Thursday, September 18, 2008

Upgrading to NetCommunity v5.5

Earlier this week we upgraded to NetCommunity v5.5. I wanted to throw together a quick post about that experience for those that haven’t gone down this road yet.

Overall I’d consider the upgrade a success and so far we're really happy with this version. It took us about 2 hours plus a bit of tweaking here and there after the site was back up. Much of that time was spent on one issue we had with Friendly URLs. We had to call support to make those work. That actually ended up being our fault, not a problem in v5.5.

We did manage to get the root URL working in so we no longer have /NetCommunity in all of our web addresses. This was important because it seemed a little silly for our Friendly URLs to be that long. Instead of http://www.usna.com/NetCommunity/Travel we now use http://www.usna.com/Travel. We also used IIS redirection to ensure that any existing links out on the net that had the old URL with /NetCommunity still worked.

The only other thing to watch out for is the new “Site Tracking” support. If you use Google Analytics, as most probably do, you’ll notice that there are some disadvantages to using this new method as opposed to putting the tracking script on the layouts. With the new method much of the data collected in Google Analytics seems ambiguous. Our “Content By Title” section showed all the hits as a title of “not set”. I did notice that there did seem to be much more data on the actual url link so some people might prefer the new system. I’d at the very least suggest setting up a separate Google Analytics account with a different tracking code to test before switching everything over.

Finally, TEST. If you do adequate testing and spend the necessary time preparing yourself, your staff and your constituents for an upgrade it WILL save you major headaches later. Typically we allow for about a month and a half of testing.

Blackbaud lets you setup your own test server at no extra cost. You really don’t need a power house server either. Just take a reasonably good desktop and pump up the ram. We use an old HP with a 2.53 processor and 4GB or ram. It’s slow, but it works. We setup The Raiser’s Edge and NetCommunity all on the same box then just restore the databases from production and fire off the upgrade. If after the upgrade you still aren’t comfortable or botch it you can always wipe it all out and do it again.

We also like to give support a call about a week before the upgrade and try to find out if they know when the next patch is going to be released. It really sucks if you upgrade Tuesday and the next patch is released Wednesday.

So that’s it, I hope this helps those of you out that haven’t gone down this road yet. Expect some new posts soon that will dive a bit deeper into the weeds of v5.5

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Blackbaud Developer Network Challenge Opens Today

For all you developers out there that haven't heard about the Blackbaud Developer Network Challenge yet here is the Press Release.

Blackbaud Developer Network Challenge Opens Today
Contest will encourage peer judging of applications built on the NetCommunity Open Platform

Charleston, S.C. (September 16, 2008) – Blackbaud, Inc. (Nasdaq: BLKB) today announced the opening of its first Developer Network Challenge. The developer that creates the most compelling customization for Blackbaud NetCommunity will be awarded an iPhone, and will also win his or her organization a year’s free NetCommunity maintenance.

Click here for the full press release