CBT Nuggets trainer Garth Schulte says Microsoft Systems Center Configuration Manager, or SCCM, is the “ultimate Microsoft product.” Why? Because of how much of your work it’s able to automate.
When it comes to managing your company’s network, think about where you spend most of your time. Are you running around manually installing OS updates? Or installing and handling applications? What about manually optimizing device settings?
You can make these manual tasks easier than ever before with SCCM. Here are seven ways you can automate your admin duties with SCCM on your side.
Updating the update process
Manual updates only work well in limited scenarios. If you have only one centralized location for maybe a dozen employees who never bring their own devices into the office, then manual is fine. Knock it out in an afternoon. But both parts of that scenario have to be true.
Realistically, you’re not doing manual updates because you’re using Windows Server Update Service (WSUS). With WSUS acting as a central hub for Microsoft Update, clients are able to download patches and hotfixes without needing a server connection. Here’s the other great part. You can update installations to a basically unlimited number of machines (even machines users bring from home!) from one dashboard.
SCCM has a ton of great automation tools. WSUS is definitely among the most common — and sanity saving.
Applications get that much easier
Microsoft SCCM gives you control over applications for all the devices connected to your company’s network. That means you’re remotely deploying applications from the comfort of one hub. Not only that, it’s up to you how to deliver the application, and SCCM even optimizes that delivery for you.
Each application you install, configure, or remove may have different needs — and SCCM lets you choose how to do that. From the central system, you can decide if a local installation, a virtual application stream, or remote desktop service is the right call. You can rest assured the interface will work regardless of the OS.
Many OSes, one SCCM
SCCM is especially versatile because it was designed specifically for trans-device, OS-agnostic use. Are your clients primarily accessing your corporate data through PCs? Or is your sales team largely working on mobile devices? Or maybe you’re managing the servers that users run through? You can use SCCM to access all of these devices, regardless of operating systems.
You might think this sounds a lot like Windows Deployment Services – and you wouldn’t be wrong. SCCM is a suite of network control packages, and it captures the usability and versatility of many of them on one platform. Its strength comes from all of these options being built in one product and the control it gives you over client machines.
More flexibility in user device policies
Your next concern might be keeping all your clients in the parts of the network they belong. This is also possible from SCCM’s central hub. SCCM is combined with Microsoft Intune to provide mobile device management (MDM) and mobile application management (MAM) capabilities. This gives you freedom of action for creating ideal user device policies and enforcing them with Network Access Protection.
Maintain device settings from one place
SCCM doesn’t just give you centralized remote control over installations and updates, it lets you group devices, clients, and users. Once you’ve grouped them, you can configure their desired states according to each group and provide oversight individually or en masse.
With this, you can time and schedule updates for different geographical groups, different devices, or different users separately. You can also keep an eye on the settings you’ve established for all of them. If a group drifts out of the desired state, restoring them to their desired state is as easy as installing the update in the first place.
Get data reports on inventory sent directly to you
As you’ve seen, SCCM is already surveying your network and keeping an eye on software and OS versions. This helps you schedule updates, provide oversight for application usage and versions, and monitor device settings and groups. So, it would make sense that it could also provide software license usage statistics for your network and provide it to you in the same place. Guess what? SCCM does that.
SCCM inventories actual usage and provides a catalog of the asset intelligence of your network. This data helps inform you, your team, and leadership about licensing requirements and software purchases. It can shed light on the purported usage of expensive licenses or help to point out a need for more, different licenses.
Understand the network’s health with easy reporting
Network health and maintenance is made easier with many of Microsoft’s products. But you can add SCCM to this list of products, as it both includes and improves on the best of network reporting. SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) is a part of Microsoft SQL Server services, and SCCM sits right on top of it.
SCCM improves on SSRS’ already robust functionality, so you essentially get the same network reports. But information about SCCM infrastructure is also parsed into the reports. If you’re already using reports to monitor the health and use of your network, you can use SCCM to boost your reporting. With SCCM’s other features, you’re able to run reports that look and feel the same, but with significantly more useful information on your infrastructure.
Automate all the things!
By now, you’re probably seeing a trend: SCCM’s strength comes with how many existing functions it brings under its umbrella. The key to SCCM’s strength is in its integration and cooperation with so many Microsoft products that already exist. SCCM doesn’t try to replace the familiar networking, updating, security, and reporting tools. It makes one safe space for them all to play together in.
If you’re tired of running around your building(s) trying to monitor and control your network with multiple machines or products, SCCM just might do the trick.
If you and your company are ready to exert positive control over your network unlike before, knowing the ins and outs of SCCM is key. Taking a bite out of Garth’s latest SCCM course on administering the platform might be a good first step.