We've had some questions about running Office 365 ProPlus, including application data storage, and scalability and deployment. This blog addresses those questions.

Do I need Internet connectivity to run Office 365 ProPlus applications?

You can install and run Office 365 ProPlus with or without a connection to the Internet. In a managed deployment performed by a system administrator for end users, installation will typically happen without an Internet connection by using software distribution tools like System Center Configuration Manager. When installing offline, Office activation will require a one-time connection to the Internet on first run to assign that installation to an Office 365 ProPlus user account and it will periodically check back to ensure that the user account is still active. These activation calls consume minimal bandwidth. During normal Office 365 ProPlus application use, users don’t need an Internet connection.

Does Office 365 ProPlus offer only the web applications instead of the complete versions of the Office applications?

Office 365 ProPlus includes the same applications that are available in the Office Professional Plus 2013 client suite. These include the following:

  • Access

  • Excel

  • InfoPath

  • OneNote

  • Outlook

  • PowerPoint

  • Lync

  • Publisher

  • Word

The same underlying application code is shared for both the Windows Installer-based (MSI) and Click-to-Run packaged versions of Office. Users won't notice a difference between Click-to-Run and MSI installations when they run Office applications. Both are locally installed on the Windows PC, both write to the %programfiles% locations, both assign default file associations in Windows, and both are registered in Windows as installed applications that are detectable through software inventory. Installation, uninstallation, and the software update processes are the main differences between MSI and Click-to-Run package types, but the application experiences are nearly imperceptible to an Office user.

Click-to-Run is a streaming and virtualization technology that is designed to significantly reduce the time that is required to download and use Office client products. Streaming allows users to begin to use a Click-to-Run product before the complete product is downloaded. Click-to-Run for Office 365 products are based on core virtualization and streaming Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-V) technologies. Click-to-Run resources run in an isolated virtual environment on the local operating system.

Click-to-Run virtualization provides the following advantages:

  • Isolation of resources in a virtual environment allows for coexistence with earlier versions of Office, and improves the cleanup and restore processes. By using Office 365 ProPlus, you can help minimize downtime while you conduct testing. Click-to-Run supports side-by-side installations of Office which means that you won’t have to uninstall earlier versions of Office to test Office 2013.

    Users can test the new Office version without having to uninstall their current version. We recommend that you use side-by-side installations only as part of your Office testing and pilots before you deploy it, and not as a long-term solution for your production environment. When you start deployment to production, you should uninstall, or have users uninstall, the earlier versions of Office that are installed on their computers.

  • Office is more integrated and allows for local add-ins to be integrated with the virtual environment.

  • Streaming helps improve performance. The Office package is divided and is uncompressed over time, which optimizes network bandwidth and CPU usage.

Do I have to host the Office application data in the cloud?

No. You can continue to store your Office application data on-premises. In fact, you can use Group Policy settings to prevent storing to or reading from cloud locations if necessary. For example, you can use Trusted Locations policy settings to disable all trusted locations in the specified applications.

Roaming settings apply the users' personalized settings and link to files stored in HTTP paths but don't roam the files themselves, so the end point – whether a managed PC or unmanaged PC- would require file access to view recent documents. You can also use Group Policy to disable roaming settings if you are concerned about file names or file paths being stored in the cloud. For more information, see Controlling roaming settings through Group Policy in What's new - user and roaming settings in Office 2013.

If you are concerned about corporate data roaming in the cloud through a Microsoft account, you can disable signing in through the Microsoft account. This means that users won’t be able to sign in to Office at all with a Microsoft account. Because there is no Microsoft account present, settings won’t have a Microsoft account through which to roam.

You can disable the Microsoft account through the following Group Policy setting:

User Configuration\Administrative Templates\Office 2013\Miscellaneous\Block signing into Office. For more information, see Signing into Office 2013.

For more information about Administrative Templates for Office, see Office 2013 Administrative Template files and Office 2013 Preview Administrative Template files (ADMX/ADML) and Office Customization Tool.

Can I manage the deployment?

Yes. For enterprise managed scenarios, if users do not have permission to self-install Office 365 ProPlus from the Office 365 portal, administrators can use the Office Deployment Tool to stage and deploy Office 365 ProPlus Click-to-Run installations from an on-premises location, using software distribution tools or using media such as DVDs or USB flash drives.

To download Office 365 Click-to-Run products to an on-premises location and to customize an installation, administrators can run the Office Deployment Tool and provide a customized Configuration.xml file. You can download the Office Deployment Tool for Click-to-Run from the Microsoft Download Center site. The download includes a sample configuration file, Configuration.xml.

You use the Click-to-Run Configuration.xml file to perform the following tasks:

  • Add or remove products from the installation

  • Add or remove languages from the installation

  • Specify display options

  • Set logging options

  • Specify software updates behavior for Click-to-Run

You have several options for deploying Office 365 ProPlus from an on-premises location. For example, to simplify and automate the installation process for users, you can use a script or batch file. Office 365 ProPlus also works with software distribution products, such as System Center Configuration Manager, Microsoft Deployment Toolkit, or a Group Policy computer startup script to deploy the script or batch file.

Can I control updates?

Yes. You have complete control over the Office version that is applied and software update behavior. By default, Office 365 ProPlus Click-to-Run installations are automatically updated, and the update process automatically detects and downloads the new data in the background. Office will look daily for software updates and apply them automatically as updates become available. This is the recommended option because it keeps users up-to-date with the latest security fixes.

If you prefer to test updates before rolling them out, you can choose a managed location where the Office 365 ProPlus update service will look for updates (an HTTP or UNC path of your choice) by using the Office Deployment Tool and specifying Updates options in the Configuration.xml file. When you publish a tested and validated Office build to that location, the update service continues to scan for updates daily and will apply them automatically in the background from that location.

You may also use your software distribution tools to distribute updated Office builds. In this case, you actually disable the automatic update service when you install Office and updates will be delivered as new build installations using software distribution tools.

Whether you elect to automatically update Office 365 Pro Plus from the public Office 365 service, publish updates to managed locations, or disable updates and rerun Office Setup periodically with newer builds, Office will apply only the differential files needed to update the Office installation to ensure minimized bandwidth consumption. A range of the most recent Office Click-to-Run builds will be provided to Office 365 administrators to help them remain current, and to provide the flexibility to allow testing before new builds are deployed into the production environment. However, as a best practice, we recommend that you always use the latest version to make sure that users get the latest security updates.

For more information about Office 365 ProPlus, see Office 365 ProPlus and Content roadmap for Office 365 ProPlus.

Send us your questions and we'll try to get answers for you. And check the Office 365 Preview blog for additional blogs about Click-to-Run.