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Microsoft 'Playbook' Gives SharePoint Patching Guidance

IT pros who update SharePoint Server installations now have some help from Microsoft in the form of a new "SharePoint Build to Build Update Playbook."

Available from TechNet Gallery here, the playbook is an Excel-based best practices guide that was designed by Microsoft Premier Field Engineers for IT pros who manage mid-to-large SharePoint farms to provide "guidance for planning, preparing and executing SharePoint Update installations (CUs and PUs)." Microsoft refers to that sort of activity as being involved with "Build to Build (B2B) updates," per its announcement.

The playbook is currently available in English and German, with a French version in the works. It was "field tested by Microsoft Premier customers," Microsoft claimed. Microsoft Premier is a technical support program for organizations available through Microsoft Support Services.

Microsoft is billing the playbook as something that will help IT pros avoid common problems and minimize time spent updating SharePoint Server installations. It covers installing, updating and "post-update tasks," among other details. Microsoft claims that the playbook is "generic" so it's suitable for most SharePoint environments, but it's also possible for users to modify its checklist of tasks.

Some IT pros may find updating SharePoint server farms to be plain and simple. For others, patching SharePoint is like ploughing through a philosophical tract.

For instance, SharePoint seems to be unique among Microsoft's server products in getting so-called "uber package" releases from time to time, which can be conceived as subsets of traditional service packs. In addition, its "cumulative updates" released on a monthly basis sometimes just include updates for certain SharePoint components, not necessarily all of them. Knowledge Base article numbers can differ because the SharePoint administrative console just shows SharePoint Foundation updates.

In addition, IT pros have a requirement to run a Configuration Wizard program after applying cumulative updates to their SharePoint farms. Microsoft offers a choice of two wizards (PSCONFIG.EXE and PSCONFIGUI.EXE), but it seems to favor the latter tool. Microsoft MVP Todd Klindt has described the Configuration Wizard as a tool that swaps out the old SharePoint bits for new ones and that also verifies permissions. However, Microsoft's announcement offered the perhaps helpful hint that "update success is not related to PSConfig alone."

Patching SharePoint Server maybe became acute for some IT pros about three years ago. Back then, Microsoft starting pushing its SharePoint cumulative updates through the Windows Update patch service. A month later, though, it rescinded that policy.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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