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Suppose we have a defined a list schema in a site which is in production and has data in to it. it is for a client & maintained by the admin of the client.

Now I want to add a column to it. What is the best approach to do that. adding new feature every time is not good option for production environment. What other option?

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Options I would see an upgrade feature (http://blogs.msdn.com/b/sanjaynarang/archive/2012/02/06/feature-upgrade-adding-fields-to-content-types-and-sharepoint-application-lifecycle-management.aspx or the series of Chris O'Brien http://www.sharepointnutsandbolts.com/2010/06/feature-upgrade-part-1-fundamentals.html), which could

  1. If your list is based on a content type - upgrading solution with the new CT definition could solve the issue simply upon Update
  2. If your list has columns directly added, of course adding a column programatically, again via the same Upgrade feature.

Bottom line, you should plan really upgrade cycles to handle minor/major releases, while considering solution breakers, particularly when changing schema frequently. Rather plan base-content types and derive children so you could support more flexibility.

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And in conjunction with content type hubs, if you don't create features to upgrade the definitions, you can add the fields through the UI and update the entire farm. –  PirateEric May 10 '13 at 16:45
    
In short Feature upgrade is the best option? Pl reply –  Mdh22 May 12 '13 at 12:07
    
Feature upgrade would allow you to control what and how gets deployed. –  C. Marius - MVP May 12 '13 at 17:19
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