SharePoint Server On-premises Automated Patching

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This SharePoint patching guidance defines the logical installation and configuration of SharePoint 2013/16/19 Cumulative Updates, Service Packs and Security Updates.

Introduction

Patching SharePoint can be a time intensive and tedious process. In an effort to reduce the installation time, a series of procedures have been developed to reduce the effort required for pre-patching, patching, and post-patching steps. Each procedure and script described in this guide are designed to be followed in a serial manner.

These steps personally helped me reduce the manual time it took to patch a single SharePoint 2013 Server farm from over 40 hours all the way down to roughly four!

NOTE: The SharePoint patching guidance provided in this document is designed to streamline the patching process and allow for as much automation as typically possible within the common security constraints that many customers share.

This document includes best practices that have been accumulated from years of supporting large enterprise SharePoint environments. Microsoft has published additional SharePoint patching automation guidance that extends beyond this document’s guidance scope. This additional patching automation guidance includes automation and centralized control using remote PowerShell, credential passing for remote sessions, and other procedures. This guidance can be accessed via the following link.

Automated Patch Reference Guide (by Joseph Rodgers, Microsoft PFE)

Additionally, all the scripts can be downloaded here as well:

Purpose

Many enterprise customers operating SharePoint maintain a policy of ensuring Cumulative Updates (CU) are always kept a month behind the latest release version. This decision is due to issues and bugs that a premature CU installation can cause in the environment with the 3rd party products.

SharePoint CU patching is recommended to remaining at least one month behind the most current release CU patch. This approach to patching is the recommended best practice since there may be CU regressions and rereleases that could impact the support and stability of the SharePoint environments. Supportability between SharePoint and all third party applications is imperative by remaining at least one CU release behind the current release significantly decreases the chance of any issues arising.

If there are SharePoint security updates contained within the CU that are required to be installed, those can be individually installed on each SharePoint server.

Patching procedures

The SharePoint patching procedures are split between three separate categories:

  • Pre-Patching
  • Patching
  • Post-Patching

Pre-Patching procedures

Prior to any SharePoint maintenance that involves installing security updates, cumulative updates, service packs, or any other task that will modify the databases, it is recommended to execute the following pre patching procedures.

1. Verify that Windows and SQL updates have been applied

It is important to verify Windows and SQL updates have been applied prior to patching the SharePoint environment.

NOTE: Windows and SQL updates should always occur prior to installing SharePoint updates.

This helps ensure service continuity as security and features updates are applied.

CRITICAL: SharePoint updates are integrated with the Windows updates and should not be advertised to any SharePoint server. Administrators must verify that no SharePoint servers have been pushed SharePoint updates during Windows and SQL patching.

2. Verify downtime notifications are coordinated

It is important to verify that application downtime notifications are sent to the necessary parties prior to patching the SharePoint environment since service outages will occur.

3. Deploy maintenance banner to SharePoint sites

For environments that have active users, it’s recommended to add a maintenance banner to notify of an upcoming outage due to maintenance. The “Set_MaintenanceModeNotifications.ps1” script will query all content databases and set a maintenance message to an entire farm at the Content database level. Ensure that the proper timezone is considered for the environment.

Script Parameters:

$MaintenanceWindow.MaintenanceEndDate    = “09/15/2019 11:59:00 PM”

$MaintenanceWindow.MaintenanceStartDate  = “09/10/2019 12:00:00 AM”

$MaintenanceWindow.NotificationEndDate   = “09/15/2019 11:59:00 AM”

$MaintenanceWindow.NotificationStartDate = “09/10/2019 08:00:00 AM”

$MaintenanceWindow.MaintenanceType       = “MaintenancePlanned”   

$MaintenanceWindow.Duration              = “03:00:00:00”

$MaintenanceWindow.MaintenanceLink       = “https://domain.mil/Pages/ASIDetails.aspx”

SharePoint patching procedures

It’s recommended practice to have a staging server that can be leveraged as the execution server for most of the patching steps. Using the staging server will help streamline the patching process as it provides a common location for hosting scripts, patches, and logs for every environment. An example of where the SharePoint updates are located for an environment is below:

EnvrionmentStaging Server File Location
Prodxxxxxx E:\SharePoint\Updates\
Testxxxxxx E:\SharePoint\Updates\

1. Setup staging server

The SharePoint update files to be installed should be available on the staging server at the directory path location described in the previous section. This folder where the updates are saved is required to be a shared folder that is reachable from every SharePoint server in the environment. 

