Office 365 ProPlus is one of Microsoft’s premier subscription service plans on offer. Users benefit from productivity software, updated versions of Microsoft Office, and new workplace productivity apps.

Microsoft’s Office 365 ProPlus offers significant deployment flexibility to users. With the ability to deploy across a variety of devices, it’s no surprise that Office 365 ProPlus is very popular. However, there are several other reasons that make it an excellent choice, such as the periodic updates it receives for new features and improved security.

Office 365 ProPlus Update Channels

If you want to customize how frequently Office 365 ProPlus is updated, you’re in luck. Microsoft offers three update channels that your Office 365 administrator can choose from:

  • Monthly: experience new features as soon as they’re released.
  • Semi-annual: updates twice a year (once in January and again in July).
  • Targeted semi-annual: updates are tested thoroughly via pilot users and application compatibility testers, and released in March and September.

So which channel is best suited to your organization? This decision is based on a variety of factors. Here’s a comprehensive review of the three channels to help you make the right choice.

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Monthly Channel (Previously Current Channel)

The monthly channel releases updates every month and may bring new or improved features as well as security upgrades. Additionally, newer updates may also feature performance-related upgrades that improve the stability and overall performance of Office 365 ProPlus.

While there’s no specific time when these updates occur, security updates are expected to be released every second Tuesday of the month.

The monthly channel Office 365 ProPlus updates are designed to be cumulative. In other words, the current month’s channel release will encompass all of the features and updates from previous releases. The support for a monthly release only lasts 30 days before the next monthly updates is rolled out.

Like the semi-annual update, the monthly update also features a targeted release channel. This allows pilot tests to be run on the updated version for one week before the update is released on the normal monthly channel.

Monthly channel updates allow users to benefit from the newer features as soon as they’re available. However, for organizations that operate several line-of-business applications, add-ins, and macros, this could be risky, as you’d be required to run multiple compatibility tests before full-scale deployment.

Semi-Annual Channel (Previously Deferred Channel)

As the default for Office 365 ProPlus, the semi-annual channel was previously called the ‘deferred channel’ precisely because all of the regular security and non-security updates on this version were ‘deferred’ to only accommodate bi-annual updates.

Updates are expected to be released in January and July. Again, these updates are cumulative, including features from all updates released in the past six months.

However, some loopholes or emerging threats can put the entire suite at risk. Because of this, Microsoft is always on the lookout for any threat that has to be taken care of. In case of a security- or non-security-related critical issue, Microsoft will release an update on the second Tuesday of the month.

This version suits organizations that use various add-ins and macros that require some time to be updated. Subscribing to a monthly update release channel will result in lengthy deployments and subsequent downtime.

Semi-Annual Channel (Targeted) (Previously First Release for Deferred Channel)

The semi-annual channel also comes with a targeted version that allows pilot and application compatibility testers to analyze the upcoming update. However, due to the difference in release periods, the semi-annual (targeted) channel is released four months before the actual update—with the release months being March and September—giving organizations ample time to test the update before full-scale deployment.

Any issues that might come up in your line-of-business applications or add-in applications can be resolved in the four months before the actual update is deployed. Due to this core similarity between the two semi-annual updates, the Jan-July version always complies with the features and updates released in the March-September version.

Unlike with the monthly (targeted) release channel, any critical threat (security or non-security) will result in Microsoft releasing an update.

Conclusion

Regular updates and performance improvements set Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus apart from other suites on the market. Microsoft has allowed account administrators to choose between varying types of update release channels to suit their organizational needs.

For companies that look to benefit from recent updates and that don’t have to accommodate lengthy deployment durations due to limited add-ons and line-of-business applications, the monthly update seems to be the best option.

However, if your organization wants to save downtime caused by deployment and to test the targeted version before opting for full-scale deployment, the semi-annual update release channels look to provide the most value.

Written by Mathieu Pipe-Rondeau Marketing Communications Specialist @ SherWeb

Mathieu is responsible for SherWeb’s blog content and organic social media. Highly conscious of branding and related communications, he’s constantly on the lookout for new and better ways to showcase SherWeb to the world. Mathieu has ten years of communications and marketing experience, including expertise in knowledge management, process creation and improvement, technical writing and content strategy. When he’s not producing engaging content, Mathieu enjoys cooking, singing and skateboarding with his son.