Microsoft 365 Administration, Accessibility, and Educating Your IT Folks (or at least some of them)


 

I will preface this message with the statement that I do, most sincerely, believe that it is about accessibility, even if the relationship is indirect.  I doubt there’s a single reader here who has not experienced a sudden loss of accessibility after an update regardless of the specific scope of that update.  We’ve always had Windows updates, with the advent of Windows 10 those got split into separate types, and with the advent of Microsoft 365 it is a separate ecosystem of its own that has an update scheme not unlike Windows does, but that occurs completely in parallel from Windows itself.  So it’s important that you be aware of things you can ask of your Microsoft 365 administrators that can make your life so much easier (and, often, theirs too) by making the update cycle less frequent.

There is a Microsoft 365 expert who goes by the name of Sky-Knight on Technibble.com, a forum dedicated strictly to professional computer technicians, on which I am also a member.  I recently posted a question there based on one asked here, and while that did not get a direct answer, the information he shared is, in my opinion, invaluable.  So, here are some things he said that I think members here should know, and be willing to bring up with their Microsoft 365 administrators.  The first line from this message is specific to right now (September 2021), the rest should “stand the test of time” to a far greater extent.

------------

September's updates have made Outlook do all sorts of crazy things on my systems before they're rebooted. I should have suggested that first...

Also @britechguy settings get changed with upgrades... they simply do. This can be controlled in M365 via the tenant settings, I have all of my clients in the semi-annual update cycles for a reason... the monthly stuff is just too annoying to keep up with. Given the nature of that setting, and the legal responsibilities do a blind employee... there might be a means to coerce the owner into having this setting. Though I'd just encourage them to configure things that way anyway... it seriously saves a TON of tickets on all sorts of things, Quickbooks comes to mind quickly.

M365 Admin -> Settings -> Org Settings -> Office Installation Options

By default it's set to Current Channel, it needs to be at least Monthly Enterprise Channel for sanity... for environments that need even more stability there's Every Six Months.

------------

And a bit of additional elaboration in this message:

------------

@britechguy The setting I indicated isn't a user facing setting... it's controlled by the tenant admin. And again, if you're not in that enterprise channel... bad things happen.

Like QB can't email anymore... or insert LOB here is now broken at random bad times. You know how Mr. Murphy works... it's always at thew worst possible time.

So typically, such a suggestion is incredibly well received. Which is why I suggested it, because while you don't control those tenants, making people aware that they do have control over how frequently they get M365 updates! And it's a simple switch that's actually more granular and easier to deal with than Windows Updates are! It benefits everyone when the frequency slows down. I have mine set to Monthly, as any of my Teams heavy clients as well. Because they get new toys monthly. But if they're LOB heavy... semi-annual it is. Just depends on the client's needs.

But yeah, there won't be any consistency because there's no consistency of competence among those of us that do the support. The magic switch I just talked about didn't actually exist early on in M365 days... You had to control update frequency with the installation script used to deploy the client apps themselves! We didn't get the lovely org settings section in M365 until MUCH later. And even now there are a ton of us that have never bothered to look through there to see what they might want to change.

So defaults abound... even when they're terrible. And when MS is throwing changes out weekly... who can keep up? Even the best of us are getting left behind by this pace.

And I do apologize again I should have suggested a reboot, because Outlook + Sept's update rollup for Win10 DOES cause gremlins... weird ones. Mine all cleared with the necessary reboot, but still... that's a thing too.

-----------

I hope that this information may prove potentially helpful to the membership.

--

Brian - Windows 10, 64-Bit, Version 21H1, Build 19043  

.  .  . it misses the point that even if you eliminated all cultural biases, human beings would still form stereotypes.  It's simply how the brain works.

     ~ Scott Safier, March 10, 2004


Don Barrett
 

Excellent Brian.

Is there a way for individual account holders of Office 365 to also change to the semi-annual update scheme?

Great post.

 

Don

 

 

From: office-accessibility@groups.io <office-accessibility@groups.io> On Behalf Of Brian Vogel
Sent: Thursday, September 23, 2021 10:55 AM
To: office-accessibility@groups.io
Subject: [office-accessibility] Microsoft 365 Administration, Accessibility, and Educating Your IT Folks (or at least some of them)

 

I will preface this message with the statement that I do, most sincerely, believe that it is about accessibility, even if the relationship is indirect.  I doubt there’s a single reader here who has not experienced a sudden loss of accessibility after an update regardless of the specific scope of that update.  We’ve always had Windows updates, with the advent of Windows 10 those got split into separate types, and with the advent of Microsoft 365 it is a separate ecosystem of its own that has an update scheme not unlike Windows does, but that occurs completely in parallel from Windows itself.  So it’s important that you be aware of things you can ask of your Microsoft 365 administrators that can make your life so much easier (and, often, theirs too) by making the update cycle less frequent.

