Microsoft Is Launching A New Intune Suite

Endpoint management is critical to the way that organizations can utilize and safeguard their resources. By using endpoint management solutions, IT teams can identify, monitor, and control the level of access that end users have to corporate resources.

Doing so enables IT professionals to improve the security of corporate data and significantly reduce the risk of security breaches. The importance cannot be overstated especially now when some research suggests that as a direct result of the pandemic there has been a 600% rise in cybercrime.

This is why Microsoft is looking to make changes to its array of endpoint management solutions to better cater to the needs of all organizations.

Recent developments

Microsoft has been working on improvements for endpoint management to strengthen corporate data security and increase efficiency. To that end, the company has just announced that a new suite of advanced endpoint management solutions will be launched in March 2023 together in one, cost-effective plan. This new plan has several benefits that will be offered to clients.

IT is going to be equipped with products that will improve endpoint management and also offer increased security to your hybrid workforce. This is ultimately going to deliver a better overall experience across your organization as well as increased operational efficiency. This new development is something that Microsoft had already talked about earlier this year.

The journey towards a bundled suite of advanced endpoint management solutions began with the rolling out of Remote Help for Windows. By using this service, the process of getting assistance for users on Windows devices is made easier.

Because of the integration with Microsoft Endpoint Manager, remote assistance can be rendered to managed devices. It also integrates with Azure AD ensuring that authentication and compliance information can be provided.

According to the announcement by Microsoft, in addition to Remote Help, this new bundled plan which will be introduced in March 2023 will also bring together Microsoft Tunnel for Mobile App Management, Endpoint Privilege Management, advanced endpoint analytics capabilities, and more advanced management capabilities in Microsoft Intune.         

Changes are coming

There was plenty to talk about at the Microsoft Ignite 2022 but one of the key areas would have been undoubtedly to do with Microsoft Endpoint Manager. As you would have noticed by now we are talking about a new Intune suite.

And that is because Microsoft announced that going forward the Microsoft Endpoint Manager brand will be replaced by Microsoft Intune. This change is not one for the future but something that has already been implemented. If you head over to the Microsoft Endpoint Manager landing page, you’ll notice that the name Microsoft Intune has already taken over.

It would appear that as far as endpoint management development is concerned, Microsoft is looking to place greater focus on cloud services. However, it’s worth noting that Intune, Configuration Manager, and the Co-management capability will still be retained. But, Microsoft Intune will be taking over as the main platform with regard to future development. Microsoft said in its announcement:

“Today, we’re announcing that Microsoft Intune will be the name of the growing product family for all things endpoint management at Microsoft…. The name Microsoft Endpoint Manager will no longer be used. Going forward, we’ll refer to cloud management as Microsoft Intune and on-premises management as Microsoft Configuration Manager.”    

Embracing the cloud

Although cloud-based services come with plenty of well-known benefits, it’s not everyone who has adopted the cloud approach. This is why Configuration Manager is still available to allow organizations to operate the way they want.

However, Microsoft continues to try and encourage migration to the cloud. And the cloud attach capability is one that is being talked about as something that could help facilitate the transition to the cloud. Most are already familiar with co-management and tenant attach so what exactly is cloud attach?

Cloud attach is a capability that allows for the enabling of both co-management and tenant attach. If your organization uses Configuration Manager, this gives you a way to have even more flexibility in managing endpoints without having to choose between security, compliance, and supporting new work realities.

Explaining the vision   

Inevitably, a lot of people will be rightly wondering why Microsoft is moving in this direction. Why the need for a suite of advanced solutions for endpoint management? Well, the answer is pretty simple.

When it comes to endpoint management, Microsoft is the biggest player in the game and so there is a need to continuously improve the services on offer. The countless millions of managed devices that Microsoft is responsible for require solutions that adapt to the changing environment.

