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Deploying Microsoft Office updates - a quick guide

September 22, 2021

Microsoft Office updates are very important for companies. In this article, we will show you why, what the different update variants are, and how you can optimally provide your employees with updates for the various Office applications. The article will focus on the Microsoft 365 applications because they represent the current version supplied by Microsoft and older versions no longer receive feature updates.

Why regular Office updates are essential

Regular Office updates are extremely important for a number of reasons, especially security. Updates close many security gaps in Office applications. Updates fix bugs and often have a positive effect on usability and performance. In addition, updates regularly introduce new features which can increase the effectiveness and productivity of your employees.  

Microsoft Office Updates - Office 365 Apps

A small sample of the Office 365 suite.

Source: Microsoft

Provide your users with Office Updates

Installing Office updates on each computer individually can be time-consuming, even for smaller companies. So it makes sense to optimize and automate the process. Microsoft offers two options for this: The Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager and the Office Deployment Tool (ODT).

Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager (Current Branch)

Using the Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager for Office updates is always recommended if it has already been used to deploy Office installations to your users. As soon as an Office update is made available by Microsoft and published via Content Delivery Network (CDN), an update package is also made available via Windows Server Update Services (WSUS). This package can then be transferred to your local servers using Configuration Manager and deployed to all clients from there. More information about this process can be found here.

Office Deployment Tool (ODT)

If you do not use the Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager, the Office Deployment Tool (ODT) is the easiest solution to deploy versions and updates of Office applications to your users. The tool consists of an executable file and a configuration file, which you can use to customize the program's functionality according to your needs.

Office updates can be performed with the ODT in two ways: either Office applications can be reinstalled, updating them to the new version, or you can use the ODT to download Office installation files and point client computers to the appropriate directory from which they can be updated via the Content Delivery Network.

Example Office Deployment Tool

Source: Microsoft

This is what a configuration file for an ODT update could look like. More information about configuration and possible options of the setting can be found here.

Further options for updates

The two above-mentioned variants are the most relevant for Office updates in the context of a professional IT environment as they ensure maximum control. Nevertheless, for the sake of completeness, we would like to mention two more variants that can be used to update the Office applications.

On the one hand, users can update the Office applications on their own. That puts responsibility for updates in the hands of users, which reduces control over IT infrastructure. On the other hand, Office can also be updated by itself. While this ensures a regular supply of updates, it does not allow you to maintain full control over Office updates.  

Update channels of Office updates

Another factor affecting Office updates is the update channel. Separate from the delivery method of the updates, the update channel determines how frequently your users are provided with updates for the Office applications. There are three different channels: the current channel, the monthly enterprise channel, and the semi-annual enterprise channel.

Current channel

This update channel is recommended by Microsoft itself. Office updates are made available to users as soon as they are available. Your employees receive feature updates as soon as they are ready and are always up to date. In addition to feature updates, the current update channel also provides a monthly security update should this be required. Only the latest version is supported on the current update channel.

Monthly enterprise channel

In contrast to the current channel, the monthly enterprise channel only releases updates once a month on a fixed date. From a technical perspective, this gives you more planning time to adapt to changes. Office updates released through this channel are supported for two months.

Semi-annual enterprise channel

For a few devices in your organization that require extensive testing before updates, the semi-annual enterprise plan may be the right solution. With this, feature updates are released only twice a year (in January and July). However, to ensure the security of your IT environment, monthly security updates are also provided in this channel. Furthermore, this channel offers the longest support period of the update channels at 14 months and can therefore be the right solution if stability is the top priority.

Microsoft Office updates are an important topic that should be planned and followed conscientiously. Feature updates especially offer added value to your users and can support them in their daily work.

Even if Microsoft regularly extends the Office applications themselves, empower® add-ins offer a huge feature pool that can significantly facilitate the work of your employees in Office applications . Our partnership with Microsoft ensures that our add-ins remain compatible after each update. So with empower® you also enjoy maximum flexibility with Office updates. Learn more about empower®.

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