There is a Microsoft 365 expert who goes by the name of Sky-Knight on Technibble.com, a forum dedicated strictly to professional computer technicians, on which I am also a member.  I recently posted a question there based on one asked here, and while that did not get a direct answer, the information he shared is, in my opinion, invaluable.  So, here are some things he said that I think members here should know, and be willing to bring up with their Microsoft 365 administrators.  The first line from this message is specific to right now (September 2021), the rest should “stand the test of time” to a far greater extent.

------------

September's updates have made Outlook do all sorts of crazy things on my systems before they're rebooted. I should have suggested that first...

Also @britechguy settings get changed with upgrades... they simply do. This can be controlled in M365 via the tenant settings, I have all of my clients in the semi-annual update cycles for a reason... the monthly stuff is just too annoying to keep up with. Given the nature of that setting, and the legal responsibilities do a blind employee... there might be a means to coerce the owner into having this setting. Though I'd just encourage them to configure things that way anyway... it seriously saves a TON of tickets on all sorts of things, Quickbooks comes to mind quickly.

M365 Admin -> Settings -> Org Settings -> Office Installation Options

By default it's set to Current Channel, it needs to be at least Monthly Enterprise Channel for sanity... for environments that need even more stability there's Every Six Months.

------------

And a bit of additional elaboration in this message:

------------

@britechguy The setting I indicated isn't a user facing setting... it's controlled by the tenant admin. And again, if you're not in that enterprise channel... bad things happen.

Like QB can't email anymore... or insert LOB here is now broken at random bad times. You know how Mr. Murphy works... it's always at thew worst possible time.

So typically, such a suggestion is incredibly well received. Which is why I suggested it, because while you don't control those tenants, making people aware that they do have control over how frequently they get M365 updates! And it's a simple switch that's actually more granular and easier to deal with than Windows Updates are! It benefits everyone when the frequency slows down. I have mine set to Monthly, as any of my Teams heavy clients as well. Because they get new toys monthly. But if they're LOB heavy... semi-annual it is. Just depends on the client's needs.

But yeah, there won't be any consistency because there's no consistency of competence among those of us that do the support. The magic switch I just talked about didn't actually exist early on in M365 days... You had to control update frequency with the installation script used to deploy the client apps themselves! We didn't get the lovely org settings section in M365 until MUCH later. And even now there are a ton of us that have never bothered to look through there to see what they might want to change.

So defaults abound... even when they're terrible. And when MS is throwing changes out weekly... who can keep up? Even the best of us are getting left behind by this pace.

And I do apologize again I should have suggested a reboot, because Outlook + Sept's update rollup for Win10 DOES cause gremlins... weird ones. Mine all cleared with the necessary reboot, but still... that's a thing too.

-----------

I hope that this information may prove potentially helpful to the membership.

--

Brian - Windows 10, 64-Bit, Version 21H1, Build 19043  

.  .  . it misses the point that even if you eliminated all cultural biases, human beings would still form stereotypes.  It's simply how the brain works.

     ~ Scott Safier, March 10, 2004


 

On Thu, Sep 23, 2021 at 12:49 PM, Don Barrett wrote:
Is there a way for individual account holders of Office 365 to also change to the semi-annual update scheme?
-
I honestly don't know, but will ask.   I don't think so, though, as I believe Microsoft has all individual account holders for Microsoft 365 in one "Great Tenancy" and how they have it set is how they have it set, but I must ask to confirm, and will report back.
--

Brian - Windows 10, 64-Bit, Version 21H1, Build 19043  

.  .  . it misses the point that even if you eliminated all cultural biases, human beings would still form stereotypes.  It's simply how the brain works.

     ~ Scott Safier, March 10, 2004


 

By the way, LOB stands for Line Of Business.

Even I couldn't pull out what that acronym was.  It's software in the class of Quickbooks, Calyx Point, Viewpoint Estimation, Sage, AutoCAD, medical practice management software, and the list goes on and on and on.  LOB is a way to condense that. 
--

Brian - Windows 10, 64-Bit, Version 21H1, Build 19043  

.  .  . it misses the point that even if you eliminated all cultural biases, human beings would still form stereotypes.  It's simply how the brain works.

     ~ Scott Safier, March 10, 2004


Don Barrett
 

Awesome;  thanks.

I sure wouldn't mind a slow-down in updates.