As already mentioned above, cybercrime has shot up at alarming levels in recent years so endpoint management solutions need to strive to stay ahead of the threats. Microsoft has received a lot of feedback from CTOs in recent years explaining how the needs of hybrid work are changing and thus organizations are having to combine security solutions from different providers to meet the security needs of their operations. As one would expect, this complicates life for IT staff and potentially adds massive costs to your overall expenditure.

This obviously will not go down well with management and corporate security may end up suffering if the organization fails to meet the skyrocketing costs of the necessary solutions. IT departments may need to cut corners and put in place temporary measures just to try and keep operations running.

Most would probably agree that this is not an ideal scenario and is a very tedious way of operating. So the announcement by Microsoft to introduce a bundled suite of advanced endpoint management solutions comes as welcome news. Clients can get a more comprehensive solution that can do what they currently need multiple products to do.

Enhancing endpoint management

The new Intune suite has been designed to allow organizations to bring together in one place all the tools they need for securing their corporate data as well as managing their endpoints. In addition, this combined service will eliminate the risks of local admin users and give clients access to remote assistance. Not to mention that IT will be thrilled to see an improvement in the health and performance of Windows endpoints. The capabilities that we’ll discuss below will potentially change your IT environment for the better.

  • Remote Help for Windows and Android       

As I mentioned earlier, the initial version of Remote Help for Windows was launched in April of this year. So what we can expect with the March 2023 release is that it will add enhancements to the Windows experience as part of the advanced management suite. The capabilities you will get include things such as ServiceNow integration that helps to provide service management incident information to Intune so that users’ technology issues can get a swift resolution.

Clients will also benefit from an improved messaging platform that should simplify the process of viewing the reasons for device noncompliance as well as how the IT Helpdesk staff can hear the audio from the users who require remote assistance. Furthermore, there is going to be enhanced elevation that will provide for quicker resolution of issues that require alternate admin credentials because of the interaction with the User Account Control prompt.

Microsoft will also be looking to introduce support for Android. The addition of this capability will enable admins to serve their Frontline workers remotely with greater ease. This will offer a massive advantage to Android users because they can have any issues resolved a lot quicker. Admins can contact these users (who can also contact admins themselves), remotely diagnose the issue, and collaborate with the user to find a solution to the problem allowing the user to quickly get back to work.

  • Endpoint Privilege Management

This is something that beginning in early 2023 Microsoft will be offering in public preview to clients with Microsoft Intune subscriptions. What this service will do is help you to automate and manage when workers have permission to use admin privilege for specific tasks on both Windows cloud-connected and co-managed endpoints.

According to Microsoft, by using Endpoint Privilege Management you’ll be able to give your users standard account privileges and no longer make them local admins. With the use of these standard account privileges, users can be dynamically elevated to admin privilege for specific admin-approved tasks, based on the specific policies of your organization.

The advantage here is twofold. On one end, the organization will have a significant improvement in its security posture, and on the other end, users can become more productive. The objective is to ensure that IT admins have all the necessary tools to furnish employees of the organization with the capability to self-serve if and when the need arises.

To maintain a high level of security, this needs to follow Zero Trust principles hence the need for least privileged access. Furthermore, Endpoint Privilege Management is going to allow your organization to define the rules and parameters in Intune to configure a standard user’s permissions to be automatically elevated, be self-managed, or set to require authorization.

This is something that is going to impact operational efficiency massively by enabling users to perform tasks securely. These tasks can include actions such as adding approved apps, printers, or other peripheral devices, and all of this without the assistance of the IT helpdesk. Intune Endpoint Privilege Management will become generally available as part of the suite of advanced endpoint management solutions as well as be available as an individual add-on to your Intune subscription.

  • Microsoft Tunnel for Mobile Application Management

Microsoft Tunnel for Mobile Application Management (MAM) is a great service that is designed to bring convenience to end-users. In an era where employees are often carrying multiple devices to separate the personal from the professional, this feature will allow employees to use just a single device.

The beauty of the service is that there is no enrolment necessary but corporate data will remain secure without end-users having to hand over control of their personal devices to IT. I’m sure many will like this the most about Microsoft Tunnel. So for organizations, this is going to address several issues.

