Building a Modernizing Infrastructure Using Microsoft Technologies

If what you have is working great, then why change it? While that may very well be true, every business needs to adapt to the times and modernize if they want to maintain their success. Otherwise, your rivals won’t hesitate to take advantage if they can. Take Nokia for instance.

During the 90s, it dominated the smartphone market and at its peak in late 2007, it had a 50.9% share of the smartphone market. Yet, just 6 years later that number had plummeted to just 3.1%. Other companies came in with new technologies, the market changed, and Nokia has never fully recovered.

Modernizing helps you to expand your capabilities while reducing operational costs. And by leveraging cloud capabilities, you can unlock the limitless potential that can take your business to the next level. Microsoft Technologies provide you with the ideal platform to transform your IT infrastructure. And in this blog, we’ll show you just what these solutions can add to your business.   

Created for evolving businesses

Technology has changed the way businesses operate. The various solutions that are available to us have created new markets as well as exciting ways to serve clients. Whether it’s the scalability that Azure gives you, the flexibility provided by Endpoint Manager, or the security you get with Microsoft Defender ATP. The benefits are plenty. Evolving businesses can put themselves in a position where they reduce their overhead, streamline their operations, and market themselves better. Microsoft has recognized the needs that businesses have regarding effective IT solutions. 

Overview of Microsoft Technologies

The Microsoft Technologies that we’ll be going over consist of brilliant tools that will modernize your IT infrastructure. Rather than being individual entities that operate completely apart, Microsoft has designed these technologies such that they can function together. This will enhance your overall IT management and bring greater efficiency to your organization. The following technologies are going to be the focus of this blog:

1) Azure Active Directory

Microsoft’s cloud-based multi-tenant identity and access management service enables employees to sign in and access services from anywhere. Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) has plenty of features that help modernize your infrastructure, among which:

  • Application management: manages all apps, both cloud and on-premises, using Application Proxy, single sign-on, the MyApps portal, and any SaaS apps.
  • Authentication: manages Azure AD self-service password reset, MFA, smart lockout, and custom banned password list.
  • Conditional access: enforces and maintains control over access to your cloud apps.
  • Device management: controls the access that cloud and on-premises devices get to corporate data.
  • Business-to-business: helps you to maintain control over corporate data by managing guest users and external partners.
  • Reports and monitoring: allows you to receive insights concerning the security and usage patterns in your environment.

Key benefits

The advantage you’ll get from features like single sign-on is that employees won’t need multiple sign-ons for all their apps so password compliance issues are reduced. Simplified collaboration with guest users is possible because Azure AD allows you to invite these users into your directory to assign access. Also, the availability of real-time monitoring in conjunction with MFA and conditional access provides your organization with excellent application security and management control. And if you have productivity solutions that aren’t Microsoft products, you can still use them because Azure AD supports other OS and virtual tools.

2) Windows Autopilot

Windows Autopilot is Microsoft’s solution for transforming the provisioning of devices into an automated and friendly process. It aims to eliminate the countless, painful hours spent manually setting up devices. Undoubtedly, this is a product that will be a big hit with IT teams and it should please most employees as well. Its features include:

  • User-driven mode: provides a simple do-it-yourself approach to setting up new devices. This enables end-users to quickly get up and running without needing IT.
  • Self-deploying mode: allows you to deploy a Windows 10 device as a kiosk, digital signage device, or a shared device with minimal user interaction.
  • Support for existing devices: makes the process of deploying the latest version of Windows 10 to your existing devices quick and painless. In addition, whatever apps you need will be installed automatically and you’ll get your work profile synched as well.
  • Pre-provisioned deployment: partners and IT can pre-provision Windows 10 devices and have them business-ready for companies and their end-users.
  • Windows Autopilot reset: allows you to easily repurpose a device by wiping personal files, apps, and settings then restoring the device’s original settings.
  • Enrollment Status Page (ESP): the ESP tracks the setting up of the device to ensure that the device is fully configured correctly before the end-user can gain access.

Key benefits

As the saying goes, time is money. Hence the importance of the customized out-of-the-box experience (OOBE). It gets devices set up according to an organization’s preferences so that when the end-user receives it, they can immediately start using it. And they’ll have all the collaboration and productivity apps they need already installed. You’ll also gain time by not having to do any OS re-imaging because it’s done automatically. All of this will help to create an environment that empowers the user thereby increasing productivity rather than the restrictive nature of legacy IT.

3) Microsoft Endpoint Manager

Announced at Ignite 2019, Microsoft Endpoint Manager (MEM) is a brilliant development that merges ConfigMgr and Intune into a unified management platform. And you’ll get a lot of services with the product including co-management, Desktop Analytics, and the above-mentioned Windows Autopilot. MEM plays a key role in demonstrating the integration of Microsoft Technologies. Moreover, clients who already have Microsoft 365 licensing can benefit from the majority of the technologies that are within Microsoft Endpoint Manager.

What can MEM do for you?

According to Brad Anderson, Microsoft corporate vice president for Microsoft 365, MEM came about as a way to resolve the confusion surrounding modern management. It offered simplicity. And this simplicity should ease the way of doing business. For clients with ConfigMgr licenses, they automatically get Intune licenses thus enabling them to co-manage their devices.

