Microsoft Shifting Some Microsoft 365 Apps Users to Monthly Update Cycles
Microsoft this month notified some organizations using its Microsoft 365 Apps service that it plans to switch them over to a "Monthly Enterprise Channel" update schedule, unless they take action.
Only organizations using the Microsoft 365 Apps service and currently getting updates on a "semiannual" basis (twice per year) are getting this notification. Other Microsoft 365 Apps users aren't affected and aren't getting the notice, which is labeled "MC362760." The notice, if sent, appears in the Microsoft 365 Admin Center's "Message Center" notification service.
Microsoft echoed the notice in this April 18-dated Microsoft document. It tells IT pros that others are happy with the monthly update cycle, so that's why it plans to switch their Microsoft 365 Apps tenancies to it, too.
"Customers on a monthly feature update cadence, such as those on Monthly Enterprise Channel, have reported higher satisfaction than those receiving semi-annual feature updates," Microsoft indicated.
Organization on the Monthly Enterprise Channel update cycle get feature updates on the second Tuesday of each month. These updates are "cumulative," which means they contain updates from prior releases.
May 19 Deadline
The switch from the Semiannual Enterprise Channel to the Monthly Enterprise Channel will happen automatically, unless IT pros take action by making a selection in the Microsoft 365 Apps Admin Center portal "prior to May 20."
Here's the action needed to stop the switch to a monthly update cycle for Microsoft 365 Apps semiannual channel users, as described in the notice:
If you don't want your Office installations to be switched to Monthly Enterprise Channel, in the Microsoft 365 Apps admin center, choose 'View details' on the notification (top right bell icon), and then choose Keep my devices on current configuration before May 20th.
Microsoft seems willing to talk with recalcitrant IT pros who might opt out of the monthly update cycle. The notice indicated that "you can also provide your email address, so that we can contact you to discuss your choice to opt out."
The monthly update cycle also apparently will be the default setup for new Microsoft 365 Apps tenancies. "This change will apply to both existing and new installations of Microsoft 365 Apps," the document indicated.
Microsoft's new policy also affects how Microsoft 365 Apps updates get delivered. They'll arrive from Microsoft directly over the Internet, per the document:
In addition, Office will be configured to get updates automatically from Microsoft directly from the internet, which is our recommendation. This should help reduce your administrative workload when it comes to keeping Office up to date each month. It should also help ensure that most of your devices are updated in a timely manner after an update is released, as long as the devices are connected to the internet regularly.
A Somewhat 'Heavy Handed' Notice
The Microsoft 365 Apps notice veers from the recent accommodations Microsoft has made to IT pros regarding the frequency its software update releases. For instance, Microsoft shortened Windows 11 feature updates to a once per year. It eliminated semiannual feature updates for Windows Server, with releases now arriving every two to three years. For Exchange Server users, cumulative updates were shortened from quarterly releases to twice per year.
The Microsoft 365 Apps notice was called out earlier this week in a Twitter post by Michael Niehaus, a deployment expert and former long-time Microsoft employee. He described it as "a little heavy handed." He added that "personally, I don't mind getting new features every month, but I know plenty of orgs that don't."
Patch expert and Microsoft Most Valuable Professional Susan Bradley questioned whether Microsoft was really motivated by customer feedback to press organizations into monthly Microsoft 365 Apps updates in an "AskWoody.com blog post. She pointed to analysis by Office Watch's Peter Deegan, who noted that administrators typically choose the semiannual update cycle to have time to prepare for software changes. The monthly update cycle, though, puts IT pros on "a treadmill of constantly evaluating each monthly release," Deegan indicated.
Deegan, an author of many books on Microsoft Office, also noted that releases under the monthly update cycle are just supported for two months. In contrast, organizations using the semiannual update cycle get support for 14 months.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.