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Clock ticking to upgrade Office 2016

Office 365 commercial subscribers still running the original Office 2016 applications have until October to update or they risk being without support, including security patches. In June, Microsoft released build 1602 of the Office apps to corporate Office 365 subscribers on the “Deferred Channel” (DC) track. (The build had been available on the faster track since February.)

Subscribers on the DC track are on the slower of the two main release tracks for Office 365. They get updates every four months—on “Patch Tuesday” in February, June, and October. Microsoft supports each DC release for eight months. This gives organizations time to check compatibility with their custom applications, Office macros, and add-ins. But if they don’t jump by the end of the support period, they’re left with a dead Office 365 branch that doesn’t get security updates from Microsoft.

When Microsoft released update 1602 to DC customers in June, it started the clock ticking for subscribers to update to the new features for Office applications, as well as security updates. If DC customers don’t adopt the February release by October, they will be unsupported.

What you need to know

  1. Microsoft has changed the way it names releases: To help distinguish multiple Office updates, Microsoft has changed the way it names major updates and their subsequent builds. Office updates are now represented by the month and year. For example, version 1605 corresponds to the May 2016 update. To distinguish builds within each version, Microsoft now adds a build number, for example: version 1605 (Build 6758.1000). This is similar to how it handles versioning with Windows 10 and the System Center Configuration Manager.
  2. Mark your calendar: If you’re on the DC track, not the faster “Current Channel” track, Microsoft doesn’t promise it will warn you if your Office 365 service branch is about to become unsupported.
  3. The first DC update (1509) was in February: Because Microsoft’s rules allow DC customers to skip no more than one update, you’ll be required to accept the June upgrade (1602) before October. Alternatively, you could go straight to implementing the October upgrade, but that likely won’t sit well, given you chose the DC. It has to be one or the other because the rules don’t let you stick with an individual Office 2016 feature set for longer than eight months.
  4. Security is the big issue: Microsoft can’t force an update on you, but it can—and will—refuse to support February’s version of Office 2016 after October. That means no security patches and other fixes, which puts those not wanting to upgrade between a rock and a hard place.

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