How Microsoft Endpoint Manager is Bringing Intune and Configuration Manager Together

As people get access to more and more devices, the way that businesses operate has been rapidly evolving to keep up with the technology. And with more of these devices having access to a business’ data, this can help to improve productivity.

The problem, however, is that this can easily create a situation that puts the entire organization’s network at risk.

 So a solution is necessary.

One that can enable a business to get the most it can from the devices that are available to its employees without compromising data security. This is why you need a platform like Microsoft Endpoint Manager that can bring together the most effective device management tools.

Creating the solution

Microsoft already had plenty of products available to help businesses with device management. And these products included the two that we’ll be focusing on today: Intune and Configuration Manager. So why did they feel the need to change things, to add yet another product?

What Microsoft Endpoint Manager (MEM) seeks to address is the need for a comprehensive management solution. MEM can help to reduce client confusion over the multiple products that are available by giving you a unified platform for all your devices including Windows 10, macOS, iOS, and Android. By using MEM, businesses can among other things:

  • proactively manage all of their devices,
  • maintain systems and software,
  • limit exposure and respond to security threats,
  • distribute settings, and much more.

Microsoft Intune

With Intune, what you are getting is a 100% cloud-based mobile device management (MDM) and mobile application management (MAM) provider for your apps and devices. Using it enables you to have control over the features and settings on Windows 10, Apple, and Android devices.

Also, if you have on-prem infrastructure, there will be Intune connectors available. Namely the Intune Connector for Active Directory and the Intune certificate connector.

And by making it a part of MEM, Microsoft allows you to use Intune to create and check for compliance, as well as deploy apps, features, and settings to your devices using the cloud.

Configuration Manager

Whereas Intune is a 100% cloud-based solution, Configuration Manager gives you the on-premises management solution. With this, businesses can manage desktops, servers, and laptops that are on their network or internet-based. It is a flexible solution that you can cloud-enable if you want to integrate with Intune, Azure Active Directory (AD), Microsoft Defender for Endpoint, and other cloud services.

Furthermore, Configuration Manager gives you a great tool for the deployment of apps, software updates, and operating systems. Not only that, but you can also stay on top of queries and compliance issues so that you can act in real-time.

What are the requirements?

The beauty of Microsoft Endpoint Manager is that there is no complicated configuration or migration that you need to worry about. And this goes for the licensing as well.

If you have an existing Configuration Manager license then you can continue to use it, while simultaneously taking advantage of the Microsoft cloud-based security and compliance benefits of Intune.

Combining these two solutions has allowed Microsoft to avail Configuration Manager to clients with Intune licenses and vice versa. All of this without the usual roadblocks that you previously had to deal with.

This simplifies the process of giving clients a more comprehensive management platform. For management of non-Windows devices, however, you will need an Intune license, an Enterprise Mobility & Security (EMS) license, or a Microsoft 365 E3 or higher license

Taking advantage of MEM

There are plenty of reasons why any business should consider using MEM to improve the way it operates. As mentioned above, people now have access to plenty of different devices and businesses should benefit from that.

But, with the complexities that are involved in device management, there is no single tool that can meet all the requirements.

This is why bringing together Intune and Configuration Manager can work so well. By supporting a diverse BYOD ecosystem, MEM makes it easy to manage all endpoints. Whether they are on-premises and remote, corporate-owned and personal, desktop and mobile, MEM can handle them.

In addition, MEM is flexible enough to meet you where you are in your cloud journey and will not disrupt your existing processes. Your business can also leverage the integrations with other platforms such as Microsoft 365 and Azure AD to enhance productivity.

Combining products gives clients a lot to look forward to. Especially when you consider the simplified licensing arrangement. Overall, this combination will vastly improve the end-user experience and also allow IT teams to save costs and function more efficiently.

Addressing concerns

We all have our preferred tools that we use and that enable our businesses to operate optimally. So naturally, there will be concerns about combining Intune and Configuration Manager. What exactly does it mean for these products?

By bringing these products together under one umbrella, Microsoft is not doing away with Configuration Manager as many think. And the choice of name allows Microsoft to keep adding features to the platform.

Therefore if you have solutions that are built on Configuration Manager and want to continue using it, you are free to do so. But, the difference is that you’ll also get to leverage the intelligence of the Microsoft 365 cloud.

Basically, starting in version 1910 Configuration Manager now falls under the Microsoft Endpoint Manager branding. And as for the other components of the System Center suite, there are no changes to report.              

Wrap up

The solutions that businesses use need to continuously evolve to allow us to boost productivity and enhance data security. We need solutions that can offer the deployment of a seamless, end-to-end management solution.

And by combining Microsoft Intune and Configuration Manager into Microsoft Endpoint Manager, we can get just that. A solution that gives clients modern management and security while integrating with other Microsoft products in a way that optimizes device management.

How Endpoint Analytics Just Got Better

End-users commonly experience challenges such as long boot times, application crashes, and so on. These problems may be the result of a lack of optimized software configurations, legacy hardware, and issues that may arise due to configuration changes and updates.

By using Endpoint Analytics, you can begin addressing these issues.

You’ll be able to improve user productivity as well as reduce IT costs because of the insights that you’ll receive. The latter will give you information about device setup, startup and sign-in times, and overall system performance.

Not only that, but the introduction of new features can enhance the user experience even more.

Benefits of Endpoint Analytics

Introduced in September 2020, Endpoint Analytics is the tool that can help your organization to gather significant amounts of data and thus help you to view and understand the performance of your managed Windows 10 estate. At the initial release, Microsoft Endpoint Analytics had three main areas of focus:

  1. Startup performance: the insights provided help you understand your devices’ reboot and sign-in times and this enables IT to get users from power-on to productivity quickly without lengthy boot and sign-in delays.
  2. Proactive remediation scripting: swiftly fix common issues before they become problematic for end-users.
  3. Recommended software: recommendations for providing the best user experience.

To make the product even better, Microsoft has added two new features to give IT greater visibility in order to enhance the overall end-user experience.