2. Transfer SharePoint update(s) to staging server

Copy all necessary SharePoint update files to the staging server at a common directory path location. This location will be used for the following steps. Ensure the “Update_SPFarmServers.ps1” script is copied into the same folder as the SharePoint update files. This script will speed up the patch installation process significantly but it must be copied along with the update files to every server in the environment.

An example of the typical files required to be present in the SharePoint CU folder.  

3. Copy SharePoint updates to servers

To configure the script, you will need to update the source and destination directory paths.  The first value (yellow) is the UNC path to the source files that need to be copied to the farm servers.  The second value (green) is the destination directory path on the SharePoint server. The destination drive letter (C:\, I:\, etc.) must exist on all servers.  The script will create the specified folder structure automatically, therefore it is not required to pre-create the specified folder structure.

Script Parameters:

$foldersToCopy = [ordered]@{

# July 2014 CU

“\\server\_binaries\SharePointUpdates\2017_08_CU\” =         “E:\_SharePointUpdates\2017_08_CU\”;

}

Once the parameters are correctly configured, run the “Copy-SharePointUpdateToServer.ps1” PowerShell script as an administrator.

The script will report progress as it starts and completes the copy to each server in the farm.

4. SharePoint patch installation

Run the “Update-SPFarmServers.ps1” PowerShell script as an administrator from within the SharePoint CU folder on each SharePoint server.

NOTE: Do not run this script from the PowerShell ISE, this script must be executed in PowerShell as an administrator from the SharePoint CU folder.

This script will stop and disable the IISADMIN, OWSTIMER and Search Services on the SharePoint servers prior to patch installation. The script will enable and restart the respective services after the patch installation completes. Testing by the Microsoft team has shown significant time reductions when the services are stopped on the server during patch installations.

NOTE: Select option “2” if the script prompts to stop the Search services. It may not prompt for input if the Search services are not running on the server.

5. Restart servers in the farm

Many SharePoint updates require a restart after installation. It is best practice to always perform a server restart after applying an update. After confirming every server has been updated, restart every server in the environment.

The script “Restart-SharePointServers.ps1” can be used to remotely resart all servers in the SharePoint farm at once.

NOTE: The server where the script is executed from will not be restarted automatically and will need to be restarted manually.

6. Remove usage log database from SQL AOAG

OPTIONAL: This step is optional and may not be required depending on the information architecture configuration of the SharePoint environment.

Prior to running the SharePoint 2013 Product Configuration Wizard (PSCONFIG), you may need to remove the SharePoint Usage logging database from the SQL AlwaysOn Availability Group (AOAG).  The SharePoint Configuration Wizard has been known to fail in some environments during the upgrade process if it cannot upgrade this specifc database. This is due to the database not being able to be synchronized from the primary to the secondary SQL node. The process involves removing the usage logging database from the SQL AOAG, complete the SharePoint Configuration Wizard processes, then finally adding the usage logging database back to the SQL AOAG.

To remove the Usage logging database, on the primary SQL server, connect to the SQL instance that hosts the SharePoint databases. Run the follow SQL command to remove the SharePoint usage logging database from the SQL AOAG.

SQL Command:

ALTER AVAILABILITY GROUP group_name REMOVE DATABASE database_name

Once the database is removed from the primary node, its status will automatically be updated on the second node and the patching process can continue.

7. Dismount content databases

Run the “ContentDB-1-CreateDatabaseMappingCSV.ps1” script as an administrator to create a content database mapping file of every content database prior to dismounting them from the SharePoint farm.

This script will query all content databases and create a CSV file with required information for dismounting and mounting the content databases to their respective web applications. This script must be ran before dismounting the content databases to preserve information such as the web application they belong to and other relevant information.

The script will report progress as it generates the database mapping file.

An example of what is contained in the ContentDB_DatabaseMappings.csv file.

Run the “ContentDB-2-DismountDatabases.ps1” script as an administrator to dismount all content databases contained with the “ContentDB_DatabaseMappings.csv” file. The $directory location must be the same directory path as the “ContentDB_DatabaseMappings.csv” file. The script will recurse through the content databases contained within the CSV file and dismount them from the SharePoint farm. It will also create a log file with logging for every action with a time stamp.

To configure both scripts, you will need to edit the directory path location. This directory path location will be where the files will be exported to and imported from.

Script Parameters:

# Directory to where the “SharePoint-ContentDatabases.csv” file is located

$directory = “E:\SharePoint\”

The script will report progress as it dismounts each content database.

A log of database dismounting and mounting will be created at the directory path location.

