, this approach requires a series of intermediate steps of installing packages, updating configuration files and running update scripts on the databases

o   Pros

  • Supported by Sitecore
  • No need to worry about package installation and user migration
  • Give opportunity to migrate analytics database
  • Opportunity to upgrade Sitecore modules like WFFM and ECM without losing data

o   Cons

  • With this approach we have to run upgrade two time first during development and second before prod release with content freeze
  • Content freeze time in this upgrade is bit longer than earlier

Steps to do Sitecore Incremental upgrade

We normally divide upgrade process in eight steps

  1. Analysis and Planning
    1. What is initial and target Sitecore version
    2. How many Sitecore modules are installed in current Sitecore version
      • i.      Do these modules support target Sitecore version? Check Sitecore modules compatibility by clicking here (
      • For Sitecore modules such as Email Campaign Manager, Web Forms for Marketers, or the CRM connector, be aware that each module has its own upgrade path and compatibility timeline
    3.  Is there any Sitecore customizing done in Sitecore that will not be available in target version
    4.  Does current infrastructure support target Sitecore version
    5. Customers should check with their Sitecore sales rep to ensure that an upgrade to version 7.5 or 8 is fully supported by their current Sitecore license.
  2. Run Sitecore Upgrade
    • Setup project on local development machine (codebase and database)
    • Depending on initial Sitecore version start upgrade process
    • Take backup of complete code and database after upgrading to next Sitecore version
    • Make sure to upgrade Sitecore supported modules as well
    • Once upgrade reach to target version. Login to Sitecore and perform below steps –
      • Publish an item
      • Try to change presentation of item
      • Create item
      • Delete an item
  3. Internal Testing
    • Setup dev site
    • QA will do smoke testing of website and record and error found. Common error after upgrading from version to 6 to 7 is
      • The major API change between 6 and 7 is Sitecore.Search. This can be a big task depending on project size and lucene usage
      • If there are some modules installed which are not supported by Sitecore then update their code to support new API
      • If there any customization in Sitecore using OLD API that may not work in new version
  4. Bug fixing
    • Fix the issues raised by QA
  5. Alpha Testing
    • QA will run one more round of testing and validate issues raised during internal testing
  6. Beta Testing
    • Setup UAT environment so that client can validate website
  7. Preparation for Prod release
    • This is content freeze and code freeze step. From the start of this step till prod release client’s content team is not allow to make any update on content tree
    • Take latest database backups from production server and restore it on local development machine
    • Run upgrade again from initial Sitecore version
    • To save some time and avoid any human error we can do below
      • Install the Sitecore recommended upgrade packages and run the sql scripts.
      • For config updates don’t do it again instead copy all the configs from back that was created during initial upgrade for specific Sitecore version. Manually updating config files consumes lots of time and increase chances of error because of human mistake.
    • Merge any code update to UAT (if client IT team is doing it)
      • i. Make sure client IT team is not doing any major code update using initial version Sitecore API
    • Smoke testing of website by QA
    • Client can validate website and latest content
  8. Prod Release
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