With up to 190 million devices currently under ConfigMgr or Intune management, IT will get incredible insights that you can use for problem-solving and device deployment. MEM allows you to utilize the cloud where all data is stored in Azure thus eliminating data centers. This gives you the mobility advantages of the cloud as well as the security of Azure. However, some organizations prefer mixed environments so you can still use the cloud while retaining your on-premises infrastructure.

4) MSIX

The endless packaging and repackaging of applications has been the source of constant headaches over the years. Whenever you’d purchase new software, the problems would begin. Someone had to come up with a solution, and thus MSIX came to the fore.

MSIX is a universal package format designed for Windows 10 apps and has support for desktop, mobile, and all other Windows 10 devices. It’s an improvement on AppX and aims to resolve app packaging issues. The UWP features, app customization, and support for all Windows applications make MSIX a massive improvement on the currently available installers. Key features include:

  • Reliability: MSIX can just about guarantee installs with a success rate standing at a very impressive 99.96%.
  • Network bandwidth optimization: MSIX only downloads the 64k block and this allows for a reduction in impact to network bandwidth. It does this by leveraging the AppxBlockMap.xml file that’s in the MSIX app package.  
  • Disk space optimizations: MSIX doesn’t duplicate files across apps and Windows will manage the shared files across apps. Because apps remain independent, updates won’t affect other apps that share the file.

What you stand to gain

Microsoft has created a product that gives you the advantages of both MSI and AppX while eliminating their limitations. And it doesn’t just work on Windows only. You can use it on Linux, OSX, iOS, and Android. MSIX enables you to take a huge step towards modern management. Instead of the previous uncertainties, it offers you safety, reliability, and predictability of deployment. Security is enhanced as well with Windows giving you integrity for apps through tamper protection and policy controls.

5) Microsoft Defender ATP

As amazing as the above technologies are, you cannot successfully modernize your IT infrastructure without effective cybersecurity. In fact, all your efforts would probably be futile. But, with Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (MDATP), you get an enterprise endpoint security platform that enables your enterprise networks to prevent, detect, investigate, and remediate advanced threats.

Main capabilities

  • Endpoint behavioral sensors: these are sensors that are embedded in Windows 10 that collect and process behavioral signals from the OS. This data is then sent to your private, isolated, cloud instance of Microsoft Defender for Endpoint.
  • Threat and vulnerability management: MDATP has an overview of all the software on a device and can detect security vulnerabilities. It can then provide security recommendations for remediating endpoint vulnerabilities and misconfigurations.
  • Attack surface reduction: this capability enables you to put in place controls that reduce areas that are vulnerable to cyberattacks. With proper configuration settings and application of exploit mitigation techniques, this capability will resist attacks and exploitation.
  • Next-generation protection: MDATP offers you next-generation protection to catch all types of emerging threats.
  • Endpoint detection and response (EDR): EDR is designed to target advanced threats that make it past the first two security pillars.
  • Automated investigation and remediation: these capabilities help to create a reduction in the volume of alerts in minutes at scale.  
  • Microsoft secure score for devices: this tool will help you to carry out an assessment of the security status of your enterprise network and identify unprotected systems. After which, you can apply recommended actions to improve the overall security of your organization.

6) Windows Virtual Desktop

The advances that are happening in the field of technology not only enhance the modern workplace but can also completely change it. And with the internet creating “one global village”, the popularity of remote work has grown significantly. But for this to work, you need effective solutions. Enter Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD).

WVD is a desktop and app virtualization service that leverages the power of Microsoft Azure and runs on the cloud. So it can deliver a virtual desktop as well as remote apps to any device. Depending on your needs, you can configure WVD to run Windows 10 Enterprise, Windows 7 Enterprise, or Windows Server 2012 R2, 2016, 2019.

Benefits to your organization:

  • WVD gives you the ability to deliver Windows 10 desktops on any device, anywhere. By extension, you’ll give your employees an optimum virtual experience.
  • Cybersecurity is crucial and WVD has in-built intelligent security that is fully capable of proactive threat detection and remediation. Security protocols such as Azure Firewall, Azure Security Center, Azure Sentinel, and Microsoft Defender ATP ensure that corporate data is highly secure.
  • Your organization can become more efficient and productive because deployment and scaling can be carried out easily and quickly.
  • Utilizing the modern cloud-based virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is a great way to save costs. You’ll only pay for what you use.
  • Another way in which you’ll save costs is licensing. WVD is a free service so it comes with your Microsoft 365 or Windows per-user license.

Maximizing potential

By now most organizations are starting to appreciate just how legacy technology can hold them back. Instead of holding on to what has worked in the past, it’s important to know that technology can expire. Therefore, transformation is a must. Modern infrastructure will help you to reduce your costs, improve your cybersecurity, and provide easy and convenient access to corporate resources from anywhere. Microsoft has a vast array of technologies that can take your organization to the next level. The powerful and flexible hybrid-cloud architecture is something that we can all benefit from.

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