Microsoft 365 deadline: Nine months to upgrade older Office versions

Microsoft is planning some big changes to connectivity in Microsoft 365 (also still known by many as Office 365), and you as a company need to plan for the change. The big change is happening on Nov. 1, 2021, so you have less than nine months to get your organization updated to the latest supported Office packages. How does this affect you if you are running an older version? If your Office versions do not meet the minimum requirements to access Microsoft 365, you may be left with no connectivity to Microsoft 365 services or experience connectivity issues.

Microsoft Office upgrade information

Here is a table of the Office versions that will not be able to connect to Microsoft Office 365 and its services after Nov. 1. (This information is taken from the email received from the message center on Microsoft 365):

Office and Microsoft 365 Apps

Outlook for Windows Version

Office 2013

15.0.4970.9999 and older

Office 2016

16.0.4599.9999 and older

Microsoft 365 Apps for enterprise (formerly Office 365 ProPlus)

1705 and older

Microsoft 365 Apps for business (formerly Office 365 Business)

1705 and older

This poses a challenge as many customers are still upgrading to Windows 10 from Windows 7. Larger organizations with 5,000 or more users will have to begin rolling out Office along with Windows 10 so they are on a supported version. You need manpower for this and the big question comes in now, how do you upgrade people that do not work from the Office due to COVID-19?

So, there are a few ways in which you can get this rolled out to users, this includes Windows 10 and Office 2019 for example. You might as well do both and get users compliant instead of hassling users to join teams’ sessions so you can sit on their machines to run upgrades manually. This is where automation comes in and here are some of the technologies you can implement to get the ball rolling on upgrades:

  • System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM)
  • Microsoft Intune
  • MDT
  • Windows AutoPilot

I am not going to dive into licensing requirements for each of these technologies. However, I will touch on them briefly. I have been working with System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) since it first started and have deployed countless applications to user machines as well as deploying Windows 10, not only performing upgrades but having a solution to install Windows 10 and Office on a brand-new machine so that it does not need to be done manually. With SCCM, you can scale these deployments to big numbers, but you obviously need the capacity on switches to do this (applies when you doing new installs).

If you are not familiar with SCCM and if your company is licensed for it but never implemented it, you should look at bringing up a machine and getting ready for your upgrades. There are many tutorials on how to do these kinds of setups and deployments.

The next section is Intune that works hand-in-hand with MDT and Windows AutoPilot. SCCM can also be used to manage devices in Intune. AutoPilot is free, so you do not need to pay for this service, but to make use of the rest, you need to have Azure Active Directory Premium, Intune, or the Enterprise Mobility option.

AutoPilot has the ability to apply policies to machines as well as install applications and if you wanted to upgrade Windows Editions, you can do that as well. AutoPilot can be used to upgrade Windows versions as well to Windows 10.

How to upgrade to the latest Microsoft Office version

On the Office side of things, to upgrade to the latest version, you can head over to Apps Admin Center and you will be greeted with a “Welcome” message as shown below:

microsoft office upgrade

From here, you do not need to sign in right away. If you click the “Create a new configuration” section, you will be taken to the Office Customization Tool, where you can make your selection of the version you want to deploy and you can select the CDN (Office Content Delivery Network) as a source if you do not want users to pull information directly from a specific branch or datacenter. Below is a snippet of the Microsoft Office upgrade option section. On the right-hand side it will show what options you have selected:

microsoft office upgrade

Right, so now that you are aware of the automation you can perform, you should make your business aware of the changes coming and start your planning and rollouts as soon as possible — you do not want to be left in the dark and have to manually upgrade thousands of users to newer versions and disrupt day-to-day operations because users cannot work. The deadline is fixed — it was announced in 2020 already.

Take note: If you are running older versions of Windows and Office, they pose a security risk to your business as they are not receiving updates anymore. If you have systems that work only on Windows XP or Windows 7, for example, reach out to your developers to get them onboard and to understand the deadline and risk. Once you are on the newest versions, you will receive the monthly cumulative updates as well as all the security fixes for the products. Once updated, if you have an issue, you are able to log a call with Microsoft and they will assist as you are on the latest build.

Nine months comes quickly

Don’t be left behind. Start upgrading: You have a high-level overview of the tools you can use. If you not sure how to do this or are not skilled, then reach out to your Microsoft technical account manager (TAM) if you have an enterprise agreement with Microsoft or one of the Microsoft partners to help you.

Featured image: Shutterstock

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