The application reliability report

The first of the two new features is called the application reliability report (APR). This is something that will provide you with insights into potential issues for desktop applications on managed devices.

Utilizing this feature helps you to quickly identify the top applications that are impacting end-user productivity. Moreover, it also enables you to view aggregate app usage along with app failure metrics for these applications.

To take advantage of this feature, devices should be enrolled in Endpoint Analytics. And for devices enrolled from Configuration Manager, they’ll need client version 2006 or later installed.

To view the APR, you won’t need to do anything if your devices are Intune managed or co-managed. You’ll easily locate it beside the rest of the Endpoint Analytics reports in the Microsoft Endpoint Manager admin center console.

On the other hand, if you have devices enrolled through tenant attach, you need to upgrade to Configuration Manager 2006 for this report to populate.

How it works

To find your app reliability score, head over to the overview page. Here, you’ll also get the baseline score which is the median across all organizations. Below that you get a list of the apps most likely to have reduced user productivity during the previous 14 days. And then on the right column are app reliability Insights and Recommendations prioritized by which are most likely to boost your score.

To view the list of all your organization’s apps, you can go to the App performance tab. You can sort out these apps according to various criteria such as name, publisher, active devices, and app reliability score. In addition, you may also sort apps out using the mean time to failure, which is the average number of times the app can be used across the organization between crashes.

In order to see your organization’s application reliability performance, you can also leverage other pivots like the model, and OS version deployed, as well as troubleshoot application reliability issues with individual devices.

Devices will be given a device app health score that you find in device performance. This score is determined by the frequency of app crashes on a particular device during the last 14 days. To help you with troubleshooting, you can view a timeline of app crash and app hang events by clicking into each device.

Restart frequency feature

The second of the two recent additions to Endpoint Analytics is the restart frequency feature. This tool provides you with information regarding when devices are being rebooted and why.

You also get an improvement for the existing startup performance report thus helping to improve the user experience even further. All of this should enable operational and helpdesk departments to be more proactive and provide insights on end-user devices.

The data provided aims to clarify the type of reboots that occur. To achieve that, these reboots will be classified as either normal or abnormal. When we talk of normal restarts, this refers to restarts that go through the normal Windows shutdown processes such as Windows update installations.

And when we talk about abnormal restarts, this refers to those that don’t follow normal Windows shutdown processes. Because abnormal restarts can be potentially problematic they need to be looked into further. There are three categories of them:

  • Blue screens: This type of abnormal restart type is also known as a stop error. On average, one may expect no more than two stop errors per device per year.
  • Long power button press: Occurs when you hold down the power button to force a restart. This type happens less frequently than blue screens.
  • Unknown: The last category is for shutdowns that cannot be placed in either of the two previous categories.

Wrap up

Deployment of new laptops and desktops to users in an organization is a constantly ongoing process for a lot of businesses. As such, IT departments need efficient ways of managing devices and ensuring the optimization of the end-user experience.

And this is why if you’re not already enrolled you should be considering Endpoint Analytics.

End-users may face various issues in their day-to-day work that they will not report. Because of this, the user experience suffers and this will inevitably affect productivity. But, by utilizing Endpoint Analytics and its great new features, organizations can get high-level visibility into these various issues enabling them to address them quickly and efficiently.

Microsoft Defender for Endpoint Tamper Protection Extends Client Coverage

Every business needs to be on top of its game when it comes to matters of the security of its IT infrastructure. Because even the smallest of vulnerabilities can be exploited to devastating effect.

This can potentially cause the shutting down of a business, at best temporarily. And research has shown that the cost of downtime to a company can quite easily run into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

As we can all imagine, the losses that a business would suffer would be colossal, to say the least. Hence the need to enhance one’s security to keep bad actors at bay. By using Tamper Protection, you immediately strengthen the security of your business.

Why Tamper Protection?

Arguably the greatest challenges to an organization’s IT infrastructure come in the form of malware or malicious apps that tamper with your security settings and potentially create vulnerabilities in your system.

With these changes having been made, your organization becomes a significantly easier target for cybercriminals. It is with this in mind that Microsoft introduced Tamper Protection two years ago.

Simply put, and as the name itself implies, this feature essentially locks Microsoft Defender thus preventing anyone from tampering with your security settings. Including modifications that may be made by administrators.

As a key element of Microsoft’s security strategy, Tamper Protection helps to ensure that Windows 10 clients do not need third-party anti-virus software.

However, Tamper Protection does not have an impact on third-party antivirus registration. So this means that third-party antivirus offerings will continue to register with the Windows Security application. By using Tamper Protection, you can prevent the following:

  • Deactivation of virus and threat protection.
  • Deactivation of real-time protection.
  • Disabling of behavior monitoring.
  • Disabling antivirus (such as IOfficeAntivirus (IOAV))
  • Blocking of cloud-delivered protection.
  • Removal of security intelligence updates.

Extending client coverage

With the obvious benefits that Tamper Protection brings to any organization, it only makes sense to try and extend coverage wherever possible. And this is what Microsoft did with their announcement in September last year.

This feature was extended to cover ConfigMgr 2006-only clients on both Windows 10 and Windows Server 2019, delivered via Tenant Attach. To enable Tenant Attach, the process is fairly straight forward and you can find the instructions provided here.

Having done that, you can then go to Endpoint security > Antivirus in the MEM admin center. From there you can proceed to create and deploy the Tamper Protection setting. After that, you’ll then need to configure the aforementioned setting.

This you will then deploy to a Configuration Manager collection of devices. If you want to view the policy status, go to the Monitoring > Deployments section which you find in ConfigMgr. However, you can also find it in the policy status in the Endpoint Manager Admin center

Utilizing Tenant Attach

Tenant Attach provides a method for attaching your ConfigMgr hierarchy to your tenant and leverages the capabilities available from the cloud. This includes things such as discovering cloud users and groups, synchronizing Azure AD groups from a device collection, etc.

Moreover, you can sync your on-prem only ConfigMgr clients into the MEM admin center thus enabling the delivery of Endpoint security configuration policies to your on-prem clients.

