Well, let’s begin by going to the “horse’s mouth”: Microsoft. According to KB824684 (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/824684 ) there is enough of a difference to provide a formal explanation:

Service Pack
Definition: A service pack is a tested, cumulative set of all hotfixes, security updates, critical updates, and updates. Service packs may also contain additional fixes for problems that are found internally since the release of the product and a limited number of customer-requested design changes or features.

Update Rollup
Definition: An update rollup is a tested, cumulative set of hotfixes, security updates, critical updates, and updates that are packaged together for easy deployment. A rollup generally targets a specific area, such as security, or a component of a product, such as Internet Information Services (IIS).

Did you read through this a few times and go, “Where’s the difference?” Yeah…so did I. While some may be able to swim the subtle nuances of this to find a clear sort of “smoking gun” defining difference, in my mind and from what you will find on the Microsoft Download center, the phrase “service pack” has not been used in regards to Microsoft CRM for a while now.

Why even bring this up? Well, I was recently asked by a customer what the difference was and in their mind, they were expecting to handle an update rollup differently than a service pack. Heck, if you go search now for “service packs and Microsoft” (using which ever search engine is of your liking), you will see the terms used by some product groups and not others. Regardless of what you have come to understand it to mean and you have split the proverbial hairs of the definitions of the two, the reality remains that one should always clearly understand what is include within them. While many organizations have well defined “patch management” philosophies and practices, an equal number have not and merely leave the application of services packs and update rollups to the magical computer gods in the sky.

In light of the recent Microsoft Dynamics CRM Update Rollup 12 release that many of you are contemplating installing or waiting to do so, it is a good idea to think about how your company manages all Update Rollups, Service Packs, Security Updates, or whatever you would like to call these “things”. Simply leaving the application of them to the whim of your enabled Windows Update settings, may be the right answer for you or it might not. But simply leaving ones head in the sand may not be the best strategy either. If you don’t know where you stand on patch management, it may be time to start asking these questions.