Microsoft delivers an overdue progress report on its Office 365 upgrade push

Microsoft delivers an overdue progress report on its Office 365 upgrade push

Summary: Microsoft officials have finally provided a progress report on the company's migration of its Office 365 users to the latest feature set.


When Microsoft launched the latest update to its Office 365 suite of hosted apps in October 2012, the company decided to move brand-new customers to the newest feature set first. Existing Office 365 users were told they'd be upgraded over the coming months.


Many existing users have been frustrated by having no visibility as to when Microsoft planned to move them to the latest Office 365 bits -- the cloud complements of the Exchange 2013, SharePoint 2013 and Lync 2013 on-premises products. Some users received word they were about to be notified, only to have that process halted or rescinded with no explanation as to why.  Microsoft officials repeatedly declined to provide any information about its rollout path and progress over the ensuing months. 

On July 5, Microsoft finally provided an update on its Office 365 rollout progress via a post to the Office 365 Technical Blog.

Microsoft officials said late last year that some Office 365 enterprise users were getting the updated bits starting in the fall of 2012. Last we heard (around February of this year), Microsoft officials said existing Office 365 customers would continue to receive the updated versions of Lync Online, Exchange Online and SharePoint Online "throughout the year" through November 2013. Office 365 users in the U.S. were set to be upgraded first.

Late last week, Microsoft officials said "over three quarters of our customers have either been upgraded to the new experience, or have heard from us that they will be upgraded this month."

Those who haven't heard -- I know you're out there, as I hear from you regularly -- the updated word is you will be moved to the latest Office 365 bits "in the next few months."

Microsoft's guidance for those tired of waiting: "For those of you who want the new functionality as soon as possible, you can experience the new Office Web Apps and Office 365 ProPlus client technology in your pre-upgrade environment," according to the July 5 blog post.

Microsoft officials reiterated that once customers are scheduled to get the upgraded bits, Microsoft will give the Office 365 administrators a four-week heads-up, so that they can implement recommended pre-upgrade steps, if needed. Microsoft will then provide an exact upgrade date.

Users can opt to run up-to-three-week pilots of the Exchange and Lync upgrade experience with up to 100 users to head off any possible problems before allowing the full-on Office 365 update. (Those in the pilot cannot be rolled back to the old experience, Microsoft officials note.)

Users also can opt to postpone their upgrades once they get the first upgrade notification mail. Postponements are allowed only once and those who choose this option will not be allowed to select a new, preferred upgrade date. Instead, Microsoft will contact admins from four to six weeks after they postpone with a new upgrade date. Here's a brief, updated frequently asked questions (FAQ) list about the upgrade process.

Microsoft officials said once Office 365 users are moved to the latest bits, they'll have the "foundation" for Microsoft to deliver more frequent, regular updates.

"Moving forward,, you will see Office 365 updates as opposed to upgrades," the blog post noted. In Microsoft's Office parlance: "upgrades" are new versions of an existing product or service; "updates" are collections of new features designed to be added to an existing product or service.

Any readers of this blog had any problems with their Office 365 updates (or lack thereof)? Or was it smooth sailing once the update process finally kicked in?

Topics: Cloud, Collaboration, IT Priorities, Microsoft, Unified Comms


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • I am taking online classes through a college

    that I believe started with Live@Edu. The webmail client is an older Outlook web mail (not the new and the "documents" will redirect to SkyDrive. I have not heard from the school on any upgrade dates, but I expect that it will occur fairly soon. The SkyDrive piece was added fairly recent (last couple months).

    Have you heard anything for schools in Live@Edu/Office 365 Education?
  • This is where I would like to see MS improve...

    Animosity towards Windows 8 and the Modern interface is not just about looks or learning curve. It's about Microsoft selling something new that people fear will go unsupported. With good reason...We'd never tolerate Google, Apple, or even a commercial Linux distributions to only fix the products of those they haven't sold to yet while disregarding upgrades for those that were loyal and bought into the product early. That's "sleezy car sales" style marketing and it's not the first time MS has done it. If Microsoft wants people to trust their data to the MS cloud, they'll need more than nice features or affordable products. They will have to prove they aren't going to exploit the trust cloud applications require the consumers put in the company, that they won't abandon current customers, or end up forcing businesses no longer able to function into continuous costly upgrade cycles between buggy products.
    • Huh, Microsoft has the clearest support in the business

      Google drops stuff when it feels like it. Apple has N and N-1 support only (i.e., the current version and the previous version). Microsoft supports it's enterprise products for 10 years. I have no idea how long Linux vendors support their products, but I very strongly doubt it comes close to Microsoft.

      Now the Office 365 stuff is a little different. Microsoft wanted a rolling upgrade. If you ask most IT admins if they want to upgrade now or later, you will find that "later" will usually win. So, Microsoft to decided to roll the new software out to new customers (who didn't have to go through the hassle of an upgrade, just a transition from whatever they were previously using). Then they started upgrading their existing users.

      This doesn't seem altogether unreasonable to me. Again, IT admins would normally much rather go through an upgrade process that had the glitches wrung out of it by someone else.
    • Don't respond to stuff you do not understand

      It is obvious from your response that you have never used Office 365 and have no understanding of what it takes to migrate users from Exchange Server 2010 to Exchange Server 2013. They have to physically move every mailbox to another server. It is obvious that new users will be deployed on the new infrstructure right away, while it takes some time to move millions of existing mailboxes.
  • Office 365 user Upgrades to Office 2013 are far too Sloooooooow!

    The whole point of Office 365 was "Always stay up-to-date with latest Office versions" or words to that effect!

    I have a free partner subscription of Office 365 but they still haven't upgraded it to Office 2013!

    Can you find out from your moles inside Microsoft: what exactly is the point of Office 365 if it's not updates for a whole year!
  • Horrible support experience in every way possible on Office 365

    I'm a long time SharePoint / Office guy (SharePoint MVP for 9+ years) and I'm utterly amazed by how bad the support has been with Office 365. I echo what Mary Joe has said here about the lack of transparency in knowing when you'll be upgraded as I was one of those.

    My upgrade did not go well. Once everything was upgraded, only Exchange & Lync were working... every single SharePoint site was corrupt. I had to manually force them to upgrade from SharePoint 2010 > SharePoint 2013 after my tenant was upgraded.

    When you open a support case, you might as well not put anything in the description because every time a case engineer calls they ask for a description of the problem. They seemingly don't even read the ticket (if they do, they don't act like it).

    Then suddenly one day my tenant SharePoint administration site died. It took over 2 weeks to get it fixed and even after it was fixed, the case manager was still emailing me daily to say that operations was still looking into it. I had to tell him that it was actually fixed.

    This goes hand in hand with the other issues i had (see this one from issues with Lync: for that one I actually had to pull strings to get some old contacts within MSFT to escalate it even after I told the case manager exactly what was going on (I understood how the product worked better than they did.

    It's sad... as great as an offering as Office 365 is, the support may be the worst, or at least in the top 1% of "horrible customer support experiences" in the industry. The only way it could get worse is if the support people simply stopped answering tickets.
    Andrew Connell
    • It's not all bad...

      That's unfortunate... So far I've had exactly the opposite of your experience, and I've been working with the platform for 3 years now: support has been persistent, escalated quickly when necessary, and has had great follow up. Granted, most of my support issues have been in the Exchange area, so perhaps it's SharePoint that's giving support a bad name...