You can now comfortably implement BYOD policies without worrying about the security of corporate data or user privacy. Switching to a BYOD program would also be financially advantageous for organizations as they will no longer need to constantly invest in corporate-owned devices.

In addition, unenrolled iOS and Android devices can get secure access to on-prem apps and resources using modern authentication, Single Sign On, and conditional access. This is because of how Microsoft Tunnel for MAM extends the VPN gateway to these devices. So this will enable the users of these unmanaged devices to also get secure access to corporate resources.

Because no device enrollment is needed the currently available capabilities of Microsoft Tunnel will be expanded. A good example of this is how Android apps won’t need integrating with any SDKs other than the MAM SDK which is used to auto-start VPN for apps if desired or retrieve trusted root certs.

  • Advanced Endpoint Analytics

Endpoint Analytics aims to enable IT to optimize the user experience and improve productivity by providing insights that can help IT admins be proactive in their tasks. This feature offers both IT staff and end-users a system that can obtain detailed and granular data on the organization’s endpoints and thus how the business is performing.

IT can leverage this data to provide proactive assistance to end-users and thus establish a greater degree of working efficiency. This new suite that Microsoft is bringing to its clients will include several advanced endpoint analytics features that are designed to better equip IT to have a better analytical overview and understanding of how the end-user experience is going. And with these capabilities, the end-user experience can be optimized regardless of where the employee may be working from.

The introduction of improved drill-down capabilities is also going to help admins better cater to the needs of devices under their management. By using these capabilities, it becomes easier for IT to assess any areas that require improvement as well as prioritize targeted actions for specific people in your organization.

The insights that one can get are also invaluable for comparison purposes. For instance, some employees prefer working remotely and so organizations can take advantage of the detailed information they have to compare the experiences of workers in different kinds of situations.

Microsoft has also talked about a new anomaly detection capability that will combine real-time visibility, AI, and machine learning. This capability is built to simplify the life of IT admins by eliminating the need to consistently monitor custom dashboards or complicated alert systems to assess the performance of endpoints in your care.

What anomaly detection will offer them, instead, is a system that delivers an early warning mechanism to proactively learn about user-impacting issues rather than relying on various other channels such as support for these reports. Anomaly detection helps to streamline the process and minimize any loss of productivity.

This platform will enable the automatic identification of issues such as unexpected machine reboots, app crashes, and hardware and peripheral failures. To help IT admins better analyze the issues at hand, the anomalies are categorized based on severity and come with any relevant information. Once the information is available, IT can carry out a thorough analysis of the anomalies and implement the necessary measures.  

The new enhancements that Microsoft is introducing are going to make the organizations operate a lot more efficiently. By leveraging automations and proactive remediations, potential issues can be resolved before end-users are even aware that something is going on.

IT and support staff can look forward to plenty of new features in the new advanced endpoint management suite. They will now be able to run customized remediation scripts on individual devices on-demand and in real-time. This is something that will be done within their troubleshooting sessions and can thus offer instant fixes or change the device configuration to ensure devices are always performing optimally.       

Wrap Up

Going forward more and more organizations are embracing the hybrid workforce model as potentially the way to go. It’s not surprising as several surveys seem to show that plenty of employees want to have the option of working remotely.

So if organizations are going to adopt this model as well as put in place BYOD policies it’s essential to have endpoint management solutions that make this a viable option. And this is just what Microsoft is aiming to do with the new advanced endpoint management solutions suite. This should give IT admins everything they need for effective endpoint management in one place.

No longer will you need to stitch together products from multiple vendors that will cost you dearly. If this new suite of products delivers as promised then organizations will have an invaluable tool to add to their arsenal.

How to Improve Network Efficiency with Delivery Optimization and Endpoint Configuration Manager

Can Microsoft’s Delivery Optimization and Configuration Manager help solve enterprise network efficiency problems supercharged by the coronavirus pandemic?

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced numerous companies to adopt hybrid working models. This has seen demand for bandwidth capacity increase considerably.

Couple bandwidth-busting traffic connecting from all over with spiraling data costs and network administrators have something to worry about. With no end in sight of this global pandemic, enterprises are now looking for solutions to counter these issues.

As a result, the question that’s now at the fore for many network administrators is how to improve network efficiency as cost-effectively as possible in the New Year. 

COVID-19 and Network Efficiency

Pre-COVID, 17% of the American workforce worked remotely at least 5 days per week. Since the onset of the pandemic, this number has increased to 44%.

With nearly 6% of the population (i.e. 21 million people) having no high-speed connection, enterprises have begun to ask questions such as how best can they keep all their employees connected to their networks?

A range of solutions has been proposed in order to modernize the existing mainframes including the adoption of key technologies such as Microsoft’s Delivery Optimization, Connected Cache, and Configuration Manager.

Let’s examine each of these in greater detail.

What is Delivery Optimization

Delivery Optimization is an inbuilt Windows component. It’s distributed cache technology which means that it is software that is designed to act as an intermediary between an enterprise’s primary storage solutions and remote employees’ computer.

The benefits that Delivery Optimization provides include optimizing cloud download efficiency, minimizing internet bandwidth, and lowering the latency in data access.

This is excellent because you want to keep your internet bandwidth high as this translates to a faster and better experience for employees, particularly those working remotely.

What is Microsoft Connected Cache?

Microsoft Connected Cache is an application that is installed on a Windows Server 2012 or later. It is also a high-speed data storage function that works hand-in-hand with Delivery Optimization to reduce latency and improve efficiency.

Connected Cache acts as a dedicated cache on your enterprise network. This server-based solution caches the managed downloads that Delivery Optimization extracts from the Cloud.

It’s ideal for companies because it serves as a local cache on your on-premise network.

What is Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager

Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager, formerly known as System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) or Systems Management Server (SMS) is a full-feature systems management software designed to manage computers on a larger and streamlined scale.

Configuration Manager works by providing patch management, remote control, operating system deployment, software inventory, software distribution, and network access protection capabilities.

Now that we’re up to speed about what each of these features are and what they do let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of Delivery Optimization.

Delivery Optimization Pros

No Upfront Costs

For enterprises already encumbered by high remote operating costs, this is a welcome reprieve. There are no upfront costs because of the fact that Delivery Optimization exists as part of Windows 10. Therefore, it’s a feature that’s paid for through your regular Windows 10 license.

Leverages Peer-to-Peer Efficiency

Delivery Optimization enables PCs connected to your network to download updates in a more streamlined manner from other peers within the network that have already downloaded the content. In this way, overall bandwidth use is reduced. This also mitigates update-related traffic.

Same Time Send/Reception of Update Files

Gone are the old days of having to wait long periods of time while update files were sent and received in succession. Today, Delivery Optimization facilitates simultaneous sending and receiving of update files. This allows updates to easily and seamlessly take place.

Can Resume Interrupted Downloads

Do you remember the times when downloads would be interrupted because of a network glitch and had to restart? This meant updating PCs across company networks took longer and sometimes pushed up data costs for enterprises. Thankfully, one of the perks of Delivery Optimization is the ability to resume downloads should they be interrupted.

Load Balancing Capabilities

Network administrators can use all the help they can get to distribute workloads in a uniform manner across enterprise servers and employee PCs.

Load balancing is an incredibly important process as it promotes more efficient processing so there is no uneven overload on individual computer nodes. Delivery Optimization presents itself as a tool that expedites this distribution of network traffic.

Windows Native and Cumulative Updates Enabled

As a Windows 10 native feature, Delivery Optimization is Cumulative Updates enabled. This means that on all the PCs equipped with the DO feature, updates – both old and new – can be bundled together into a single update package.

But it’s not all fun and games with Delivery Optimization, here are a couple of disadvantages network administrators have to also contend with.

Delivery Optimization Cons

No Analytics and or Reporting

In Deloitte’s The Analytics Advantage report, analytics are highlighted as important as they enable companies to drive business strategy and facilitate data-driven decisions. Thus, it comes as a big disappointment that Delivery Optimization provides no such insights neither in the form of analytics nor reports.

No Content Control

Being able to control both the content that’s being downloaded and transmitted across networks is imperative for network safety. The fact that Delivery Optimization doesn’t give network administrators such control is frustrating.

No Support for Windows 7/10 Migration

Are you thinking of migrating from Windows 7 to Windows 10? Well, unfortunately, you’ll have no help from Delivery Optimization. It’s not clear as to why the developers over at Microsoft thought it was a good idea to complicate migration in this way.

No Support Packages and App Deployment

That’s not all, but Delivery Optimization also offers no support for Packages and Application with Configuration Manager stand-alone deployments. This greatly hampers the standardization and streamlining process of installing software on employees’ work devices.

No Smart Agent

Delivery Optimization is a tool full of potential. However, it is baffling trying to understand why this supposed network optimizing resource has no smart agent to facilitate Optimal Source Selection.

No SCCM Support

Microsoft’s System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) is integral in the management, deployment, and security of connected enterprise devices as well as apps within the network. However, this Windows product doesn’t receive any support which is a major disadvantage.

Needs Manual Boundary Definition

Boundaries, according to Microsoft, are network-specific locations on enterprise intranets that can contain your PCs or other devices making them easier to manage. When using Delivery Optimization, boundaries aren’t automatic, you have to take time to manually define each boundary you want to be created.

Needs Substantial Boundary Configuration

It’s not enough to manually define the boundaries required either, you also need to make sure that each boundary is properly configured. This additional work can be automated so it’s a wonder why Delivery Optimization doesn’t come with boundary configuration pre-set.

5 Steps to Improving Network Efficiency with Delivery Optimization

Faced with hybrid work models and more employees working remotely, enterprises must be smart about network management. Here are the top 5 ways to improve network efficiency using Delivery Optimization, Configuration Manager, and Microsoft Connected Cache in 2022.

Improve Network Efficiency Step# 1. Remove Performance Bottlenecks

When it comes to network efficiency, congestion in the network is one of the major network problems that most enterprises face. There are many causes of bottlenecks in your network which you will need to remove in order to improve network efficiency. These range from:

a)     Network Overload

Network overload happens when you have numerous hosts within your broadcast domain. Delivery Optimization can aid in this particular case by allowing optimized cloud-managed downloads which reduce network pressure.

b)    Broadcast Storms

Broadcast storms occur when you receive more requests on the network than it can handle.

c)     Low Bandwidth

This occurs when there are too many people connected to the network at once. Delivery Optimization and Connected Cache are peer-to-peer cache technology and significantly help to lower the latency and minimize internet bandwidth.

d)    Not Enough Retransmitting Hubs

Failure to have sufficient retransmitting hubs slows down your network. Retransmitting hubs are necessary in order to make data transmission across the network easier.

e)     Multicasting

While created to help ease congestion, multicasting can in fact cause bottlenecks when two packets transferred simultaneously collide leading to congestion

f)      Old Hardware

Technology is changing so fast and hardware components need to be routinely upgraded otherwise servers, routers, and switches can inadvertently lead to network congestion

g)     Poor Configuration Management

When scripts are one-off or repetitive, they can introduce bugs that cause congestion. Thankfully Delivery Optimization and Configuration Manager can help to get rid of this issue.

h)    Foreign Adapter Broadcasts

When rogue adapters connect to your network, this can increase the network load leading to bottlenecks. A rogue adapter is any device that connects oftentimes illegally onto your network and exists like a parasite until it’s removed. These foreign devices also pose a security threat.

Fortunately, network monitoring tools like Configuration Manager make it possible to handle the life cycle of all the devices and configurations within your network. Such visibility can assist in identifying slow traffic and congestion so you can eliminate it.

And speaking of configurations…

Improve Network Efficiency Step# 2. Reconfigure Network Hardware

It doesn’t matter if it’s an installation of cumulative updates or new hardware, every element joining the company network must be properly configured. Failure to do so can lead to poor network efficiency.

When devices are incorrectly configured, they can’t communicate with their peers effectively. This will lead to routing problems and or increase latency.

Network administrators must ensure that each time a device is configured or reconfigured the network is tested to check network performance. Configuration Manager can be used to see whether the new configuration/reconfiguration is affecting the network negatively.

Improve Network Efficiency Step# 3. Educate Employees on Correct Network Usage

Now with more employees working remotely, it can be difficult to control what people do on the company network. However, it is pivotal to educate them on avoiding applications that are bandwidth-heavy and engaging in activities that consume a lot of data such as downloading movies, music videos, and other large files.

The more bandwidth employees are using in non-work-related activities, the less will be available for work slowing down the entire network. Configuration Manager can be used to curb non-work-related activities if necessary by blocking certain devices. 

Improve Network Efficiency Step# 4. Consider Creating a Guest Network

Have you ever thought of creating a separate guest network for people visiting your company?

You don’t want strangers and outsiders to be able to connect to your enterprise network. This is a major security threat. By creating a disparate guest network they will have their own distinct network to connect to.

In this way, guests’ activities don’t interfere with enterprise bandwidth and security threats are reduced.

Improve Network Efficiency Step# 5. Compress Network Traffic and Data

Every day, colossal amounts of data are transmitted across enterprise networks. More so now, in a world where virtual meetings are the order of the day. These data-heavy online activities necessitate data compression and compression of network traffic.

By compressing enterprise data, companies get more out of their internet packages. And with Windows components like Delivery Optimization, you get to stretch your data out more.

You see, Delivery Optimization extracts content from the cloud, stores it in a temporary cache, where peer PCs/devices can easily access said files in smaller, minute data-friendly sizes without having to download all the large files for each connected device.

Wrap up

2020 and 2021 have disrupted the way business is done. With more companies eager to try out hybrid work models that allow employees to work remotely with some days in the office, network administrators have their work cut out for them in terms of making sure networks are efficient and running at optimal round the clock.

And with so much uncertainty about when things will return to normal, enterprises need to get comfortable with the idea of remote work. Resources such as Delivery Optimization and Configuration Manager will prove to be more and more important in 2022 and beyond.

Relying on such Windows features, organizations can rest easy knowing that there are tools to help with improving network efficiency in a cost-effective manner.

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.

Microsoft Intune: 7 Benefits of Remote Device Controls

It goes without saying that the year 2020, in particular, placed a new emphasis on the importance of remote work. Although a lot of organizations had already been exploring bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies, that need is even greater today.

And so it’s not surprising to see technologies like Microsoft Intune take center stage in these discussions. Management of your remote workforce is a task that can get very complex and put your security at risk. This is why we need to look at what Microsoft Intune can offer and how remote device controls benefit you.

What does Microsoft Intune control?

Intune is a cloud-based service that focuses on mobile device management (MDM) and mobile application management (MAM). It can control:

  • How devices such as laptops, tablets, and mobile phones are used within your organization,
  • The configuration of specific policies to control apps,
  • The use of personal devices for school or work, and enhance security by isolating organization data from personal data.

All these controls and more will improve overall device management and data security by employing strict access controls.

Use and secure multiple devices

One of the major benefits that your employees will get from Microsoft Intune is having a choice of device. They can easily enroll and register devices from a choice of several. And then they can install corporate applications on the chosen devices from the organization’s self-service portal.

The key thing, however, is that your IT team retains control over the devices that have access to the corporate network. Administrators are the people responsible for setting up compliance and enrollment policies. Therefore, your organization can maintain high levels of security and control over all devices, especially those of your remote workforce.

Limit employee access

Sometimes, an employee who needs to check their email may decide to do so from a computer in the hotel lobby, for instance. Scenarios like this can cause huge security issues in your network. To counter this, Microsoft Intune will block any devices that are not under its management from accessing corporate resources.

Remote device controls allow you to keep out any device that does not meet the criteria that administrators have put in place. Conditional access will only be granted to corporate-owned devices, BYOD devices that meet compliance regulations, and devices that follow any other criteria that you set up.

Administer mobile devices

In a world where people are always on the go, your employees may inevitably at some point need to use their mobile devices. And Microsoft Endpoint Manager provides you with several options for administering managed devices. These include:

  • Microsoft Teams: a platform that promotes teamwork by chatting, meeting, and collaborating regardless of location.
  • Quick Assist: a Windows 10 app where two people can share a device over a remote connection.
  • TeamViewer: a third-party program that enhances remote access and support.
  • Remote Control: a feature that helps you to remotely administer devices and provide assistance.

By leveraging these tools, you can have remote device controls that give you a secure platform to administer devices.

Leverage Remote Control

Remote Control is a feature of Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager that you can use to remotely administer, provide assistance, or view any workgroup computer and domain-joined computer. This is something that enables IT professionals to connect and interact with a customer user session.

In addition to the remote assistance that IT can offer, the remote control viewer is also available on all operating systems that are supported for the Configuration Manager console. So instead of having to wait on someone to come in person and attend to an issue, IT can provide the necessary assistance remotely.

Enhance remote management

Microsoft has a habit of teaming up with great partners that can vastly improve the user experience for their clients. To assist IT in the remote administration of Intune devices, you can use a partner program known as TeamViewer.

The latter is a fast and secure remote management tool that will help your IT team to proactively monitor client endpoints, remote systems, and networks. This comprehensive set of remote access and support capabilities can simplify life for both IT and end-users. With its easy-to-use interface, TeamViewer helps members to remain connected from various locations.

Manage device actions

We all face challenges with our various devices from time to time. We can forget our passwords, lose devices, have them stolen, etc. With Microsoft Intune, however, you have less to worry about from these potential scenarios. And this is because your admins can remotely run device actions. From the Intune portal, it is possible to restart devices, reset passcodes, locate lost or stolen devices, and more.

Remove devices

Following on from the above point, once a device is stolen, goes missing, is no longer needed, or is being repurposed, you’ll need to remove it from Intune. Users can also use the Intune Company Portal to issue the necessary command to Intune-managed devices. You can choose to:

  • Wipe the device: this action restores the device to factory settings and can remove all data, apps, and settings.
  • Retire the device: this action removes managed app data (where applicable), settings, and email profiles that were assigned by using Intune. The device is removed from Intune management.

Being able to perform these actions remotely helps to ensure that the wrong people don’t get access to corporate data and resources.

Wrap up

Remote device controls offer businesses a great degree of convenience that they previously did not have. The ability to access and manage system interfaces and files serves to create a better experience for both IT and end-users. No longer do users need to wait endlessly for assistance or IT to constantly worry about access and compliance. By using the remote control tools that Microsoft Intune delivers, organizations can improve the efficiency of their remote networks and still maintain high levels of security.

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.

Microsoft Intune – New Updates in PowerShell Scripts

Microsoft Intune is one of those brilliant products that has helped to optimize IT infrastructure for many businesses. It’s a platform that can transform your business into a modern workplace. And its capabilities are almost without limit. If you want to upload PowerShell scripts in Intune, there is the Microsoft Intune management extension (IME) that you can use for that. This management extension can enhance Mobile Device Management (MDM) resulting in a simpler move to modern management. With all this done, you can then run these scripts on Windows 10 devices. PowerShell scripts are important in a lot of different use cases and this blog is going to take a look at what this technology can do.

What is PowerShell?

PowerShell is a scripting and automation platform belonging to Microsoft. It’s an amazing product that is both a scripting language as well as an interactive command environment that is built on the .NET framework. Released back in 2006, PowerShell was basically a replacement for Command Prompt as the default method for automation of batch processes and creation of customized system management tools. PowerShell can easily automate laborious admin tasks by combining commands known as cmdlets and creating scripts. Available in all Windows OS starting with Windows 2008R2, PowerShell plays a huge role in helping IT professionals configure systems.

