Best practices: Update channels

The Best Practices Guide includes deployment recommendations and real-world examples from the Office 365 Product Group and delivery experts from Microsoft Services. For a list of all the articles, see Best practices guide for deploying Office 365 ProPlus.

With the 2016 release of Office 365 ProPlus, Microsoft introduced the concept of update channels to allow IT admins to have more control over new feature rollouts and business application validation. IT admins should leverage all channels to create validation, communications, and training processes. Preexisting QA or validation groups should be used.

Security updates are released every month for each production update channel in support. The Semi-Annual Channel builds are released on the second Tuesday of a month (Patch Tuesday), while the Semi-Annual Channel (Targeted) and Monthly Channel builds are quality-driven rather than date-driven, and can vary from the patch Tuesday release cadence.

The following sections should be reviewed in order for the customer to understand each update channel.

Monthly Channel

Monthly Channel for Office 365 ProPlus provides monthly releases that contain new or updated features, security updates, and non-security updates, such as updates that provide stability or performance improvements for Office. Not every Monthly Channel release contains all of these features and updates. A Monthly Channel release is supported only until the next Monthly Channel release is available; no new security updates are provided for previous Monthly Channel releases.

Leveraging Monthly Channel is ideal for users and/or organizations that want to provide users with the newest Office features as soon as they are available, and are not concerned about testing these features before deploying to production. Monthly Channel is released at quality-driven intervals rather than date-driven intervals. Monthly Channel is ideal for users in a customer's pilot group that are evaluating new features and functionality prior to rolling the features out to the broad user community.

Semi-Annual Channel (Targeted)

Semi-Annual Channel (Targeted) for Office 365 ProPlus provides releases every six months, in March and September, that can contain new or updated features, security updates, and non-security updates, such as updates that provide stability or performance improvements for Office. It is intended to give pre-production users and compatibility testers a chance to adequately test the upcoming Semi-Annual Channel release to identify possible issues that may need to be fixed with line-of-business applications, add-ins, and/or macros. Semi-Annual Channel (Targeted) is a fully supported version of Office 365 ProPlus. When using the Semi-Annual Channel for production users, it is strongly recommended to have approximately 10% of the overall end user population on Semi-Annual Channel (Targeted) to do ample testing in preparing for the next Semi-Annual Channel release.

Semi-Annual Channel

Semi-Annual Channel for Office 365 ProPlus provides releases every six months, in January and July, that can contain new features, security updates, and non-security updates, such as updates that provide stability or performance improvements for Office. Subsequent Semi-Annual Channel builds, released in the months after the Semi-Annual Channel release, usually only contain security updates, but will include non-security updates if there is a significant customer issue that needs to be fixed. Semi-Annual Channel doesn't have all of the new features that are included in the most recent Monthly Channel. After it is released, no new features are added to the Semi-Annual Channel. A Semi-Annual Channel release is supported for fourteen months after it's released. There will always be more than one Semi-Annual Channel release available and supported.

Semi-Annual Channel is recommended for users and/or organizations that do not want to deploy the latest features of Office without adequate testing. Semi-Annual Channel is also ideal for users and/or organizations that have a significant number of line-of-business applications, add-ins, and/or macros that need to be tested with each release.

Note: Semi-Annual Channel is the default update channel for Office 365 ProPlus.

Update channel references

The following links provide detailed information about update channels:

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