Microsoft Intune update addresses remote users

Seeking more medium-sized enterprises as customers, Microsoft has expanded the number of capabilities of its Intune PC subscription management service to address issues of remote management.

The new edition of the service, launching Monday, provides administrators with more information about the computers under their purview, which will help with compliance and license tracking. It also now includes the ability to install software across a large number of machines remotely.

Both features should be beneficial for organizations that "have a percentage of PCs that are hard to manage, because they don't come into the network nearly as often as they need to," said Eric Main, Microsoft director of Intune marketing.

Launched in March, Intune is a Microsoft hosted service that monitors and updates Windows 7-based desktop and laptop computers. The service is primarily designed for small businesses that "don't have a PC management infrastructure today," as well as an augmentation for larger organizations with branch offices and mobile employees. Eventually, Microsoft plans to offer through Intune all the capabilities of its on-premise management software, such as System Center Configuration Manager with Forefront Endpoint Protection.

Of the new services, "the biggest feature has to be software distribution," Main said. Using Intune, an administrator can install any .exe or .msi program remotely. This version of Intune also offers a summary of all the applications running across all the machines in the network. The administrator can also compare this report to the software licenses from Microsoft and third parties. "You can get one consolidated view of what is running in your environment," Main said.

Microsoft has also expanded the reporting for hardware, allowing administrators to see additional details about their machines, such as model numbers, how much disk space is available, the processor speeds, and other details. Such information can be used for tasks such as troubleshooting and determining when to upgrade the hardware, Main said.

One customer that has found the new features potentially beneficial is Save the Children, which recently subscribed to Intune to manage approximately 500 computers across its headquarters operations, said Ken Supersano, who is the senior director of technology at the nonprofit organization. "We have a pretty highly mobile and remote workforce. At any given time, about 40 percent of them are out traveling the world," Supersano said.

Prior to the implementation, which is being completed now, Save the Children used a "mish-mash" of management tools to handle updates and block malware on these machines. "We had no asset management tracking whatsoever, so we had no visibility into what software people were running on their machines," he said.

"Intune looked like it would be a product that would work well for us," Supersano added.

Microsoft has not disclosed how many customers it has for the service. The subscription, which costs US$11 per month per user, includes the rights to the currently supported version of Windows for Intune, which is now Windows 7 Enterprise Edition. Those that already have Windows 7 would pay "around" $5 per user per month, Main said.

Current Intune customers will see the new features show up on their dashboards by the end of the year. New customers will be able to start using the new features as of Monday.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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