 

From: office-accessibility@groups.io <office-accessibility@groups.io> On Behalf Of Brian Vogel
Sent: Thursday, September 23, 2021 1:09 PM
To: office-accessibility@groups.io
Subject: Re: [office-accessibility] Microsoft 365 Administration, Accessibility, and Educating Your IT Folks (or at least some of them)

 

On Thu, Sep 23, 2021 at 12:49 PM, Don Barrett wrote:

Is there a way for individual account holders of Office 365 to also change to the semi-annual update scheme?

-
I honestly don't know, but will ask.   I don't think so, though, as I believe Microsoft has all individual account holders for Microsoft 365 in one "Great Tenancy" and how they have it set is how they have it set, but I must ask to confirm, and will report back.
--

Brian - Windows 10, 64-Bit, Version 21H1, Build 19043  

.  .  . it misses the point that even if you eliminated all cultural biases, human beings would still form stereotypes.  It's simply how the brain works.

     ~ Scott Safier, March 10, 2004


 

Don,

Here is what Sky-Knight had to say in this message:  

Is there a way for individual account holders of Office 365 to also change to the semi-annual update scheme?

Maybe...

M365 Personal users are no different than professional ones aside from a few entitlement differences. The problem is, the login you use to get at your personal M365 subscriptions is a part of Microsoft's tenant... and that tenant is where the update controls are located. For obvious reasons no one outside of Microsoft can get at those settings... so the "easy" path is out.

There is however this: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/deployoffice/change-update-channels

Group Policy isn't available outside of the Professional level OS...

Which brings us to the Office Deployment Tool... This used to be the only way to make this change in Office... assuming it still works you can try that. I question this however because the Organization Wide setting exists, and is known to override what the ODT configures.

The configuration XML can be generated by visiting https://config.office.com, Once there click the create configuration button that's all but buried at the bottom. You don't have to login or anything, just click the button. The Office Suite is Microsoft 365 Apps for Business. The Update Channel selector gets put to what you want that to be.

Once that's done and you have your XML file, you'll need to go here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=49117 To get the ODT tool itself. Stick the exe file in the same folder as the xml file, and run this:
Code:
setup.exe /configure config.xml

Assuming you named your xml file config.xml anyway... change that accordingly.

This will reinstall office with the above settings, and I think you can use the home / personal logins with it. But I haven't tried it personally... so I don't know if it'll work. And MS has a huge track record of making Home users the test bed for their commercial clients. So it wouldn't shock me if this solution flat doesn't work, or stops working periodically.

Another path that's less ideal... is to disable Office Updates. You can do this in any Office app, File -> Account -> Office Updates tile. Do not do this if Outlook is in play unless you want a bad time... Disabled updates will need to be enabled again at least twice a year to keep the platform functional.

-----------------------------------

There was further discussion of that final option, manually disabling Office Updates.  He is pretty strongly against, but mostly because he is concerned that most will never go back and turn them back on at least 2 times per year so that you are not exposing yourself by never getting truly necessary security updates.  If you turn off Office Updates, they stay off, and if you turn them on again to do a twice per year update, you must then turn them off again right after that update applies so that you're not back on automatic frequent updates.  For those used to doing "update care and tending" this is a perfectly valid solution.  For those who think you can turn off updates and then forget about it forever, they're asking for a world of hurt that they're almost certain to eventually have.

One would never do that in an organization, since better options exist.  But individuals may feel the need to do this, then put an appointment in their calendars to remind them, whether it be quarterly or once every six months, to go back in, turn automatic updating on, allow the last batch of updates to apply, then turn it off again.

Turning off updates entirely and permanently, whether it be Windows Updates or Microsoft 365 updates, is pure and unadulterated insanity.  Spacing them out a bit more and having more control over exactly when they'll apply is not.
--

Brian - Windows 10, 64-Bit, Version 21H1, Build 19043  

.  .  . it misses the point that even if you eliminated all cultural biases, human beings would still form stereotypes.  It's simply how the brain works.

     ~ Scott Safier, March 10, 2004


Don Barrett
 

Man, what a wealth of information in your note.

I am goin g to try the xml mod approach for sure. Probably on the weekend when I don't have to work. Wish me luck and many thanks.

 

Don

 

 

From: office-accessibility@groups.io <office-accessibility@groups.io> On Behalf Of Brian Vogel
Sent: Thursday, September 23, 2021 6:29 PM
To: office-accessibility@groups.io
Subject: Re: [office-accessibility] Microsoft 365 Administration, Accessibility, and Educating Your IT Folks (or at least some of them)

 

Don,

Here is what Sky-Knight had to say in this message:  


Is there a way for individual account holders of Office 365 to also change to the semi-annual update scheme?