Adopting modern management

Modern workplaces now have plenty of user and business-owned platforms allowing users to work from anywhere. With MDM services like Microsoft Intune, you can manage devices that are running Windows 10. The Windows 10 management client will communicate with Intune to run enterprise management tasks. Windows 10 MDM features will be supplemented by IME. With this in place, you can create PowerShell scripts to run on Windows 10 devices e.g, creating a PowerShell script that does advanced device configurations. Having done this, you can upload the script to Intune and assign the script to an Azure AD group. Then run the script. Moreover, you can monitor the run status of the script from start to finish.

Latest updates from Microsoft

In November 2020, Microsoft announced the general availability of PowerShell 7.1 which is built on the foundation of PowerShell 7.0. The goal was to bring about improvements and fixes to the existing technology. Some of these features, updates, and breaking changes include:

  • PSReadLine 2.1.0, including Predictive IntelliSense
  • PowerShell 7.1 has been published to the Microsoft Store
  • Installer packages have been updated for new operating system versions with support for ARM64
  • 4 new experimental features and 2 experimental features promoted to mainstream
  • A number of breaking changes that improve usability

Using scripts in Intune

Before IME can automatically install when a PowerShell script or Win32 app is assigned to the user or device, a few prerequisites should be met:

  • Windows 10 version 1607 or later, Windows 10 version 1709 or later for devices enrolled using bulk auto-enrollment.
  • Devices joined to Azure AD including Hybrid Azure AD-joined which consists of devices that are joined to Azure AD, and are also joined to on-premises Active Directory (AD).
  • Devices enrolled in Intune namely devices enrolled in a group policy, devices that are manually enrolled in Intune, and co-managed devices that use both Configuration Manager and Intune.

Script policy creation

Start by signing in to the Microsoft Endpoint Manager admin center. From there you’ll select Devices then PowerShell scripts then add. Under Basics, you will then have to provide a name and a description for the PowerShell script. Next, you go to Script settings and you’ll have to enter the required properties. After that, you select Scope tags, however, these are optional. And then select Assignments > Select groups to include and an existing list of Azure AD groups will be shown. Lastly, in Review + add, you’ll see a summary of the settings you configured. Select Add to save the script. When you have done so, the policy is deployed to the groups you chose.

Important considerations

If you have scripts that are set to user context with the end-user having admin rights, by default, the PowerShell script runs under the administrator privilege. Also, end-users don’t need to sign in to the device to execute PowerShell scripts. The IME agent checks with Intune once per hour and after every reboot for any new scripts or changes. In the event of a script failing, the agent attempts to retry the script three times for the next 3 consecutive IME agent check-ins. And as far as shared devices are concerned, the PowerShell script runs for every new user that signs in.

PowerShell scripts limitations

Although with Microsoft Intune you can deploy PowerShell scripts to Windows 10 devices, there are a few limitations worth noting. These include: 

  • You won’t get support for running PowerShell scripts on a scheduled basis.
  • Although you can see whether the PowerShell script execution succeeded or failed, the output generated is only available on the endpoint that executes it and is not returned to the MEM Admin Portal.
  • Since executed PowerShell scripts are visible in the Intune Management Extension log file as plain text, credentials can’t be passed securely.
  • The Intune Management Extension agent responsible for executing PowerShell scripts on the endpoints only checks once an hour for new scripts so there is a delay with execution.

Wrap up

Maximizing the time we have is increasingly a massive concern for most organizations. Technological innovation has made it such that we can have more productive time on our hands. PowerShell is a product that is very useful to IT professionals for overall system management. By being able to automate the administration of Windows OS and other applications, organizations can operate more efficiently. The evolution of this platform since its release fourteen years ago has seen it grow from strength to strength. Undoubtedly, this is a product that can easily boost your productivity.