27 Jul.

Reducing Bandwidth Requirements For Office 365 Small Business Premium Deployments

One of the documented differences with the included version of the desktop application in Office 365 Small Business Premium versus Office 365 Pro Plus is that you don’t have the same ability to download once and distribute to many clients, and by many, let’s say 25 users, because that’s the maximum on the P Plans. However, just because the documentation says something, doesn’t mean that we can’t do a bit of digging behind the scenes and see what can be discovered, exposed and exploited. In today’s post I’ll cover how you can do a single download of the Office 365 desktop applications and use your deployment method of choice to get the bits to the clients, such as Active Directory application deployment. For now it’s important to take note that the version of Office that we are installing here is not Office 365 Pro Plus, it is Office 365 Small Business Premium, and you will see this confirmed later in the post.


No? Are you sure? I’m not convinced… let’s take a look at what client push deployment means, according to the Office team.


That paints a pretty gloomy picture, but it was when I started looking through the Microsoft Office Single Image v15.2 Service Pack 1 OPK that I saw something that piqued my interest. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this download it is for OEMs to do a preinstall of Office onto new PCs, usually during audit mode, before sysprep is run and the user receives a system ready to run OOBE – the Out Of Box Experience. The list of what can be activated from the single image installer is extensive – the OEM doesn’t know at the time what version of Office the customer is going to purchase, or even which one they may already be licensed for.


For those of us who have used the Office Deployment Tool will notice that that if we ignore the setup part of the file name, we can see 0365proplusretail, projectproretail, visioproretail and sdpretail, which match the product IDs that can be used within the configuration.xml tool.


So this raises the question, can those other product IDs, excluding setup, be used, and the answer is a resounding yes. Now that we have the product IDs, I was able to search for them and it uncovered this support article from Microsoft – Product IDs that are supported by the Office Deployment Tool for Click-to-Run. Let’s take a look at the relevant section…


You can see that this could lead to some confusion, as the information that is presented isn’t particularly clear. Is this deliberate or just a mistake? Who knows, but at least we’ve got a starting point to use the latest monthly download as the base, rather than the SP1 build of Office.

Before I found this information I encouraged the use of the Single Image master to at least get a base Office SP1 installation onto a PC that needed Office 365 Small Business Premium, because even with updates, it was still going to be less than 1.1GB of downloading from the Internet per PC, the question is how much would it actually save us? For the following examples I chose the Office 365 Professional Plus install, I’ll get to the Office 365 Small Business Premium installation shortly. So if we think of this as saving over 500MB of bandwidth per PC, this could make quite an impact on the deployment process for customers with very slow connections.


A couple of things to point out here – first of all the build number that is listed, 15.0.4569.1506 – is not a listed build in the support article Microsoft Office 2013 Click-To-Run Virtualization The second is that as of July there are around 475MB worth of updates required. This still means that we can use this as the base install source from a network location and still come out way ahead in terms of download requirements versus the 1.1GB that would be needed if installed directly from the Office 365 portal.


The difference with this build is that it is the officially recognised SP1 build for Office 365 Pro Plus – 15.0.4569.1507 – a minor number increment, but the download required to update it to the July build is only 447MB. In the larger scheme of things, a 30MB difference isn’t huge, but it is enough to make you wonder how much of a difference there is between these builds for people who choose not to update them for whatever reason.

Moving back to the topic at hand – deploying Office 365 Small Business Premium from a standard Office Deployment Toolkit download. The first I performed against a download from when the service pack shipped.


You can see here that the build number ends in 1507, highlighting that it is the recognised SP1 build, and that I have included the customised xml file in the screenshot so you can see where I placed the Product ID.


A couple of things to note with this screenshot – this is an installation from a different directory that was the July 2014 build. I’ve again included the customised XML file, as well as the command line that was used with the ODT to do the deployment. Despite the confusing and contradictory messaging from Microsoft, the Product ID works as expected, and it also opens up a couple of interesting possibilities which I will cover in the next article.


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