Maybe...

M365 Personal users are no different than professional ones aside from a few entitlement differences. The problem is, the login you use to get at your personal M365 subscriptions is a part of Microsoft's tenant... and that tenant is where the update controls are located. For obvious reasons no one outside of Microsoft can get at those settings... so the "easy" path is out.

There is however this: 
https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/deployoffice/change-update-channels

Group Policy isn't available outside of the Professional level OS...

Which brings us to the Office Deployment Tool... This used to be the only way to make this change in Office... assuming it still works you can try that. I question this however because the Organization Wide setting exists, and is known to override what the ODT configures.

The configuration XML can be generated by visiting 
https://config.office.com, Once there click the create configuration button that's all but buried at the bottom. You don't have to login or anything, just click the button. The Office Suite is Microsoft 365 Apps for Business. The Update Channel selector gets put to what you want that to be.

Once that's done and you have your XML file, you'll need to go here: 
https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=49117 To get the ODT tool itself. Stick the exe file in the same folder as the xml file, and run this:

Code:

setup.exe /configure config.xml


Assuming you named your xml file config.xml anyway... change that accordingly.

This will reinstall office with the above settings, and I think you can use the home / personal logins with it. But I haven't tried it personally... so I don't know if it'll work. And MS has a huge track record of making Home users the test bed for their commercial clients. So it wouldn't shock me if this solution flat doesn't work, or stops working periodically.

Another path that's less ideal... is to disable Office Updates. You can do this in any Office app, File -> Account -> Office Updates tile. Do not do this if Outlook is in play unless you want a bad time... Disabled updates will need to be enabled again at least twice a year to keep the platform functional.

-----------------------------------

There was further discussion of that final option, manually disabling Office Updates.  He is pretty strongly against, but mostly because he is concerned that most will never go back and turn them back on at least 2 times per year so that you are not exposing yourself by never getting truly necessary security updates.  If you turn off Office Updates, they stay off, and if you turn them on again to do a twice per year update, you must then turn them off again right after that update applies so that you're not back on automatic frequent updates.  For those used to doing "update care and tending" this is a perfectly valid solution.  For those who think you can turn off updates and then forget about it forever, they're asking for a world of hurt that they're almost certain to eventually have.

One would never do that in an organization, since better options exist.  But individuals may feel the need to do this, then put an appointment in their calendars to remind them, whether it be quarterly or once every six months, to go back in, turn automatic updating on, allow the last batch of updates to apply, then turn it off again.

Turning off updates entirely and permanently, whether it be Windows Updates or Microsoft 365 updates, is pure and unadulterated insanity.  Spacing them out a bit more and having more control over exactly when they'll apply is not.
--

Brian - Windows 10, 64-Bit, Version 21H1, Build 19043  

.  .  . it misses the point that even if you eliminated all cultural biases, human beings would still form stereotypes.  It's simply how the brain works.

     ~ Scott Safier, March 10, 2004


Don Barrett
 

Hi Brian,

The instructions in the message from Sky-Knight regarding changing the
Office update schedule say:

"The configuration XML can be generated by visiting
<https://config.office.com/> https://config.office.com, Once there click the
create configuration button that's all but buried at the bottom. You don't
have to login or anything, just click the button. The Office Suite is
Microsoft 365 Apps for Business. The Update Channel selector gets put to
what you want that to be."


I went to the page and selected Create, but no xml file was generated.
I was taken to a page with numerous options I don't understand. There were
two export controls on the page, and I had no idea which one to use.
I suspect that Sky-Knight has a lot of understanding that I lack, and he
has made assumptions about what a user might already know and thus choose.
I am not even sure that as an individual user I have a group policy, or
should use the ODT.
I sure don't want to have wasted your time, but getting the xml file was
not as simple as he intimates.
Not sure if I should proceed or leave well enough alone.


Don





From: office-accessibility@groups.io <office-accessibility@groups.io> On
Behalf Of Brian Vogel
Sent: Thursday, September 23, 2021 6:29 PM
To: office-accessibility@groups.io
Subject: Re: [office-accessibility] Microsoft 365 Administration,
Accessibility, and Educating Your IT Folks (or at least some of them)

Don,

Here is what Sky-Knight had to say in this message
<https://www.technibble.com/forums/threads/outlook-365-question-about-new-po
p-up.87437/post-725287> :



<https://www.technibble.com/forums/goto/post?id=725284> britechguy said:
Is there a way for individual account holders of Office 365 to also change
to the semi-annual update scheme?

Maybe...

