Using the SharePoint Content Deployment Wizard

So if you’ve read the earlier posts about the tool (Introducing the SharePoint Content Deployment Wizard and When to use the SharePoint Content Deployment Wizard) and figure this is a useful tool, let’s go onto the next level of detail. Generally speaking the Content Deployment Wizard ‘just works’, but if you want to know more about the different options, read on. This post contains reference information and a guide to some deployment scenarios at the end.

Firstly, let’s remind ourselves of some of the fundamental things to remember when moving content using the Content Migration API (the underlying SharePoint API used by the tool):

  • dependencies of selected content (e.g. referenced CSS files, master pages) can be evaluated – in the tool they are automatically included in the export – check ‘Exclude dependencies of selected objects’ to disable this
  • all required content types, columns etc. are automatically included in the export
  • in contrast to STSADM export, it is possible to retain GUIDs during deployment (where objects are not being reparented) – check ‘Retain object IDs and locations’ to enable this
  • no filesystem files (assemblies, SharePoint Solutions/Features etc.) are deployed – these must already be present on the target for the import to succeed)
  • the following content does not get captured by the Content Migration API – alerts, audit trail, change log history, recycle-bin items, workflow tasks/state

In particular it’s the 2nd and 3rd points which make the API (and the Wizard) a good way to deploy content in SharePoint.

What can be deployed?

The Content Deployment Wizard allows any content to be selected for export – site collections, webs, lists/document libraries, folders, right down to individual list items and files. Objects in the treeview can be added to the export by right-clicking them, which for a web, brings up a menu shown below:



These are explained:-

  • ‘include all descendents’ – exports the container and anything beneath it
  • ‘exclude descendents’ – exports the container only
  • on webs only, the ‘include content descendents’ option is shown – this will include all immediate content such as lists/libraries, but will exclude all child webs of the web.

Note that on the import, the Wizard will bring in all the contents of the selected .cmp file(s) – there is no option to partially import a package. Hence if different import options are required for different content, the exports should be broken into separate chunks.

Export options

On the export settings screen, numerous options can be applied to exports:

  • ‘Exclude dependencies of selected objects’ – by default the Content Migration API will automatically include dependent objects of whatever you select. This can include CSS files, master pages, images and the like, but also list items which are displayed on a page included in the export. This can be turned off with this checkbox so only the objects you select are exported.
  • ‘Export method’ (options are ‘ExportAll’, ‘ExportChanges’) – for now ExportAll is the option to select, ability to export changes only will come in a future release
  • ‘Include versions’ (options are ‘LastMajor’, ‘CurrentVersion’, ‘LastMajorAndMinor’, ‘All’) – should be self-explanatory
  • ‘Include security’ (options are ‘None’, ‘WssOnly’, ‘All’)’ – note that since security is defined at the level of a web, selecting one of the include security options for a smaller object (e.g. list) actually exports security for the entire web. Both ‘WssOnly’ and ‘All’ export SharePoint item-level object permissions, so if you’re using SharePoint groups to manage security for example, both the actual permissions and groups will be carried over, and you can add a different set of users/AD groups on the destination. See Migrating Security Information on MSDN for more details.

Import options

On the import we also have several options, some of which correspond to options selected on the export:

  • ‘Import web URL’ (actually shown on the ‘Bind to site’ screen) – this is used for reparenting operations only. If you are just moving content from source to destination but are not changing the location in the structure, this textbox can remain blank. Alternatively, for operations where a web or list is being imported but the parent web will not be the exact same web on the destination, the URL of the new target web URL should be entered.

    Note that the later option to ‘Retain object IDs and locations’ should not be selected when reparenting, since we are changing the location in this case.
  • ‘From single file’/’From multiple files’ options – the Wizard always exports with file compression enabled, so when exporting content over 25MB, files are split into several files at this threshold. When importing from such an export, select the ‘From multiple files’ option and browse to the folder. In the textbox, enter the ‘base filename’ – this should be the name of the first file without the number e.g. ‘MyExport.cmp’ rather than ‘MyExport1.cmp’. 
  • Retain object IDs and locations’ – this setting requires particular consideration. Duplicate GUIDs are not permitted in one database (i.e. SP web application), so the choice often depends on what you are importing. If you are taking a site from development to production, the object GUIDs will not yet exist on the destination, so I check the box to ensure the objects are assigned the same IDs in both environments, and all linkages are preserved. If you are reparenting a list or web, you will leave the box unchecked, so that new GUIDs are assigned are the location can therefore be changed.

    I highly recommend reading the content listed in the ‘Useful links’ section at the end of the article to properly understand this setting.
  • ‘Include security’ – this allows security information in a package to be imported, assuming one of the options to include security was selected on the export
  • ‘Version updates’ – allows control over whether new versions should be added to existing files, or whether the existing version should be replaced etc.
  • ‘User info update’ – allows control over whether ‘last modified’ information should be imported. Often this only makes sense if the same set of users exist in the source and destination

Scenarios quick reference

The following table lists the most common settings for a given deployment task:

Deployment item

Typical settings

Entire site collection
  • Site collection should first be created on the destination.
  • When exporting, select ‘include all descendents’.
  • When importing for the first time, ensure ‘retain object IDs and locations’ is checked.
  • Select one of the ‘include security’ options if you wish to deploy object permissions and users
Web
  • When exporting, select ‘include all descendents’.
  • When importing for the first time, ensure ‘retain object IDs and locations’ is checked if web will have same parent as on source.
  • If web will have a different parent, do not check retain object IDs and locations’ and ensure ‘import web URL’ is specified
Document library/list
  • When exporting, select ‘include all descendents’.
  • When importing for the first time, ensure ‘retain object IDs and locations’ is checked if list will have same parent as on source (i.e. not reparenting).
  • On subsequent imports, ensure ‘import web URL’ is specified if not importing to the root web, and do not check ‘retain object IDs and locations’
File/list item
  • Ensure the parent library/list exists on the destination
  • Do not check ‘retain object IDs and locations’ if the item already exists on the destination

 

So hopefully that’s some useful reference information. On a final note, the next beta version with much improved treeview performance should be ready over the next week or so!

Useful links

When to use the SharePoint Content Deployment Wizard

Following my introduction to the tool last time, today I want to try to help position the tool for people who aren’t sure if it could be useful to them or for what scenarios – if you only take one thing away from my postings on the Content Deployment Wizard it should be this.

I see the ‘value-add’ of the Content Deployment Wizard over existing deployment methods such as STSADM export/content deployment in Central Administration to be:

  • ability to “cherry-pick” content to deploy using a treeview – this is from entire site collection down to individual list item or file. (This is the big one since the standard SharePoint tools do not supply a method to do this)
  • ability to control whether object GUIDs are retained – this is required for scenarios where the destination should be a mirror-image of the source, such as staging/production environments for the same site
  • ability to move certain objects (limited to webs and lists in the initial release) to a new location on the import target, known as ‘reparenting’

I would suggest the tool could well have a place in your SharePoint toolbox, but it’s likely to be something you use every now and then, rather than all the time. The two main scenarios where I use the tool are:

  • at the end of the development phase when I need to move a site from development to staging/production. Here, the tool allows me to be sure that all relationships/linkages between objects will be preserved (so no problems with ListViewWebParts/DataViewWebParts/InfoPath forms for example)
  • any odd occasions where I have a need to move a particular document library/list, or a particular set of files (e.g. master page, page layouts, CSS etc.). This assumes by the way, that the files were not deployed with a feature – I wouldn’t recommend mixing the deployment methods like that.

N.B. It should also be possible to use the tool for ongoing updates to specific files/list items through different environments in a development/test/staging/production situation. An example of this is deployment of just master pages, page layouts and CSS files on a WCM site (meaning all other content authored by the client [e.g. in the 'Pages' library] does not get overwritten on the target) but I haven’t had the opportunity to try this on a real project yet.

Some areas where the tool cannot be used (i.e. the tool does not yet support this usage) are:

  • exporting only changes since a certain timestamp (change token) from a site
  • importing individual list items/files to a new location on the target (reparenting)

On the last point, the ‘new location’ would be a document library or list, since these items have to be in such a container – they cannot exist at the root of a web. Currently the tool supports reparenting webs and lists, but not individual list items/files. What is currently possible with individual list items/files, is moving selected items from a source to a target where the structure is the same (e.g. move Doc2 and Doc5 from “Team documents” on the source to “Team Documents” on the target). Usefully, whenever a file is exported/imported using the tool, the associated list item is also deployed, meaning metadata updates to column values are deployable.

Hopefully that might help you understand where the Wizard fits in. If you’re thinking the Wizard could be useful to you from time to time, stay tuned for my next post which will have more detailed ‘usage’ information. 

Introducing the SharePoint Content Deployment Wizard

Regular readers might have spotted I’ve been slightly quieter than usual over the past few weeks – actually I’ve not been slacking, but working on a tool which you might find useful from time to time. As I’ve discussed in numerous posts, deployment of SharePoint artifacts is something that’s perhaps more complex than it should be, and the standard tools provided don’t always simplify this picture. Personally, over my past few MOSS projects, there have been several times when I’ve thought:

  • I just need to move this document library from A to B
  • I just need to move these selected files (e.g. master page, page layouts, CSS etc.) from A to B
  • I just need to move this web from A to B
  • I just need to move this site collection from A to B
  • I just need to move these 20 list items from A to B

If only there was an easy way! CMS 2002 users may remember the SDO export mechanism which allowed you to use a treeview to select exactly which content you wished to move, but unfortunately there’s no similar tool for MOSS. Sure, we have Content Deployment and STSADM export etc., but the lowest level of granularity is a web, and if you don’t want to overwrite the whole thing neither option can be used. The only other option is to write code which uses the Content Migration API. This is fine for projects which have the appropriate development skills and time, but otherwise things can be tricky.

Enter the SharePoint Content Deployment Wizard.

The tool provides a wizard-like approach to deploying content between SharePoint sites. The selected content is exported using the Content Migration API (PRIME), giving a .cmp file (Content Migration Package) which can be copied to other servers.

Since pictures are often more useful than words, let’s look at using the tool. Click to enlarge any of the images below:

EXPORTING CONTENT

Welcome screen (click any image to enlarge):


Select action (import or export) and provide site URL:

 

For export, use the treeview to select which content you wish to deploy. On container objects such as webs, there are options about whether descendent objects should be included:

 

Select options around security, dependencies, versions and name of the export file:
 
 
 
The details are shown back for confirmation, and when ‘Finish’ is clicked the export will begin:
 
 
 
IMPORTING CONTENT
 

Browse to the .cmp file we exported in the previous steps, and select options around security, versions and, importantly for some scenarios, whether object IDs should be retained:
 
 

The details are shown back for confirmation, and when ‘Finish’ is clicked the import will begin:
 
 
 

And that’s the gist of it. This is the first beta of the tool and I’m sure there will be issues. Regardless, when using any tool which makes this kind of change to your data you should always take a backup before performing the import. Depending on what you’re doing, it could be difficult to revert back to the previous state otherwise.

Some other notes:

  • the tool must be installed locally on the server which hosts the site
  • not all features of the Content Migration API are supported by the tool
  • the next beta (mid-December) will properly support large sites – currently the site bind operation can be slow for large sites since the treeview is built in one operation
  • it must be run under an account which has the appropriate permissions to the SharePoint site – use the Windows ‘Run as..’ feature to do this if necessary (shown below in the image below- right-click on the .exe and select ‘Run as..’)


 
In the next post, I’ll cover details on different usages of the tool and the effect of different options. The tool also supports reparenting (e.g. importing a web or list to a different parent on the target) and I’ll talk about this.

You can download the tool now from www.codeplex.com/SPDeploymentWizard. All feedback (particularly bug reports) welcome, either post here or on the Codeplex site.