With this tool, a device does not necessarily have to be enrolled in Intune. In fact, it can be managed by either ConfigMgr or Intune. Alternatively, devices can also be co-managed.

Management of Tamper Protection

In addition to managing Tamper Protection using tenant attach as described above, there are a few other management options available. These are:

  1. Management of Tamper Protection using the Microsoft Defender Security Center. You can turn Tamper Protection on or off for your tenant via the Microsoft Defender Security Center. This option is on by default for all new deployments and the setting is applied tenant-wide. So it affects all devices that are running Windows 10, Windows Server 2016, or Windows Server 2019.
  2. Management of Tamper Protection using Intune. If your organization’s subscription includes Intune then Tamper Protection can be turned on or off in the Microsoft Endpoint Manager admin center.
  3. Management of Tamper Protection on an individual device. Tamper Protection can be managed via the Windows Security app by individuals who are either home users or are not under settings managed by a security team. To do this, however, you need to have the appropriate admin permissions on your device to change security settings.

Keeping track of security data

Having preventive measures in place does not negate the need for constantly reviewing the security information.

You need to regularly check what is going on within your system so that you can stay on top of things because several tampering attempts are usually a sign of something bigger. And that may potentially be a bigger cyberattack.

Cybercriminals can attempt to alter your organization’s security settings as a way to persist and stay undetected.

Therefore, in every business, security teams should review information about such attempts, and then take the appropriate actions to mitigate threats.

The system is designed to raise alerts in the Microsoft Defender Security Center when tampering attempts are made. By utilizing tools such as endpoint detection and response and advanced hunting capabilities, you can investigate further and then implement the necessary measures to address the problem/s.

Wrap up

Microsoft is looking to tackle the surge in cybercrime head-on. Bad actors are constantly seeking out weaknesses in organizations’ systems and occasionally they find them. This is why businesses need to leverage the next-gen security strategies that Microsoft can offer.

With features like Tamper Protection, you get additional security to help your organization block nefarious elements from altering your security settings and leaving you vulnerable. Advanced breaches and increasing incidences of ransomware campaigns need all businesses to start getting proactive about their security. Otherwise, the consequences could prove to be very costly.

Microsoft Endpoint Manager – New, Exciting Features To Know About

When it comes to Microsoft Endpoint Manager (MEM), there’s always a steady stream of new features that clients should be paying attention to.

Technology is constantly changing and the products that we use need to improve as well. Especially if we consider the recent surge in cybercrime as seen in the FBI’s 2020 internet crime report.

No business is immune and as such, technology companies have to consistently enhance their products to ensure that clients’ data is secure. With that said, let’s take a look at the exciting new features that Microsoft is bringing to the MEM platform.

Enhancing security through filters

Microsoft Endpoint Manager has now made it possible for IT admins to use filters to target apps, policies, and other workload types to specific devices.

By utilizing these filters, IT admins get more flexibility and can better protect data within applications, simplify app deployments, and speed up software updates.

Furthermore, it is now easier for admins to comply with their organizational policies and compliance requirements by deploying:

  • A Windows 10 device restriction policy only to the corporate devices of users in a particular department without including personal devices,
  • An iOS app to only the iPad devices for users in another department,
  • An Android compliance policy for mobile phones to all users in the company but exclude Android-based meeting room devices that don’t support the settings in that mobile phone policy.

To see how to make use of these filters, check out this video.

Windows 10 Enterprise multi-session support

Windows 10 Enterprise multi-session is a new Remote Desktop Session Host exclusive to Windows Virtual Desktop on Azure which allows multiple concurrent user sessions. With this feature, users get the benefit of a familiar Windows 10 experience. In addition, IT can benefit from the cost savings that a multi-session allows and use existing per-user Microsoft 365 licensing.

By leveraging Intune, you can manage multi-session remote desktops with device-based configurations like a shared, user-less Windows 10 client. Moreover, you can enroll Hybrid Azure AD joined VMs in Intune automatically and target with OS scope policies and apps.

This means that now you can:

  • Host multiple concurrent user sessions using the Windows 10 Enterprise multi-session SKU exclusive to Windows Virtual Desktop on Azure.
  • Manage multi-session remote desktops with device-based configurations like a shared, user-less Windows 10 Enterprise client.
  • Automatically enroll Hybrid Azure AD-joined virtual machines in Intune and target them with device scope policies and apps.

Policy management made simpler

Using the settings catalog simplifies the process of customizing, setting, and managing device and user policy settings. Managing policy configuration through custom Open Mobile Alliance Uniform Resource Identifier (OMA-URI) policy is not the easiest of tasks to undertake.

And so what the 2105 service release does is support your move from Group Policy Objects (GPO) or custom OMA-URI to cloud-based consolidated policies.

Clients will be happy to note that 5,000 settings have been added to the settings catalog for Edge, Office, and OneDrive, including additional settings for macOS and Windows.

Microsoft Tunnel Gateway changes

There are a couple of changes to note for the Microsoft Tunnel Gateway:

  • Microsoft Tunnel Gateway (MTG) is now out of preview and thus is generally available. However, while the MTG server component is out of preview, the following Microsoft Tunnel apps are not – Microsoft Tunnel standalone app (for both Android and iOS) and Microsoft Defender for Endpoint with support for Microsoft Tunnel for Android.
  • Custom setting support in VPN profiles for Microsoft Tunnel for Microsoft Defender for Endpoint for Android. New changes here mean that you can now use custom settings in the VPN Profile for Microsoft Tunnel to configure Microsoft Defender for Endpoint when using the Microsoft Defender for Endpoint as your Microsoft Tunnel client app for Android and as an MTD app.

Device security

Another update that is certain to make MEM clients happy is that conditional access on Jamf-managed macOS devices for Government Cloud is now available.

By using Intune’s compliance engine, you can now evaluate Jamf-managed macOS devices for Government Cloud.

All one has to do to achieve this is to activate the compliance connector for Jamf. The steps on how to do that can be found here.

New settings available

There are new settings now available when creating a device restrictions policy for iOS/iPadOS (14.5 devices and newer). Here are the updates that have been introduced:

  • Block Apple Watch auto unlock: You can set this to Yes and this will prevent users from unlocking their device with Apple Watch.
  • Allow users to boot devices into recovery mode with unpaired devices: If you want to allow users to boot their device into recovery with an unpaired device, you can set this one to Yes.
  • Block Siri for dictation: To disable connections to Siri servers so that users can’t use Siri to dictate text, set to Yes.

To view these settings you can go here.

App management

Clients will now get new tiles that show the number of app installation failures for the tenant. You can find these in the Home, Dashboard, and Apps Overview panes. All one has to do is follow a few simple steps:

  • Go to the Microsoft Endpoint Manager admin center,
  • To view the Home pane select Home,
  • Alternatively, if you want to view the Dashboard pane select Dashboard.
  • And to view the Apps Overview pane, select Apps > Overview.

Wrap up

Microsoft Endpoint Manager has many different ways that various companies can use it. It gives you a fantastic platform to gather end-point information. Also, it gives you the ability to push out Microsoft Desktop apps, Microsoft Edge as well as several other apps. And by consistently updating the features, Microsoft can help your business to operate more efficiently and enhance your data security and privacy.

Why Cloud Management Gateway Is So Important Now

With the prevailing global situation requiring more and more people to work from home, businesses need to ensure that productivity does not suffer. And to do that, you need to effectively manage remote devices. Hence the need for technology such as the Cloud Management Gateway (CMG).

By utilizing the CMG, your business has an alternative to IBCM that most would consider a significant upgrade. This creates a favorable environment that allows your organization to eliminate the obstacles of having a remote workforce. Needless to say but the CMG can play a massive role in your organization and its importance is certainly worth discussing.

Requirements

Before you can use the Cloud Management Gateway you need to meet the following requirements:

  • An Azure subscription to host the CMG,
  • You need a Full administrator or Infrastructure administrator user account in Configuration Manager,
  • During the initial creation of certain components, the participation of an Azure admin is needed,
  • You need at least one on-premises Windows server to host the CMG connection point,
  • A server authentication certificate for the CMG,
  • There needs to be an integration of the site with Azure AD to deploy the service with Azure Resource Manager,
  • Depending on your client OS version and authentication model, other certificates may be required,
  • Clients are required to use IPv4.

When is it useful?

There are several scenarios where the CMG could come in handy and they include the following:

  • For management of traditional Windows 10 clients using modern identity which can either be hybrid or pure cloud domain-joined with Azure AD.
  • For management of traditional Windows clients with Active Directory domain-joined identity. The clients included are Windows 8.1 and Windows 10.
  • For installation of the Configuration Manager client on Windows 10 devices over the internet.
  • For new device provisioning with co-management.

Benefits to your business

CMG enables your Enterprise admins to perform several actions. Among the things they can do, they can manage the following over the internet:

  • Push software updates and enable endpoint protection,
  • Inventory and client status,
  • Compliance settings,
  • Software distribution,
  • Windows 10 in-place upgrades,
  • Manage branch office devices over less expensive internet instead of across expensive WAN or VPN connections.

Eliminates complications

Although Internet-based client management (IBCM) has been around for years, a lot of users tend to find it complicated. CMG aims to be a simpler solution. It is an Azure-hosted service that manages internet-based clients through a new role called the cloud management gateway connector point.

By adding the CMG to your environment, you’ll get an intermediary cloud solution. And this can be your bridge to a full cloud management solution of your Windows 10 devices through Microsoft Intune.

Also, your organization doesn’t need to expose on-premises infrastructure to the internet and neither will you require additional infrastructure. So by using the CMG, you get rid of a lot of what users don’t like about IBCM.

Manage internet clients

Cloud Management Gateway helps you to easily and effectively manage clients that are on the internet. Often, there are going to be events in your environment that will require a swift response.

However, previously this was problematic for clients that would not be currently on-premises. By leveraging the CMG, you can manage clients all over the world as long as they have an internet connection.

Furthermore, it doesn’t require you to buy any additional IT infrastructure. So unlike IBCM that would need additional hardware that you need to maintain, for the CMG you just need to have Azure.

Strengthen your security

The moment you have systems that are not directly connected to your IT infrastructure, your data security is at an increased risk. This is particularly evident with remote work.

Although a lot of businesses have responded by using VPNs, you cannot adequately protect workstations through VPN channels. Hence the importance of the Cloud Management Gateway.

With it, you can better manage devices connected to the Internet and thus improve your corporate security posture. This is further enhanced by the fact that you can leverage Microsoft Azure services so that there is no need to expose your infrastructure to the internet.

Cost management

Whenever you use cloud services, you will incur costs associated with your usage. And the Cloud Management Gateway is no exception. Fortunately for clients, Microsoft intends to help you to keep those costs under control. You can do this through client settings, for instance, where you can determine which clients can access the CMG.

Another feature you can leverage is virtual machine configuration. The latter enables you to choose between 1 and 16 virtual machines per instance of Cloud Management Gateway. Also, if you want to, you can stop the CMG so that it’s no longer serving clients.

Therefore, to optimize user experience for all clients, the CMG helps to reduce the unavoidable costs that come with cloud services.

Constantly evolving

Another reason why the CMG is so important is how the technology is constantly evolving. There has been a lot of innovation taking place such as the ability to automatically do a client install through the CMG.

This is a great option to have because it eliminates the need for the client to be on the intranet. In addition, the platform is adaptable to your organization’s needs. So it can handle several scenarios such as:

  • Traditional PC management (Windows 7, 8.1, 10),
  • Modern PC management (Windows 10 with modern identity),
  • Internet client installs.

Wrap up

Every organization should be looking for ways to make the most of its IT investments. Thus from the information available, we can see that every environment that uses ConfigMgr can benefit from using the Cloud Management Gateway. And you can leverage the CMG for clients all across the globe. The convenience that this provides you cannot be overstated. As the world changes and technology evolves, we need platforms that can help organizations to become more efficient and enhance productivity.

Benefits of Being Able to View Hardware Inventory in MEM

In July 2020, Microsoft announced the release of update 2007 for the Technical Preview Branch of Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager (MECM). And with that, came a feature that now allows you to view hardware inventory for a tenant-attached Configuration Manager device in the admin center. With most pieces of hardware in offices today being connected to the internet, being able to view hardware inventory is extremely important. Microsoft Endpoint Manager (MEM) now offers that capability and thus gives your business several advantages.

Getting set up

Before you can use this feature, there are several requirements that you will need to meet:

  • You need to have an environment that’s tenant attached with uploaded devices,
  • You need either Microsoft Edge (version 77 and later) or Google Chrome,
  • You need a user account that has been discovered with both Active Directory user discovery and Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) user discovery. Simply put, this means that the user account should be a synced user object in Azure.

In addition, the user account will require the following permissions:

  • Admin User role for the Configuration Manager Microservice application in Azure AD. This role will be added in Azure AD from:

Enterprise applications  >  Configuration Manager Microservice  >  Users and groups  >  Add user.

If you have Azure AD premium, groups will be supported.

Network security

The security of your network should be something of great concern. Especially in a world where cybercrime is increasing at an alarming rate. Having said that, we can begin to see why a hardware inventory in MEM feature could come in very handy.

Keeping track of all the hardware in your organization is no mean feat. Particularly for businesses that have also employed bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies.

You need to have a system that can readily provide you with the necessary information on all devices. This helps your IT team to maintain high levels of network security, prevent breaches, and manage any potential issues that may arise.

Optimize productivity

By leveraging the hardware inventory feature in Microsoft Endpoint Manager, you can keep track of how devices are performing. The last thing your organization needs is to have computers worth tens of thousands of dollars operating at subpar levels.

With accurate information on hardware inventory, you can easily see how the devices in your organization are performing. You can then address any issues that may arise to ensure that productivity is optimized from top to bottom. If you are going to invest in expensive, high-tech devices, you need them to operate as they should.

Reduce overhead costs

Well-managed IT infrastructure can help your organization to reduce overhead costs. The ability to view hardware inventory in MEM is going to give IT a bird’s eye view of all your IT infrastructure. And this enables you to effectively manage all hardware from procurement till retirement.

Doing this will cut your costs by doing away with issues such as IT overspend and non-compliance. Working in this manner will fully optimize your productivity, as mentioned above, which all businesses will be happy with.

Lifecycle management

MEM’s view hardware inventory feature helps you to keep track of hardware from purchase, how it is used, and finally to its retirement. With this kind of actionable data readily available, it simplifies the decisions that you will need to make in the future such as new purchases, upgrades, and so on.

Moreover, you can easily keep track of contracts with vendors and thus know when to renew those contracts or make purchase orders. All these things add significant benefits to your business by increasing operational efficiency while minimizing risks.

Enhance IT efficiency

If there is anything that is abundantly clear from what your organization will gain from MEM’s view hardware feature it’s that it will simplify life for IT teams. Significantly. With the data available to them, it makes it far less likely for any issues to arise during audits. Also, it creates less workload by eliminating the need for manual tracking and scanning of devices. Your IT department will inevitably operate more efficiently by being able to easily keep tabs on all hardware.

Asset protection

Another key advantage that comes with being able to keep track of your organization’s hardware is increased asset protection. Keeping track of devices allows you to not only get performance-related data but location data as well.

And having this information will help to mitigate the risk of loss or theft of devices. Therefore, utilizing the view hardware inventory in MEM tool helps your organization to easily stay on top of the work status of an asset, its physical location, and disposition.

Better overall governance

Viewing hardware inventory is going to give you an increased degree of visibility. Because of the accurate data at your disposal concerning your IT infrastructure, you’ll have a better handle of key assets. Therefore, they are less likely to be misplaced, misused, or underutilized.

And so with all these advantages, it simplifies the process of coming up with more effective governance protocols. This is something that will hugely benefit the entire organization from top to bottom and not just your IT department.

Keeping track of assets

There’s no denying that keeping tabs on your hardware is just as important as the software management side of things. After all, technology is a huge investment for any business. And so how you keep track of your hardware will inevitably affect your bottom line.

Having real-time, accurate information about your assets goes a long way in the optimization of productivity. Not to mention enhancing the overall security of your business. Viewing hardware inventory in Microsoft Endpoint Manager is an incredible tool that should help your business become more efficient. The benefits are clear for us all to see.

What You Need to Know about Microsoft Endpoint Manager’s Tamper Protection

With cyber threats being such a huge problem, the last thing your organization needs is vulnerable security. And this can be worsened if malicious actors manage to disable your security.

So with that in mind, Microsoft introduced Tamper Protection to increase your organization’s security by making it significantly harder for cybercriminals to infiltrate your network.

It gives you a better security posture and allows your IT team to ensure greater protection over corporate resources. And so today we’re going to dive into what exactly Microsoft Endpoint Manager Tamper Protection is and what it can do for your organization.

What is Tamper Protection?

Microsoft Endpoint Manager Tamper Protection is a relatively new feature that was created to prevent potential attackers from making changes to the configuration of Microsoft Defender on Windows 10 clients. Therefore, this feature doesn’t allow malicious actors to disable features such as:

  • Real-time protection,
  • Anti-virus protection,
  • Cloud-delivered protection,
  • Removing security intelligence updates.

By blocking these actions, Tamper Protection keeps attackers from getting easy access to your data or installing malware. Without being able to do this, attackers can’t compromise your devices or exploit sensitive information.

Functionality

The key thing that Microsoft Endpoint Manager Tamper Protection does for you is it locks Microsoft Defender Antivirus to keep people from making modifications to your security system. These modifications could otherwise be made through apps and methods like:

  • Configuring settings in Registry Editor on your Windows device
  • Using PowerShell cmdlets to make changes to settings
  • Using group policies to edit or remove security settings

However, Tamper Protection won’t stop you from seeing your security settings or affect how third-party antivirus apps register with the Windows Security app. For organizations using Windows 10 Enterprise E5, it’s the security team that will manage Tamper Protection and so individual users can’t change the setting.

How to enable Tamper Protection

Your IT admins can use Microsoft Intune to turn Tamper Protection on or off for all managed computers using the Microsoft Endpoint Manager (MEM) admin center portal. And to make changes to Microsoft Endpoint Manager Tamper Protection, admins will need to have permissions such as security or global admin. To have access to Tamper Protection, your organization should:

  • Have Intune licenses such as Microsoft 365 E5,
  • Have computers running Windows 10 versions 1709, 1803, 1809, or later,
  • Use Windows security with security intelligence updated to version 1.287.60.0 or later,
  • Have machines using antimalware platform version 4.18.1906.3 and antimalware engine version 1.1.15500.X (or later).

With all the requirements met, follow the steps below to get access:

  • Go to MEM admin center and sign in with the right credentials,
  • Select Devices and choose Configuration Profiles,
  • Create a profile with the characteristics below:

Once you turn on Tamper Access, you won’t have any need to turn it off unless if it affects other validated tools.  

Tamper Protection for Configuration Manager

With version 2006 of Configuration Manager, you can leverage tenant attach to manage Tamper Protection settings on:

  • Windows 10,
  • Windows Server 2016, and
  • Windows Server 2019.

Tenant attach allows you to sync your on-premises-only Configuration Manager devices into the MEM admin center. Following this, you can deliver endpoint security configuration policies to on-premises collections and devices. A few simple steps are all you need:

  • Set up tenant attach,
  • Go to the MEM admin center > Endpoint security > Antivirus,
  • Choose Create Policy,
  • You can now deploy the policy to your device collection.

Continuous reviewing

Even with Microsoft Endpoint Manager Tamper Protection enabled, your admins need to have the ability to continually review your security posture. Otherwise, you won’t fully benefit if you cannot see the tamper attempts or report them.

To resolve this challenge, you can subscribe to the Microsoft Defender for Endpoint service. This will provide you with a dashboard that shows you all the security issues that you need to be aware of. These include flagged tamper attempts with all the necessary details to investigate further.

Using third-party security tools

Although Microsoft Endpoint Manager Tamper Protection can work with third-party security tools, some of these can make changes to security settings. By using real-time threat information, Tamper Protection can assess the potential risks of software and suspicious activities. Ideally, your IT admins should update your security intelligence to version 1.287.60.0 or later. And this action will protect the system security settings in the Registry and log any attempts to modify those settings without generating errors.       

What about endpoint management tools?

As for endpoint management tools, you can use them with Microsoft Endpoint Manager Tamper Protection. With limits, of course. Admins retain the possibility of establishing a centralized setting for Tamper Protection using management tools.

However, other tools/platforms cannot change settings that are under the protection of Tamper Protection. For that, admins would require Windows Security to manage those.

If you have a Windows enterprise-class license or computers running Windows 10 Enterprise E5, you need to opt into global Tamper Protection. Below are some unified endpoint management platforms that cannot override Tamper Protection:

  • Microsoft Intune,
  • System Center Configuration Manager,
  • Windows System Image Manager configuration,
  • Group Policy,
  • Any other Windows Management Instrumentation tools and administrative roles.

Wrap up

The key to staying ahead of cybercriminals is a continual upgrading of existing security features. And this is precisely what Microsoft is doing with Tamper Protection. With this feature, you can address one of the potential areas of weakness in your security infrastructure. You can prevent unwanted visitors from disabling critical security features.

Since Microsoft Endpoint Manager Tamper Protection was specifically designed for enterprise environments, it is ideal for enhancing organizational security and making your organization less vulnerable to attack. Class-leading security has become a necessity for all of us and features like this can play a massive role in safeguarding our enterprises.

Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager: Latest Improvements to the Product Lifestyle Dashboard

Information is key for any business to function optimally. That is why there has been such a massive increase in the use of big data during the last decade. But, this information is not only that which you can obtain externally, it’s also information concerning your internal operations. And this is where Microsoft’s Product Lifecycle Dashboard enters the fray.

It simplifies the way your organization functions by providing you with information concerning all the products that you have installed on devices that are managed by Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager. This is a fantastic feature that has had some improvements added to it and that is what we’ll be going over below.

Getting started

Microsoft has made a few changes over the years and from version 1806 you’ll now be able to use the Configuration Manager product lifecycle dashboard to view the Microsoft Lifecycle Policy. So what exactly does this ‘dashboard’ do?

The Product Lifecycle Dashboard is a tool that shows you the state of the Microsoft Lifecycle Policy for Microsoft products installed on devices managed with Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager.

Not only that, but you also receive data concerning the various Microsoft products in your environment, supportability state, and support end dates. Therefore by using both Asset Intelligence and the Asset Intelligence Synchronization Point, the dashboard can give you a clear overview of the lifecycle of each product.

By using the dashboard, you can easily find out what support is available for each product. With this information in hand, it will allow you to plan accordingly and update all products before their support expires. And then from version 1810, the dashboard also adds information for System Center 2012 Configuration Manager and later.

What are the requirements?

As a product continues to improve, the requirements to use that product will also expectedly change. For you to see data in the product lifecycle dashboard, you need the following:

  • Internet Explorer 9 or later
  • You need to install and configure a service connection point role. And the latter must be online or synchronized regularly if offline.
  • For hyperlink functionality in the dashboard, you need a reporting services point.
  • You need to configure and synchronize the asset intelligence synchronization point.

Using the dashboard

This tool is designed to make it easier for your organization to have access to up-to-date data about the products that you are using. And by leveraging the inventory data that the site collects from managed devices, the dashboard displays information about all current products. However, not all versions are supported. Only Windows Server 2008 and later, Windows XP and later, SQL Server 2008 and later, will have information displayed for OSs and SQL Server. To access the lifecycle dashboard in the Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager console:

1) Go to the Assets and Compliance workspace,

2) Expand Asset Intelligence,

3) Select the Product Lifecycle node.

What else do you get?

Clients will find that from the newer version of SCCM 1902, they’ll get information for installed versions of Office 2003 through Office 2016. And this data is available after the site runs the lifecycle summarization task, which is something that occurs every 24 hours. In addition, you can also benefit from using the dashboard even if you don’t have Configuration Manager. You can use Azure Monitor Logs to provide a Dashboard to help with managing the supportability of your environment.

Upgrading products

Taking a simple look at your dashboard will allow you to see any products that need to be updated urgently. When you have several computers to deal with and you need to know which ones need upgrades, all you need to do is click on the hyperlinks found in the Number in environment column and that will show you a report.

And doing this will direct you to the Lifecycle 01A – Computers with a specific software product report. This is a huge improvement when you consider that in the past you had to investigate problem clients individually to find out whether or not an upgrade was needed.

Reports in the product lifecycle set

In addition to the dashboard, you have additional reports that are available as well. These you’ll find in the Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager console, where you then go to Monitoring workspace and you expand Reporting. The new reports, which are found under the Asset Intelligence category are as follows:

  • Lifecycle 01A – Computers with a specific software product: You can see a list of computers on which a specified product is detected.
  • Lifecycle 02A – List of machines with expired products in the organization: This report, which you can filter by product name, shows you all the computers which have expired products on them.
  • Lifecycle 03A – List of expired products found in the organization: View details for products in your environment that have expired lifecycle dates.
  • Lifecycle 04A – General Product Lifecycle overview: Here you can see a list of product lifecycles and filter the list by product name and days to expiration.
  • Lifecycle 05A – Product lifecycle dashboard: From version 1810, this report will have similar information as the in-console dashboard. All you have to do is choose a category to view the count of products in your environment as well as the days of support remaining.

Wrap up

Every organization needs products that will help them to optimize their time. And as the number of available products increases, the choice of which product to go for becomes harder. Microsoft’s Product Lifecycle Dashboard gives your business many benefits that businesses have needed for a long time.

Reduce the time you spend trying to keep track of all the products you have installed on countless devices with a simple, easy to use dashboard. If you’re looking for a tool that gives you a more efficient way of device management, then the Product Lifecycle Dashboard is one that is certainly worth a look.

What’s New with Windows Autopilot for HoloLens 2

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In early 2020, Microsoft announced that it was going to bring Windows Autopilot to the HoloLens platform. Initially, it was only in private preview on HoloLens 2. However, later on that year, Microsoft made it available for public preview. Windows Autopilot plays a key role in simplifying deployments and reducing the time required to productivity.

As a result, it helps your organization to cut down on costs and enhance efficiency. So if your business needs to introduce new devices, then Autopilot offers you a great solution for that. This announcement from Microsoft expectedly aroused significant interest so we’re going to take a look at what all this could mean for you.

HoloLens 2 overview

HoloLens 2 is the next step in the evolution of Microsoft’s revolutionary mixed reality headset. This device is one that you place over your head and has a visor that goes over your eyes offering users a new way to interact with information.

The technology provides apps and solutions that will enhance communication, learning, collaboration, and much more through the use of mixed reality. The challenge that organizations have had to face is that as this technology has grown in popularity and use, its deployment at scale has become a laborious and costly affair. Hence the need for Windows Autopilot to provide a simpler, more effective, and more streamlined deployment solution.

Device set up

To get started, you’ll need to go through the process of device set up. Fortunately, setting up your devices will only involve a few simple steps. Once a user has started the self-deployment process, Autopilot then proceeds with the following steps:

  • Join the device to Azure AD. However, it’s important to remember that Autopilot for HoloLens does not support Active Directory join or Hybrid Azure AD join.
  • Enroll the device in Microsoft Endpoint Manager (or another MDM) using Azure AD.
  • Download certificates, apps, device-targeted policies, and networking profiles and then apply them.
  • Provision the device.
  • Present the sign-in screen to the user.

With the public preview, Windows Autopilot for HoloLens devices can be configured using Microsoft Endpoint Manager (MEM) controls. And this applies to all customer tenants. To get started, you’ll have to log into the MEM admin center. Once there, select Devices > Windows > Windows enrollment. And then under Windows Autopilot Deployment Program, select Deployment Profiles > Create profile > HoloLens (preview).

Requirements

To use Windows Autopilot, you’ll need to have Windows Holographic, version 2004 (released May 2020) or newer. However, Microsoft only began shipping devices with this version pre-installed in late September 2020.

Fortunately, though, Microsoft allows you to use the Advanced Recovery Companion (ARC) to re-flash your devices to the latest operating system. Using ARC, you can also check the build version that is currently installed on your devices.

The process is not overly complicated and you can find instructions here. Ideally, it would be best to request from your distributor that they supply you with Autopilot-ready devices.

Tenant Lock for HoloLens 2

This feature allows organizations to permanently bind devices to their Tenants and keep them under management after initial enrollment. With this feature, your device will always be deployed by Autopilot and managed by MEM. Even in the event of OS updates, accidental or intentional resets, or wipes.

If your organization deploys HoloLens 2 devices with Autopilot, you can set up a specific policy. This policy which is deployed post-enrollment enforces:

  • the permanent enforcement of Autopilot deployment,
  • the prevention of local user creation during device setup,
  • mandatory network connection,
  • the prevention of all other escape hatches during device setup, and
  • the prevention of device ownership during the device setup process except for the organization Tenant it is registered to with Windows Autopilot.

Using Autopilot with Wi-Fi connection

Microsoft will also allow you to use Windows Autopilot Deployment for HoloLens 2 with a Wi-Fi connection in addition to the regular Ethernet-based connection. This is something that you can get as part of Insider Preview (Build 19041.1364 or above).

What this means is that you do not need to use ethernet to USB C or Wi-Fi to USB C adapter. Instead, all you simply need to do is to connect the device to your available Wi-Fi internet network and deploy the device with Windows Autopilot.