M365 Personal users are no different than professional ones aside from a
few entitlement differences. The problem is, the login you use to get at
your personal M365 subscriptions is a part of Microsoft's tenant... and that
tenant is where the update controls are located. For obvious reasons no one
outside of Microsoft can get at those settings... so the "easy" path is out.

There is however this:
<https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/deployoffice/change-update-channels>
https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/deployoffice/change-update-channels

Group Policy isn't available outside of the Professional level OS...

Which brings us to the Office Deployment Tool... This used to be the only
way to make this change in Office... assuming it still works you can try
that. I question this however because the Organization Wide setting exists,
and is known to override what the ODT configures.

The configuration XML can be generated by visiting
<https://config.office.com/> https://config.office.com, Once there click the
create configuration button that's all but buried at the bottom. You don't
have to login or anything, just click the button. The Office Suite is
Microsoft 365 Apps for Business. The Update Channel selector gets put to
what you want that to be.

Once that's done and you have your XML file, you'll need to go here:
<https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=49117>
https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=49117 To get the
ODT tool itself. Stick the exe file in the same folder as the xml file, and
run this:
Code:
setup.exe /configure config.xml

Assuming you named your xml file config.xml anyway... change that
accordingly.

This will reinstall office with the above settings, and I think you can use
the home / personal logins with it. But I haven't tried it personally... so
I don't know if it'll work. And MS has a huge track record of making Home
users the test bed for their commercial clients. So it wouldn't shock me if
this solution flat doesn't work, or stops working periodically.

Another path that's less ideal... is to disable Office Updates. You can do
this in any Office app, File -> Account -> Office Updates tile. Do not do
this if Outlook is in play unless you want a bad time... Disabled updates
will need to be enabled again at least twice a year to keep the platform
functional.

-----------------------------------

There was further discussion of that final option, manually disabling
Office Updates. He is pretty strongly against, but mostly because he is
concerned that most will never go back and turn them back on at least 2
times per year so that you are not exposing yourself by never getting truly
necessary security updates. If you turn off Office Updates, they stay off,
and if you turn them on again to do a twice per year update, you must then
turn them off again right after that update applies so that you're not back
on automatic frequent updates. For those used to doing "update care and
tending" this is a perfectly valid solution. For those who think you can
turn off updates and then forget about it forever, they're asking for a
world of hurt that they're almost certain to eventually have.

One would never do that in an organization, since better options exist.
But individuals may feel the need to do this, then put an appointment in
their calendars to remind them, whether it be quarterly or once every six
months, to go back in, turn automatic updating on, allow the last batch of
updates to apply, then turn it off again.

Turning off updates entirely and permanently, whether it be Windows Updates
or Microsoft 365 updates, is pure and unadulterated insanity. Spacing them
out a bit more and having more control over exactly when they'll apply is
not.
--
Brian - Windows 10, 64-Bit, Version 21H1, Build 19043
. . . it misses the point that even if you eliminated all cultural
biases, human beings would still form stereotypes. It's simply how the
brain works.
~ Scott Safier, March 10, 2004


 

Don,

Sky-Knight is about the most well-versed person I know of in Microsoft 365 and, since he's been "soaking in it" for as long as it's been around, many things are second nature to him that would not be for others.

Since I do not have, nor intend to have, Microsoft 365 I can't verify anything with regard to it directly.

As he noted, though the XML method is kinda "last resort."  If you have Windows 10 (or 11) Pro then using the Group Policy Editor is a more straightforward option.
--

Brian - Windows 10, 64-Bit, Version 21H1, Build 19043  

There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.

         ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


Don Barrett
 

Great to know. I will gather info on the Group Policy Editor and see if it is something I can do well.

I really want to thank you for going out of your way to get me an answer on this. Much appreciated.

I will keep you posted.

 

Don

 

 

From: office-accessibility@groups.io <office-accessibility@groups.io> On Behalf Of Brian Vogel
Sent: Saturday, October 2, 2021 7:55 PM
To: office-accessibility@groups.io
Subject: Re: [office-accessibility] Microsoft 365 Administration, Accessibility, and Educating Your IT Folks (or at least some of them)

 

Don,

Sky-Knight is about the most well-versed person I know of in Microsoft 365 and, since he's been "soaking in it" for as long as it's been around, many things are second nature to him that would not be for others.

Since I do not have, nor intend to have, Microsoft 365 I can't verify anything with regard to it directly.

As he noted, though the XML method is kinda "last resort."  If you have Windows 10 (or 11) Pro then using the Group Policy Editor is a more straightforward option.
--

Brian - Windows 10, 64-Bit, Version 21H1, Build 19043  

There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.

         ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe