Microsoft Windows Intune, Part 1

Windows Intune is a “cloud” and PC based product that includes Windows 7 Enterprise for your computers and cloud based management of those computers. The idea is fairly simple and honestly a good one. You get Windows 7 for any PC you have (even though most if not all PC’s already come with an operating system installed) and you have the ability to “manage” those computers from any location via the cloud (the internet for those of us not into “the word of the year”) all this and security software too, this works out to a decent deal overall.

If you “purchase” Intune for $11 per month per computer (when I refer to a computer I mean a desktop PC, laptop or netbook system) you can upgrade that system to Windows 7 Enterprise Edition if you have XP, Vista or another version of 7 already installed. A promoted benefit is the ability to upgrade to Windows 7 using existing hardware. This of course is a VERY bad idea, Windows 7 is designed to run on hardware that is 18 months or less old, Core 2 Duo type processors, 4 GB of RAM. These technologies were not readily available in XP and many Vista computers. Of course, if you are purchasing new computers from someone that will provide them with no operating system (OS) then you don’t have that worry and should save a few bucks on the systems too.

Since the overall product is internet based, it can be installed and used on computers that are not just at your office but scattered around the globe, such as laptops for your management and sales staff. This is a plus since each computer “reports in” to the Intune console when connected to the internet.

The Intune web based console reports the status of Windows updates, various alerts, provides “endpoint” protection updates. It lets you see the licenses on computers and issue reports of various types. It also allows an administrator to set computer usage policies, all good things to have.

For just $11 a month or just $132 per year, how can you go wrong? Microsoft even has a ROI (Return on Investment) “calculator” to prove its value.

Being the glass is half full type of guy, let’s go over how you could go wrong.

My primary issue with the calculator is Microsoft inserts some permanent and unrealistic numbers into the calculations. For example you only can see how this would work based on 100 computers, that is not realistic for who they are marketing to, users with 10 to 50 computers. I also fault Microsoft since they price your “average” IT expenses at $90,240 per year, way above what any of my clients spend, remove a “0” and you would still end up in our top 10 per year. I mean $902.40 (based on Microsoft’s number of 100 computers) in computers expenses per year per computer. That is way more than most of you would spend repairing a PC, let alone year after year. They also figure end user pay at over $76,000 per year, not in the Ozarks! Other figures and percentages are just as faulty.

Skipping the calculator, let’s cover some of the other features of this product. Intune manages Windows updates for you, of course you could just turn on the automatic updates on the individual computers but hey, let’s not get technical. If you really want to “control” Windows updates, you need a valid reason and you will need to know when to install which updates. Updates just cannot be left undone, if you are going to control which ones install, and when you want them installed, and you are not an IT professional, my question is “Why are you controlling them?” isn’t that beyond your expertise?

There are some alternative programs that will install and watch Windows and other program updates too. One such program is LogMeIn (LMI) Professional with its “Staging” features.

If you have 11 to 50 computers and need a domain (in my humble but amazingly accurate opinion, anyone with over 25 computers should seriously consider a domain), Windows SBS Server 2011 has the Intune features built in, with a web based connection similar to LogMeIn.

The malware protection offered with Intune is much better than what is offered with Office 365. As I wrote about previously, this version covers the entire computer, not just the email. By using Forefront, Microsoft’s server based security product, they up the ante on what is offered. This of course can be replaced by ESET for $59 for the first 2 years and $49 for the next 2 years. With Intune you can manage all subscriptions from the interface, with ESET you would need to buy the server edition to do that. Score 1 for Intune.

Health alerts are available from LMI, Windows Home Server (WHS) and SBS 2011, so I see no advantage there, the same is true with the security policies, though they are not provided by LMI.

Assisting remote users is available with the free version of LMI and of course with SBS 2011.

For those with 10 or less computers, considering a WHS is a good idea. Instead of being in the cloud with Intune, a WHS is located in your business. If you need remote access to manage the other computers you can run it via Remote Desktop, or install LogMeIn Pro ($70 or less a year) or use the FREE version of LMI.

In the next article I will “run the numbers” for you and we will compare the cost of Windows Intune compared to some other options.

Until we meet again, have a virus free week.

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