Office 2016 Click-To-Run Deployment Management

May 2, 2016   //   Microsoft, ,

The move to Office 2016 can be transformative for how organizations do business, and in today’s cloud-first IT world, it is only a matter of time before all organizations will need to upgrade to Office 2016 in order to stay supported by Microsoft.

In our last blog, we looked at the two deployment options for upgrading to Microsoft Office 2016, and highlighted the reasons why Click-To-Run installer has become the preferred option over Microsoft Installer for most organizations looking to upgrade to Microsoft 2016. Next, comes the decision on how to manage your Click-To-Run deployments. Give it some thought, because there are a lot of nuances to consider going forward. Presented here are several viable approaches from the Office 365 experts at SWC.

Microsoft Default (Unmanaged)

If you do nothing beyond downloading and installing Click-To-Run (C2R) from the Office 365 portal, all updates to the software will occur on Microsoft’s public default scheduling. Typically, there are monthly releases sent out for broad availability. This can be just fine for home and personal users, but from a corporate perspective, it is effectively unmanaged. If a bad patch goes out, as it has been known to happen, there is a chance you might get it.

SMB or DFS Share

To reduce this risk, a C2R shared folder defined on your local LAN can be used to deliver MS Office updates in a controlled manner. However, due to the new way in which C2R updates are deployed (non-WSUS), the timing of update delivery cannot be as strictly controlled, nor reported on directly. Still, steps can be taken to manage the process at a high level, which can include both Development Testing and Production Rollout. However, a limitation of this approach is that external clients who rarely connect to the LAN may fall behind and drift out of compliance.

One extra advantage of C2R is that it should never request a reboot; closing and re-opening the apps is sufficient. At the central office, a simple SMB share for a single-site deployment can be defined for use, and is referenced by C2R-specific settings in GPOs. By defining an update path, client machines will be directed to the corporate approved version of C2R. For further customization, there are a set of separate administrative templates available for download. Put them in the Central Store, then link a Group Policy to the domain and define C2R specific machine settings for O2016 Updates.

Office 2016 Administrative Template files (ADMX/ADML) and Office Customization Tool

In order for this to be rolled out more broadly at other sites, as well as cities and countries, this structure can be converted into a DFS tree to replicate with multiple-sites. And local GPOs can point clients to the on-premises location in order to save on WAN bandwidth utilization, thereby improving the efficiency of deployments and increasing the probability of success rates.

SCCM Build-To-Build Upgrade

SCCM can be used to package C2R versions and deploy them in a more traditional and synchronous manner by performing an in-place build-to-build upgrade of MS Office as a scheduled deployment via SCCM. This is a good option for implementation as a contingency measure if it is later determined that there is need for finer-grained control of the MS Office patching process. This option is also preferred if the SMB-based asynchronous updating process isn’t meeting expectations, or in the event that there is ever need to remove and reinstall MS Office from scratch on a given machine. The activity can be further coordinated via a Task Sequence.

SCCM O365 Update Management

This is the most comprehensive method, which is newly released in v1602 of SCCM which is now RTM for the Current Branch. It enables the integration of traditional WSUS “Patch Tuesday” strategy with the new O365 C2R approach via centralization into SCCM. The Software Update Point can be set to produce ADRs that will grab the updates directly from Microsoft, and then send them out to Distribution Points just like regular SCCM applications and packages. A group policy setting or XML element tag set by the ODT raises flags to instruct the client-side C2R apps to report to SCCM for the update streams.

This enables advanced bells and whistles like automation, compliance checks and reporting capabilities for highly structured IT departments. Plus, it leverages all of your existing SCCM infrastructure. SWC recommends upgrading all SCCM servers to this v1602 in order to take advantage of the benefits it will bring to the O365 C2R management process, which overlaps directly with all Windows 10 planning. SCCM also offers Windows 10 servicing plans in-box, so all of this works hand-in-hand.

Move to Office 365

Ready to make the move to Office 365? Contact SWC to learn more about the various nuances to consider when choosing your click-to-run deployment method. Our Office 365 experts can help you determine which option will work best for your current environment and needs.