Despite all the buzz about individuals and businesses switching to Google Apps or going to Microsoft’s cloud for their productivity software, the locally installed version of Microsoft Office is still very much alive and well. According to Microsoft’s statistics for last year, Office was installed on over a billion computers and some estimates gave Office a 92 percent market share. Even for cloud-centric organizations, most of Microsoft’s Office 365 plans come with the desktop version of Office 2013.
Office 2013 is the latest iteration of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook et al. The first service pack was released a couple of weeks ago, on February 25. As with all service packs, it’s a cumulative update that includes all of the cumulative and public security and non-security updates that have been released since Office 2013 became available over a year ago, in January of 2013. In addition to those previously released patches, over 200 brand new fixes for the various Office products are included in this service pack, ranging from one fix for the Lync client to 34 for Outlook and 35 for Project.
Along with security patches, the service pack provides better support for new hardware devices and peripherals as well as fixing compatibility issues with Windows 8.1 and Internet Explorer 11, both of which have been released since Office 2013 came out. There are numerous bug fixes, including errors, crashes and unexpected or incorrect output/results. You can download an Excel file that lists all of the new fixes from the TechNet web site.
Many of the problems fixed by SP1 may never be encountered by the typical individual user, but it’s important for businesses to install this update to ensure maximum security and stability for systems running Office 2013. The service pack is, of course, available through auto updates and for download from the Microsoft download center and can be deployed via WSUS.
In the business environment, though, updates may need to be deployed to hundreds of machines and some may slip through the cracks – either because they don’t have automatic updates turned on or because installation failed due to a temporary glitch, or because IT admins want to test the service pack for compatibility before rolling it out on the production network. If you’re doing all this manually, you might have computers in your organization that don’t get updated.
It’s much easier if you have an advanced patch management system such as GFI LanGuard, that can monitor the update status of your systems and identify those that don’t have the latest service pack installed, then deploy the missing updates as desired.
Some individuals and even some IT pros resist installing service packs because their computers are running fine and they subscribe to the “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” philosophy. But sometimes the “breakage” isn’t visible – until it suddenly appears to wreak havoc. Missing service packs can put the computers on your network at risk of security breaches, or can result in expensive downtime and lost productivity when a crash is triggered by some infrequent action or event. For those who are tempted to dismiss this as “just” an application SP and thus not as important as a service pack for the operating system, remember that application vulnerabilities now pose the biggest risk, and because it is one of the most widely installed set of applications, Office is a favorite target for malware writers and attackers.