In this first part we’ll look at what Windows Intune is and what it’s not and how it fits in with other solutions in the Microsoft portfolio.

Paul Schnackenburg

Paul Schnackenburg works part time as an IT teacher as well as running his own business in Australia. He has MCSE, MCT, MCTS and MCITP certifications. Follow his blog TellITasITis.

In this four part article we’ll look at Microsoft’s first foray into cloud based systems management and what Windows Intune is capable of providing.

Windows Intune Main Console

The Windows Intune Console is easy to navigate

Most IT services and products today seem to have the word “cloud” added to their name, deservedly or not. Some companies seem to push cloud computing as the only clear way forward whereas others tout the security and control aspects of what’s called (sometimes derogatory) “legacy”, or “on-premise” computing.

The truth as always lies somewhere in-between as IT veterans know well. Most businesses, large or small will use both computing models with various hybrids and mixes for a long time to come.

Windows Intune Defined ^

But there’s no doubt that cloud computing is now another option when architecting IT solutions. And there’s one company that ably straddles both worlds; Microsoft. With extremely successful and mature on-premise solutions as well as emerging cloud services it’s the only vendor that offers platforms in both worlds. It’s therefore interesting to see new Microsoft cloud solutions brought to market which is some ways are competitors of its existing products. Windows Intune is one such product.

Windows Intune is a cloud based client computer management service targeted at both large and small businesses. There’s a client agent for each managed PC, antimalware (Windows Intune Endpoint Protection) built on Microsoft Forefront technology and a Windows 7 Enterprise upgrade subscription, all of which is managed from a web based management console.

The health of each managed PC is communicated centrally and alerts are raised when that health is threatened, there’s built in Remote Assistance capabilities and simple client policy management. Add to this Windows update patch control, client software and hardware inventorying and built in comprehensive reports. Windows Intune isn’t built on Active Directory and doesn’t integrate with it but will respect existing Group Policy settings.

Windows Intune Console ^

Let’s dive a little deeper into Intune, if you feel like tagging along there’s a 30 day free trial available here which lets you manage up to 25 PCs, although it doesn’t include the Windows 7 Enterprise subscription. Accessing the service is based on Windows Live IDs and if you’re a partner that helps other businesses manage their IT infrastructure there’s a multi account console that lets you select which company to work with. Once logged in to a particular company you’ll be greeted with a friendly Silverlight based console that’s divided into panels a ’la Outlook, these are called Workspaces in Windows Intune. To anyone familiar with Microsoft System Center products the layout is very familiar but it’s so easy to find your way around that even a part time IT person in a small business should be able to handle it.

Windows Intune Client SW Download

All that is needed to start to manage PCs is a quick agent installation

The available workspaces are System Overview, Computers, Updates, Endpoint Protection, Alerts, Software, Licenses, Policy, Reports and Administration.

In the next part of this article we’ll dive into the Intune console and discover what the different parts are capable of.

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