Saturday, April 13, 2013

Bulk Office 2013 installations from Office 365

Here’s some interesting issues that I came across with Office 2013 from Office 365. What happens in the case where you have a lot of PC’s which already have a previous version of Office (say 2010 in this case) already running Outlook connected to an old email account and you want to upgrade them all to Office 2013 with the latest version of Outlook?

I would have thought that the normal process you would do this via is simply to visit the downloads area in Office 365, download the Office 2013 software and upgrade the existing version on the desktop, retaining all the existing settings. At the very least I would have thought that it would have given you the option to do an upgrade or a side by side installation with the existing version of Office.

Turns out from my testing that this is in fact not the case. If you have an existing version of Office (in my test case Office 2010 Pro Plus) and you install Office 2013 office 365 it automatically does a side-by-side installation, leaving the existing version in place. This now means you have two versions of Office on that desktop.

Interestingly, it also means you have two versions of Outlook. This is a little different from the experience I blogged about a while back when I upgraded my desktop to Office 2013 via non-Office 365 means. I wanted two of every application including Outlook. What I got was two versions of everything EXCEPT Outlook! This Office 2013 via Office 365 installation is different in that it does provides two complete versions of everything on the system

Now, having two versions of most applications like Excel, Word, PowerPoint etc isn’t a big issue. The main issue is that by not doing an in place upgrade of Outlook means you have to manually re-establish the old email account and somehow migrate the emails into the new version. Not such an issue if the old account was already using Exchange, since the users mail is still stored on the server, but what about the case when the emails where POP3? All these emails are stored locally in a PST file in the OLD version of Outlook.

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What I did find is that when I ran the new Outlook 2013 on the desktop it automatically picked up the account settings I had in the old Outlook (which were Exchange based) and set up Outlook 2013 using these. Thus, I could easily add the new Exchange Online account from Office 365 and see both accounts as shown above. With this I could simply drag and drop emails from the old account to the new account to do a migration if I wanted (although something like migrationwiz.com makes a lot more sense for Exchange accounts).

However, that doesn’t solve the problem for POP3 accounts. All you could really do is export to a PST in the old version of Outlook and then import this into Outlook 2013 and allow it to sync back to Exchange Online.

It would have been nice if Office 2013 from Office 365 had offered you the choice of doing an in place upgrade simply to save you the trouble of exporting old data and deleting the older version of Office. I am sure there is a reason why it doesn’t do this but I can’t think of why myself at the moment. However, when you have lots of machines to do in a network, with frustrated users standing over you wanting access to their stuff, that can take a very long time.

Now the next challenge with lots of machines is that you would appear to have to go to every machine and do the ‘click-to-run’ install of Office 2013 on each machine. Firstly, that is a lot of manual work and secondly that I believe creates a lot of downloads which can cause an issue if they are being done on multiple workstations at the same time.

It would be nice to be able to download a single copy of Office 2013 from Office 365 to a network share and then use that local copy to install on all workstations rather than running a download on each workstation.

Unfortunately, Office 365 uses the new streaming ‘click-to-run’ technology, which means no single download and install file. However, I believe I may have a solution.

Firstly visit the following site and download a trial of Office 2013 Pro Plus as a single download to a network share.

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/evalcenter/jj192782.aspx

Install this trial onto all the machines on the network from the local file share.

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If you run an Office 2013 application now and look at the information about the product you will see that it is a trial version as shown above.

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Now downloading and running the installation of Office 2013 Pro Plus from Office 365 I believe that it updates the existing Office 2013 Pro Plus version it finds on the desktop so that it is licensed for Office 365. You can see this if you look at the application information again.

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Looking at the application information in Outlook 2013 you will see that it is not only licensed for Office 365 but you can also manage the account by pressing the Manage Account button.

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That button will take you to the area in Office 365 where you can manage the Office 2013 installation for that user.

So in summary, based on the testing I have done:

1. Office 2013 from Office 365 will do an automatic side-by-side installation with previous versions of Office rather than an in place upgrade which could have ramifications for migrating accounts.

2. You should be able to install a trial version of Office 2013 Pro Plus onto a network share and then simply run the Office 2013 installation from Office 365 over the top of it to appropriately license it, thereby saving downloads and setup time.