8. PSCONFIG execution

It is advisable to execute PSCONFIG on the Central Administration server in the farm successfully before running the next procedures on all remaining servers.  Any errors that occur during the first PSCONFIG execution should be remediated prior to running PSCONFIG on any other server.

Follow these steps to run the SharePoint 2013 PSCONFIG and begin the SharePoint patching:

  1. Run the SharePoint 2013 PSCONFIG on the Central Administration server. When prompted click Next, click Yes, click Next, then click Finish.
  2. Verify PSCONFIG completed successfully. Log into Central Administration to verify the server status of all servers except the Central Administration server show “Update Required” or “Upgrade Available”.
  3. Run the SharePoint 2013 PSCONFIG on all remaining servers in the environment.

From Central Administration, browse to System Settings > Manage Servers in the Farm. Verify all servers display a “No Action Required” status.

From Central Administration, browse to Upgrade and Migration > Check Upgrade Status. Verify that the upgrade status displays “Succeeded”.

From Central Administration, browse to Upgrade and Migration > Review Database Status. Verify that “No Action Required” is displayed for all databases.

9. Mount SharePoint content databases

Run the “ContentDB-3-MountDatabases.ps1” script as an administrator to mount all content databases contained with the “ContentDB_DatabaseMappings.csv” file. The $directory location must be the same directory path as the “ContentDB_DatabaseMappings.csv” file.

This script mounts all content databases contained with the “SharePoint-ContentDatabases.csv” file that is located at the $directory directory path. The script will mount each content database to the correct web application as well as reset other metadata like “WarningSiteCount” and “MaximumSiteCount”. It will also add to the log file with logging for every action with a time stamp.

To configure both scripts, you will need to edit the directory path location. This directory path location will be used to export the file to and where to import the file from.

Script Parameters:

# Directory to where the “SharePoint-ContentDatabases.csv” file is located

$directory = “E:\SharePoint”

The script will report progress as it mounts each content database.

10. Upgrade SharePoint content databases

Run the “ContentDB-4-UpgradeDatabases.ps1” script as an administrator to upgrade all content databases contained within the SharePoint farm that show upgrade required.

This script will attempt to upgrade, in parallel, the specified content databases.  The number of parallel threads is limited to the number of logical processors on the machine. All database upgrade actions will be logged to a newly created ContentDB_UpgradeResults.csv file located in the same directory path.

To configure both scripts, you will need to edit the directory path location. This directory path will be used to export the log. The MaxUpgradeThreads can also be modified to a maximum of the logical processors the server has.

Script Parameters:

# Directory to where the “SharePoint-ContentDatabases.csv” file is located

$directory = “E:\SharePoint”

# Number of current threads to upgrade content databases in parallel.

$maxUpgradeThreads = 4

An example of the what is contained in the ContentDB_UpgradeResults.csv file.

 The script will report progress as it mounts each content database.

11. Resume usage logging database to SQL AOAG

If the usage logging database was removed from the SQL AOAG prior to running PSCONFIG, then follow this step to resume replication of the database between the primary and secondary SQL nodes.

To resume replication for the usage logging databse, on the primary SQL server, connect to the SQL instance that hosts the SharePoint databases. Run the following SQL command to resume the replication of the SharePoint usage logging database in the SQL Always On Availability Group (AOAG). 

SQL Command:

ALTER DATABASE database_name SET HADR RESUME

12. Delete SharePoint updates from servers

OPTIONAL: This step is optional and may not be required depending on the information architecture configuration of the SharePoint environment.

It is good practice to remove the SharePoint CU files from the server after patching.  To automate the removal process, administrators can leverage the “Remove-SharePointUpdateFromServer.ps1” script.  The script will delete the specified directories from all the servers in the farm.

To configure the script, you will need to edit the update directory path location. This script will remove the destination folder and all files from all servers in the environment, including the staging server.

Script Parameters:

$foldersToDelete = @(

# June 2014 CU

“E:\_SharePointUpdates\2014_06_CU\”,)

$confirmDeletion = $true

The script will report progress as it deletes the files from each server.

13. Collect upgrade logs

After patching a SharePoint farm or upgrading a content database it is recommended to review the respective upgrade log(s) for errors and warnings.  To aid in the collection of upgrade logs, an administrator can leverage the “Copy-SharePointServerUpgradeLogs.ps1” script.  This script will copy all log files that match the *upgrade*.log name convention to the specified directory.  The script will create a sub-folder under the target directory for each server.

To configure this script, edit the $logCollectionBasePath to the directory path desired to save the upgrade logs from every SharePoint server in the environment.

Script Parameters:

# Destination for the upgrade logs.

$logCollectionBasePath = “E:\SharePoint\Logs\”

# SharePoint log directory

$logdirectory = “C:\Program Files\Common Files\microsoft shared\Web Server Extensions\15\LOGS”

# how many days from the past should the script pull logs?

$maxAgeOfLogs = 5

# Do multi-threaded copies with n threads (default 8).

14. Verify patch installation

After patching a SharePoint farm, an administrator should confirm all the servers have been patched by executing the “Get-PatchReferenceCount.ps1” script.  This script will query the registry on each server and total the number of references to the specified KB number(s). To retrieve the KB number that was installed, browse to Control Panel > Programs > Program and Features > Installed Updates. The KB number will be listed in the name of the SharePoint update in parentheses.

To configure the script, you will need to edit the KB number to the update number(s) that were recently installed.

NOTE: Searching for the KB number is best performed one at a time due to timeout issues that may occur from querying all the server in the SharePoint farm.

Script Parameters:

#kb numbers to search for

$kbs = @(“2899558”)

The screenshot below shows that each server in the farm has 36 reference to KB 2883068.  If the reference counts are not identical on all servers, further investigation is required by an administrator.

Post-Patching procedures

Following the completion of any SharePoint maintenance that involves installing security updates, cumulative updates, service packs, or any other task that will modify the databases, it’s recommended to execute the following post-patching procedures.

1. Server verification procedures

Perform the following checks to ensure the servers in the environment are operational and no issues are present in the server event logs and patch/upgrade logs.

Remote desktop to each server  Verify all automatic services are started. App pools and sites are started in IIS on web servers.RDP to every server in the SharePoint farm. On Web servers, ensure all app pools and IIS sites are started if they should be. On App servers, ensure all services (SharePoint and third party) are running if they should be.
Check event logs  Check Application, System, Security event logs for new errors, warnings, or failures that will affect normal operations of SharePoint.Log onto every server to verify any events in the different logs show errors, warnings, or failures that require remediation.
Third Party AppsVerify third party products installed in the SharePoitn farm are operational.Log onto servers where third party products are installed and running to verify if they are operational and running as expected.

2. Application verification procedures

Perform the following checks to ensure all services, websites, and applications are operational.

CheckDescriptionInstructions
Site AccessThis check verifies that all web applications are online and serving content to clients.Log into every URL that is hosted in the environment to verify it is accessible and operational.
SearchThis check verifies that search is available and has a current index.   ​Perform a few searches from each web application and verify that fresh results are returned and not broken links.  Test a few scopes including people, this site, and other custom scopes. Also check all Search Service Applications to verify crawls are being run according to schedule and there are minimal errors or warnings.
Office Web AppsThis check verifies that Office documents can be opened and edited in a browser.​Perform at least four checks on each web application for each office document type.  Search for xlsx, pptx, docx, and vdw.  Verify these file types can be opened by Office Web Applications in a browser.  Some files may not open due to certain features used in the document that are not supported by OWA.  In most cases, OWA will alert you to any unsupported features.
Project ServerThis check verifies that all Project Server sites are online and serving content to clients.Log into every Project Server (PWA) site collection that is hosted in the environment to verify it’s accessible and operational.
Email enabled lists and alerts  This check verifies that email enabled lists and outgoing email is functional.Subscribe for an immediate alert at a library. Then send an un-signed email to an email enabled library.  Verify that you received the alert email indicating the message was added to the library. NOTE: Please allow several minutes to receive the alert email and emails should send/receive within 30 minutes.
Reporting ServicesThis check verifies that Reporting Services and Portal Management Reports are available.​Check reports to verify results are displayed and data is current for reports.  
Timer jobsThis check verifies that all timer jobs are running on schedule.Log into Central Admin and check the status of timer jobs. Look for long running and failed timer jobs.
User Profile SyncThis check verifies that SharePoint user profiles are in sync with Active Directory.Open the User Profile Service Application and verify the nightly sync was run.  Click the idle link under Profile Synchronization Settings on the right-hand side.  This will open the sync log.  Verify that there are no major failures and minimal warnings.  More detail can be obtained in the miisclient.exe application on the Central Administration server if necessary.

3. Remove maintenance banner from SharePoint web applications

If a maintenance banner was used for the notifying users of an outage due to maintenance, the “Remove_MaintenanceModeNotifications.ps1” script will query all content databases and remove the maintenance banner from all sites in the environment.

Conclusion

There you go. That’s everything you should need to practically automate 90% of patching an on-premises SharePoint farm.