Has it been a challenge to manage your complex environment due to the frequency of Microsoft 365 feature updates? Would you prefer less frequent updates since they can be unpredictable and disruptive to productivity? If this is the case at your organization, then we have good news for you. As of May 12, 2020, Microsoft announced the general availability of a new Monthly Enterprise Channel. Now, organizations can bring users the latest capabilities to stay productive and secure, but on a predictable, once-a-month release schedule.
Original Update Options
Before the new channel addition, organizations had two main options for Microsoft 365 updates. The default option was called the “Monthly Channel,” delivering updates multiple times each month, on no set schedule. This option contains all the newest features for collaboration and work from home, but also invariably has quite a few bugs. The other option was the “Semi-Annual Enterprise Channel” that delivered updates twice a year – in January and July. This gives greater stability to this option, as the features have all been patched for at least five months before rolling out. Generally, organizations required to comply with regulatory, governmental, or other organizational requirements prefer this slower update option.
Both channels are still available, however, the "Monthly Channel" was recently renamed as the “Current Channel.” This was a name change only. Microsoft wanted to align the "Current" name to reflect the multiple updates released each month with the "Current Channel." The new "Monthly Enterprise Channel" delivers a once-a-month scheduled release. This provides a predictable release schedule for all the new features – every second Tuesday (“Patch Tuesday”) of the month. This gives greater stability within the build as the updates have been vetted for at least 30 days before release. The new "Monthly Enterprise Channel" bridges the gap between continual releases of the "Current Channel," and waiting a full six-months with the "Semi-Annual Enterprise Channel."
|Primary Channel||Release Frequency||Feature Updates||Microsoft Suggestion|
(Previously Named Monthly Channel)
|Multiple per month, with no set schedule||As soon as they’re ready||Access to newest capabilities and improvements as soon as possible|
Monthly Enterprise Channel
|Once monthly on 2nd Tuesday of each month||Once Monthly||Provide new features monthly, on a predictable schedule|
|Once monthly on 2nd Tuesday of each month||Twice yearly in January and July||Only select devices where extensive testing is needed before rolling out|
Lifecycle of a Build
Below you will see a chart that outlines how often each primary channel is updated with features and patches. This visual shows how quickly patches are updated versus feature releases. You can also see how a bug interference can be prevented by choosing a slower release channel.
|Build||Release||Current||Monthly Enterprise||Semi-Annual Enterprise|
|New Features||Patches & Builds||As soon as they’re ready||Once Monthly Cadence||Twice yearly in Jan. and July|
Feb. 25, 2020
March 1, 2020
March 10, 2020
|12527||20880||Channel Not Available Yet||Tuesday,
July 14, 2020
|12624||20320||Wednesday, March 25, 2020|
March 31, 2020
April 14, 2020
May 12, 2020
June 9, 2020
|12730||20236||Wednesday, April 29, 2020|
May 4, 2020
May 12, 2020
May 21, 2020
June 9, 2020
June 2, 2020
|BUG IDENTIFIED||June 8, 2020|
|12827||20336||Tuesday, June 9, 2020|
|12827||20470||BUG FIXED - June 24, 2020|
July 14, 2020
June 30, 2020
July 14, 2020
Notice how on July 14, 2020 (“Patch Tuesday”), each primary channel received a different build (version) of Microsoft 365. The "Semi-Annual Enterprise Channel" received a release that was four Versions (Builds) behind the "Current Channel." As you can see, this is why an organization can be confident in the stability of the update before rolling out to their organization.
A recent bug fix was also outlined in the release chart (red text). Let's walk through a situation where Client “A” is on the Current Channel (Build 12827 . 20336) on June 9, 2020 when the Access bug was discovered. We also have Client “B” on the Monthly Enterprise Channel, still running on the previous release (Build 12730 . 20430), free from the Access bug. By June 24, 2020, the Access bug was fixed. Client “A” received the fix as soon as it was available, but had the inconveniences from the bug that come with being an early adopter. All the while, Client “B” worked bug free, completely unaffected. A few weeks later on July 14, 2020 (“Patch Tuesday”), the patched release (Build 12827 . 20538) was given to Client “B” in the "Monthly Enterprise Chanel," still untouched by the bug. This chart is just a small snapshot in time, but it does clearly show the benefits and challenges when working with each of the primary release channels.
As of June 9, 2020, all NEW tenants installing Microsoft 365 automatically default to the "Current Channel" release schedule. This is the channel provides feature updates as soon as they are ready. Both security and quality updates, along with bug fixes, are released about two or three times a month. If your organization would prefer a more predictable, monthly Microsoft 365 App update schedule, you may be able to choose the new "Monthly Enterprise Channel." To make this change, your organization needs to be running workstations with Windows 7, 8, or 10. Servers need to be running Windows Server 2008 R2 or newer. This change does require a Group Policy update for your domain, or use of the Office Deployment Tool.
If you are interested in switching your existing Microsoft 365 App update channel, please reach out to your account manager. If your workstations and servers qualify, your account manager will need to have an engineer scheduled to make the switch. If you would like to learn more about Microsoft 365 Apps endpoint security patching, please follow the link below, or reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.