Microsoft Intune or out of tune? A new end-point management offering for Windows PCs

12 Apr 2011

Quocirca has written a few times about end point management and security recently. There has also been comment on the upgrade of Microsoft’s Forefront security range and its end point management tools. A new Microsoft on-demand service warrants further comment in both areas.
Microsoft has released a “simple web-based administration console” for PCs called Intune. It is based on the Windows Update Manager code base and includes elements of Systems Center Configuration Manager (SCCM, Microsoft’s on-premise tool for PC management) and Forefront End Point Protection (FEP). The product has the flexibility to support devices both within and beyond the firewall.
Intune takes best practices from SCCM and requires System Centre agents on the target PCs. However, it does not provide all the functionality of SCCM; it cannot be used for operating system/application software distribution and power management and does not have full group policy support (these features may be added in time). Remote assistance, PC monitoring, alerts, updates, inventory management, security settings and malware protection are all supported.
When it comes to anti-malware you do not have to use FEP, but Microsoft recommend that you should not run two anti-virus engines at the same time. So you must either replace your existing product with FEP (which is included in the Intune subscription) or just keep your old one. A subscription also includes an upgrade to Windows 7 Enterprise for each PC covered, and that includes BitLocker full disk encryption, although Intune does not provide the capability to manage the enforcement of encryption.
If you have SCCM already, Microsoft advises to keep going with that. It sees Intune as a fast entry point for organisations that have no PC management place at present.  The quoted US price is $11 per PC per month (around £7). So when compared to existing costs for buying and maintaining end point protection and encryption, the annual cost is approaching £90 per PC per year.
The caveat is of course that Intune works only for Microsoft PCs (running XP, Vista or Windows 7); it does not even cover Windows mobile devices. As businesses have to increasingly manage a diverse range of smartphones, PCs and tablets running a range of operating systems other than Windows, many will see this as limitation.
Microsoft muttered about support for iPhones and iPads in the SCCM roadmap, so perhaps this will end up in Intune at some point in future. However, those want a comprehensive management tool that covers all end points both inside and outside the data centre that is available on-demand should look to other vendors such as Kaseya and NTR Global.
The freely available Quocirca reports review the use of end-point management:
The Total MSP – using managed service providers for end-point management
Remote IT management – the value of on-demand end-point management services

Bob Tarzey, Analyst and Director, Quocirca

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