Office 365 is like a runaway train with new features and updates rolling out constantly. Updates are applied automatically to the service on the backend, providing immediate enhancements for those using Office 365 both online and offline. If you're an Office 365 customer, particularly if you use Office 2013, you've experienced the update process and know that it’s a much safer process than getting updates the old ways.
Updates to Office 365 follow Microsoft's accelerated release schedule, which began sometime in 2013. The intent is to be able to provide significant improvements, ensuring that Microsoft can continue to compete in a severely competitive market. For some, particularly those in IT that have to try and maintain updates on thousands of PCs, the accelerated release schedule is troublesome making it hard to keep up. But, in the new model of updates, updates are applied automatically on the backend by Microsoft, eliminating much of the update pains.
But, if somehow you don't believe that the accelerated releases aren't fast enough, Microsoft is offering a new First Release program. If you opt-in to join this new First Release program, you get to test the new features for Office 365, SharePoint Online, and Exchange Online a couple weeks before they roll out to everyone else.
To opt-in, log into the Office 365 admin portal and navigate to: Admin > Service settings > Updates, and then turn First Release "ON."
This is not a beta program, just an early preview of new features. All of the features have been tested and proven to work by Microsoft. If you choose to enable First Release, it should be noted that early testing will be enabled for everyone on the company account, so make sure to verify that your Office 365 users know, and that they also agree to be part of the program. Customers will be notified when a release is pending through the Office 365 message center.
You can get a view of what Microsoft is planning to release as part of the First Release program by reviewing the new, public Office 365 Business Roadmap. You can read about that HERE.
This is strictly a program for Office 365 Business. Updates to Lync Online, Exchange Online Protection, and Office 365 ProPlus are not part of the First Release program.