Changing and Maintaining Office 365 ProPlus Update Channels using ConfigMgr

Background

Following on from the Blog Post on Office 365 End to End Servicing. I thought my next post would be on how to change the Office 365 ProPlus Update Channel as I had a customer recently who had deployed the Monthly Channel to all his users and wanted to change them to “Semi-Annual Channel” to allow for more testing between releases. This post will show you how you can use the compliance settings feature in SCCM to change and manage the update channel in Office 365 ProPlus by changing CDNBaseUrl key in the registry. Things to consider when deciding which Channel to select:                                                
Update channel Primary purpose How often updated with new features Default update channel for the following products
Monthly Channel  Provide users with the newest features of Office as soon as they’re available. Monthly
  • Project Online
  • Visio Online Plan 2 (previously named Visio Pro for Office 365)
  • Office 365 Business, which is the version of Office that comes with some Office 365 plans, such as Business Premium.
Semi-Annual Channel  Provide users with new features of Office only a few times a year. Every six months, in January and July Office 365 ProPlus
Semi-Annual Channel (Targeted) Provide pilot users and application compatibility testers the opportunity to test the next Semi-Annual Channel. Every six months, in March and September None
All the channels will receive updates for security and critical non-security issues when needed. These updates usually occur on the second Tuesday of the month.
More info about that can be read here Overview of update channels for Office 365 ProPlus Which users should get which update channel depends on several factors, including how many line-of-business applications, add-ins, or macros that you need to test. To ensure you can test new updates to Office before deploying them to your entire organization, we recommend deploying two update channels:
  • Deploy the Semi-Annual Channel (Targeted) to a targeted group of representative users who can pilot new features of Office.
  • Deploy the Semi-Annual Channel to the remaining users in your organization. They receive feature updates every six months, four months after the users with the Semi-Annual Channel (Targeted).
With this approach, you can test new Office features in your environment, particularly with your hardware and device drivers. For reference there is comprehensive guidance on Planning your O365 Deployment here – https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/DeployOffice/plan-office-365-proplus

Implementation

First thing we are going to have to do is create the Configuration item to check if the CDNBaseUrl key exists and set the specified channel as required. In the example I will set it to Semi-Annual Channel.

Step 1 – Creating the Configuration Item:

  • In the Configuration Manager console, click Assets and Compliance > Compliance Settings > Configuration Items
  • Click Create Configuration Item
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  • Specify a unique name and a description and Click Next
  Image1
  • Select the required Operating Systems and Click Next
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  • On the settings page Select New, we now need to configure the settings required, and whether to remediate them when they aren’t compliant on devices.
Image4
  • With the Setting Type set to Registry Value select Browse and connect to another machine with Office 365 installed and browse to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Office\ClickToRun\Configuration\CDNBaseUrl
Image4.1  
  • Select CDNBaseURL and select The selected registry value must exist on client devices.
Image5   Image6
  • Click Next and on the Compliance Rule Screen Select New
  • On the settings screen select the previously created setting above and change the “Equals the following values” to the update channel you would like to change to – In this example “Semi-Annual Channel
  • And Select the “Remediate noncompliant rules when Supported
Image7
  • Select OK and Next and Complete the wizard to create the Configuration Item.

Step 2 – Creating the Configuration Baseline:

Now we need to create the Configuration Baseline and add the previously created Configuration Item.
  • In the Configuration Manager console, click Assets and Compliance > Compliance Settings > Configuration Baselines
  • Click Create Configuration Baseline
Image8  
  • In the Create Configuration Baseline dialog box, enter a unique name and a description for the configuration baseline.
  • The Configuration data list displays all configuration items or configuration baselines that are included in this configuration baseline. Click Add to add the previously created configuration item to the list.
Image9
  • Click OK
The Last step will be to deploy the Configuration Baseline to a collection of machines that need to be changed to Semi-Annual Channel.
  • Select the configuration baseline that you want to deploy, and then click Deploy
  Image10  
  • Make sure the correct Configuration Baseline is selected, and Remediate noncompliant rules when supported(if required select Allow remediation outside the maintenance window). Select the collection of machines that need to be changed to Semi-Annual Channel.
  • Specify the compliance evaluation schedule for this configuration baseline
  • Click OK to complete
Image11
  • Machines will now see this new configuration baseline on there next Machine Policy Evaluation and evaluate it based on the schedule created.

Conclusion

Using compliance settings in SCCM will really help in maintaining the Office 365 channels in your environment and ensure that the required users have the correct channels. Another option to change or maintain the channel would be to use Group Policy Administrative Template files (ADMX/ADML) for Office as mentioned here Configure the update channel to be used by Office 365 ProPlus. Hope this helps to give you an overview of the different Office 365 channels and how to easily maintain it in your environment.Smile

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