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Office 365 Pro Plus Admin – ‘Branch’ Update Types

As an Office Pro Plus, “Click-to-Run” administrator or enthusiast we’re familiar how this new wave of application delivery when it comes to Office 2013 or 2016, has turned both the application delivery and updating arena on its head.
No more traditional hefty “MSI” install and long waiting time and also no long updating through the traditional WSUS or Windows Updates.
While this is a speedy much needed revelation for end users and administrators – it has caused quite a challenge when it comes to updating these clients. Here I will explain what the ‘branch’ terms mean when referring to an update cycle if you have Microsoft controlling your updates.
First the branch terminology, there are three types:

  • Current Branch
  • Current Branch for Business
  • First Release for Current Branch for Business

Now here’s what they actually mean in a time and feature sense:
Current Branch – this provides your users/clients with the newest features of Office as soon as they are available – this is a monthly update (orange squares in diagram below)
Current Branch for Business – this gives your users/clients new features 3 times a year – every four months an update. (dark blue squares in diagram below)
First Release for Current Branch for Business – really a pilot user/client situation for testing and compatibility reasons – this gives you the chance to test the NEXT current branch for business out – comes every four months. (light blue squares in diagram below)
It should be noted that any new feature MUST have four months in the “First Release” branch before it can be in the “Current Branch”
In a security update sense these are monthly for all three branches. For non-security updates (not features) it’s monthly for the Current and First Release Branches and every 4 months for Current Branch for Business.
Now this may be a bit overwhelming to understand and absorb, here it is graphically with monthly time along the bottom axis:
You configure which Branch you’d like to connect with in your Group Policy Administrative Template files or the configuration.xml file the Office Deployment Toolkit creates.
This branch methodology is also shared with Windows 10.

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Steve Andrews

For over 20 years, Steve Andrews has been passionately working on the Microsoft infrastructure side in Information Technology. Working with versatile, agile companies to strategically deploy cutting edge technologies, streamlining, and consolidating to drive their business focus, profitability, and always stay ahead of their competitors. Experience includes deep Microsoft collaboration/communications and back end solutions for medium/large sized corporations within Financial, Entertainment, Manufacturing, Biotech, Government, and Administration. More recently assisting organizations to focus on private cloud creating/management/monitoring systems and specializing in System Center 2012 products. Steve is on product development panels for many Microsoft Server products (and Microsoft VTSP) and enables a true vision of simplicity through clean clear infrastructure. Before Perficient, Steve worked for a large European Cable/Communications company, an international retailer with the biggest POS network, and a high demand 24/7 manufacturing company.

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