User experience

After the process of configuring Autopilot for HoloLens 2 is complete, you then move on to the provisioning of the HoloLens devices. The Autopilot experience needs internet access and you have several options to choose from. You can connect your device to a Wi-Fi network in OOBE and then let it detect Autopilot experience automatically.

Alternatively, you can use “USB-C to Ethernet” adapters for wired internet connectivity and let HoloLens 2 complete Autopilot experience automatically. And with the third option, you can connect your device with “USB-C to Wifi” adapters for wireless internet connectivity and let HoloLens 2 complete Autopilot experience automatically.

During the next step in the provisioning process, the device will automatically start OOBE and all that is required of you is to let HoloLens 2 detect network connectivity and leave it to complete OOBE automatically. And when the OOBE process is complete, you can then sign in to the device using your user name and password.

Simplifying deployments

Windows Autopilot has provided countless benefits to a lot of organizations by reducing the complex nature of deployments at scale. This cloud-based platform significantly reduces time to productivity and empowers end-users. And so it only makes sense that HoloLens 2 is now able to leverage the capabilities of this fantastic technology. Organizations cannot afford to spend vast amounts of time dealing with deployment scenarios for which fast, cost-effective solutions are available. From medical institutions to academic ones, HoloLens 2 gives you an amazing new way of interacting with information and Autopilot enhances that experience.

What You Can Learn From Microsoft Endpoint Manager Analytics

The importance of data analysis has been steadily growing in the last couple of decades. And as technology has continued to evolve, the tools that we have available to us have significantly improved. These tools help businesses get a clearer view of their operations. One of the more recent offerings is Microsoft Endpoint Manager Analytics (MEMA). With this product, Microsoft is aiming to help organizations measure and improve their productivity. These days, businesses are placing significant emphasis on the degree of productivity of their employees. Therefore it’s important to have a way to actually see this and that’s what we’ll be going over below.

What is Microsoft Endpoint Manager Analytics?

Endpoint Analytics is essentially a new feature that Microsoft has added to Microsoft Productivity Score. What it does is to provide you with information on how the organization is operating as well as the experiences that your users are receiving. Moreover, it can pinpoint policies or hardware issues that are slowing down devices and then make any necessary changes without causing needless disruptions. Therefore, Endpoint Analytics can provide insights that are normally unavailable to IT because of a lack of visibility into the end-user experience. And it can offer this service at a better cost as compared to the costly support channel that you would otherwise use.

Getting started

Once you’ve met all the requirements, the actual process of enrolling a device is pretty straightforward. For Intune-managed devices, you need to go to the Onboard in the Endpoint Analytics portal. When you’re enrolling devices that are managed by Configuration Manager, there are a few steps to follow. Firstly, you have to go and enable Endpoint Analytics data collection in Configuration Manager. Next, you’ll need to enable data upload from Configuration Manager. And the last step involves onboarding in the Endpoint Analytics portal. You will see the connector status light up in Microsoft Endpoint Manager once you have successfully enabled.

Startup performance

This is an area that can be of great concern when it comes to causing delays to your employees. By measuring time to productivity, you can easily see where users are losing time. Endpoint Analytics will help your organization by identifying lengthy boot and sign-in times and then resolving them. In addition, you’ll get a couple of recommended actions that you can take to improve startup times. Having this data at hand enables you to evaluate your startup performance. You can then use this data and compare it to other organizations thus getting a better view of how you’re doing as a business. 

Software optimization

A lot of the time, increasing productivity only requires you to optimize your current software. MEMA plays a key role by providing you with information for improving user experience by optimizing your operating system as well as the versions of Microsoft software that you are already using. You’ll get to benefit from insights for various deployment and management services. Among these are Windows Autopilot, Microsoft Intune, Configuration Manager, Windows 10, and Azure Active Directory. Although you may already be using these platforms, analytics gives you data that helps you to get the most out of them.

Swift problem resolution

In the past, one of the major causes of delays has been users having to wait for IT to resolve problems. However, Endpoint Analytics provides proactive remediation scripting. Simply put, this great feature will resolve common support issues on any of your endpoints. Not only that, but it will fix these problems before users even know there’s an issue. There are built-in scripts that you can use for common issues. But, there is also the possibility of authoring your own scripts based on what issues your users frequently encounter.

Licensing requirements

A valid Microsoft Endpoint Manager license is necessary to enroll devices in Endpoint Analytics. In addition, for proactive remediations, one of the following licenses for managed devices will be required:

  • Windows 10 Enterprise E3 or E5 (included in Microsoft 365 F3, E3, or E5)
  • Windows 10 Education A3 or A5 (included in Microsoft 365 A3 or A5)
  • Windows Virtual Desktop Access E3 or E5

Requirements for Intune devices

Devices under co-management or enrolled in Intune running Windows 10 Pro, Windows 10 Pro Education, Windows 10 Enterprise, or Windows 10 Education. Windows 10 Home isn’t supported. Only devices with Windows 10 Enterprise, Education, or Pro version 1903 or later will get startup performance insights. It’s also important to note that workplace joined or Azure AD registered devices won’t be supported. Lastly, you need to ensure that the Connected User Experiences and Telemetry service are running.

Configuration Manager requirements

For devices that are under the management of Configuration Manager, you’re going to need a minimum of Configuration Manager version 2002 with KB4560496 – Update rollup for Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager version 2002 or later. Also, the Configuration Manager clients need to be upgraded to version 2002 or later. And then you should ensure that the Microsoft Endpoint Manager tenant is attached. Another thing to remember is that enrolled devices that meet the Intune requirements will send required functional data directly to Microsoft public cloud.

Enhance your productivity

Common issues that trouble most organizations should not have to persist indefinitely. Time is a priceless commodity and your business needs to strive to fully enhance productivity. Hence the importance of software such as Microsoft Endpoint Manager Analytics. Its ability to furnish you with a comprehensive overview of how your organization is operating has the potential to make it key to your business strategies. Evaluating the problem areas affecting your users and resolving them without disruption will immediately improve workflow. Although Endpoint Analytics is still very much a new product, it’s certainly one that looks like most businesses could need.