Office – It just works right?

One of the benefits of my role as PFE with Microsoft is the amount of customers and different kinds of environments I get to see and hear about. Across the vast expanse that is the Exchange deployment and infrastructure landscape, everyone uses office. It's the tie that binds almost every organization to one another. Now don't me wrong, even within that, there are many flavors. I was onsite today with a customer who still has Vista in the enterprise. Running on that, they were using Outlook 2007-20013. In the backend it was a mix of 2007 and 2013.

'Ok Chad we get it, there are a million different ways to deploy and connect to Exchange, what are ya getting at here?'

Regardless of what version of Exchange you have deployed, what is the running theme you've heard from Microsoft? Patch, and patch often. Many times in the 'real world' though this is not the case. I've seen orgs that only patch once a year, to orgs that will religiously stay 2 patches behind at all times. EVEN if the latest and greatest patch, KB, SP, RU, or CU fixes a known pain point. Now the thing to recall here is you have a lot of moving parts. Client access, clusters, load balancers, Network, AD, DNS. - 'Weren't you talking about Office earlier?' Yup, sure was. Even with the most regimented patching organizations, one of the most common and overlooked applications to patch is the Office suite. Why? It just works. It's gotten to a point that it's so self-reliant and dependable, why do we need to patch it? If I have RTM or sp1 with KB 123456, won't I still be able to connect to my Exchange mailbox? In 99% of those discussions, yes it does 'Just work'. Our internal metrics and telemetry on Premier support incidents showed an alarmingly high number of cases that would never of even happened if the proper patches were in place!

Obviously with my focus on Exchange and all things E-mail (office 365 too) my primary focus is on the Outlook application. Heck, it's the first app I launch and the last one I close everyday. So I was aware of, and found some great internal / non-public information on the versions of outlook that are out there. Thank goodness this information is now externally published. Feel free to review it here..

If you haven't seen this before you may be surprised by the sheer volume of updates. Just look at our latest current version of 2013. The office team is pushing almost monthly updates out for Outlook. Now this is a two phase approach. Your servers as well as your clients should be running the latest versions possible within reason. So if you don't install a patch until there have been two more after that? Do so for both server and client. I have personally ran into an issue with an Office 365 / Outlook situation where I was getting connection errors upon launch. Turned out it was just a patch that was need on OL2013 SP1 to clear it all up. So this means that even your Office 365 CTR (Click to Run) versions of office may be susceptible to having update issues. Moving towards this patching utopia won't be an easy undertaking. You will likely have to get buy-in and support from other teams or support staff. If the overall result is less issues, support calls and end user impact, wouldn't it be worth the effort?

In summary, if you have an affected client that is experiencing some client side oddities, and you've already ruled out mailbox, database, server or network issues, don't stop there. Patch that client and see if you can reproduce it, you may be surprised by the results. 

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