Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus Updates Mean Less Admin Stress

The rapid-deployment Office 365 plan will soon gain controls that allow administrators to defer feature updates and a tool for limiting their impact on their networks.

Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus

Office 365 ProPlus customers will soon have more control over the productivity suite's impact on IT operations.

ProPlus is similar to other Microsoft Office 365 plans, but differs in how Office applications are deployed. "Office 365 ProPlus uses a technology called Click-to-Run to install Office. It provides a faster installation, so users can be up and running [with] Office 365 ProPlus in a matter of minutes," according to an online support document. It installs Office as a single package, although administrators can pick and choose which applications to include.

"When we released Office 365 ProPlus, we focused on reducing the burden of traditional software deployment by making Office deployment fast and easy, so it's always up-to-date, just like you expect from a cloud service. At the same time, we were very conscious to ensure this new deployment model would not impact app integration, Office customization and IT control that businesses rely on to do their best work," wrote Microsoft's Amesh Mansukhani, an Office 365 ProPlus senior technical product manager, and Alistair Speirs, senior operations program manager for Office 365 deployment, in a corporate blog post teasing some of the changes the company will be showcasing at the Ignite conference in May.

Acknowledging that Microsoft's new accelerated software update cadence may have unwelcome effects on the systems that organizations rely upon to conduct business, the company is rolling out new management controls that essentially help administrators pump the brakes on feature updates.

"We understand there is a need to reduce the number of feature enhancements on certain devices, especially for those being used for critical line-of-business solutions," stated Mansukhani and Speirs. "For those devices, we are introducing the ability to receive feature updates no more than three times per year. In between these cycles, we will continue to provide security updates."

IT administrators can also expect Office 365 ProPlus to place less of a burden on their corporate networks.

Updating Office 365 can place a strain on networks with limited access to the Internet. "To help resolve this, we are integrating Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS) to ensure Office is a good citizen when on an organization's network," wrote Microsoft Office staffers.

"Office will use BITS to transfer updates to a user's device only when there is bandwidth not being used by other critical applications," they continued. BITS, in combination with Binary Delta Compression technology, will help trim down the size of Office updates and lower their impact on a network, they added.

Other enhancements include System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) integration. SCCM is Microsoft's PC and server configuration and management platform. Finally, Microsoft is tweaking the software's self-service device activation features to help administrators rein in their users.

"We know that administrators also want the ability to centrally manage activations on users' behalf to help reduce the amount of time spent on troubleshooting activation issues," said Mansukhani and Speirs. Next month, administrators can "use the Office 365 Admin Portal to identify and manage the number of device activations for Office per user."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...