Microsoft’s Intune product is not something that I have blogged much about, in fact this is the first blog I’ve ever written on the product. But that’s all about to change….
Microsoft Intune was originally designed as an online “Lite” version of System Center Configuration Manager for those smaller organisations with a very mobile workforce. It was very slow to gain much momentum as many organizations already has System Center Configuration Manager and could not see the value for the product.
Over the years Microsoft have slowly but surely moved focus of the Intune product to a more Mobile Device Management focus and even started to integrate in a “Hybrid” method in to System Center Configuration Manager. (More on this in later blog posts)
This new troubleshooting portal provides analysts with a range of critical data exactly when and where they need it to resolve issues for end users who may be experiencing issues with their Intune connected mobile devices.
As the Microsoft Intune Team says in their announcement blog post:
Having the right data at your fingertips is a must when you’re troubleshooting issues with your end users. Intune’s new Troubleshooting Portal provides a “single pane of glass” for reviewing device status, assignments and policies affecting a user, eliminating the need to click into multiple workloads to diagnose issues.
…..this is a big win for IT Pros and Support or Helpdesk workers who want resolve end user issues faster with less effort.
The user details that an analyst can view for each user are:
- User status
- Group assignment
- Application and policy assignments
- App protection status
- Compliance issues
- Device status
- Device details (Such as OS type and version)
But I don’t want to give my Helpdesk staff access to my Intune environment!
No worries there.
Intune’s inbuilt Role Based Access Control (RBAC) solution allows for admins to grant access to support and helpdesk staff to just the items that they require and nothing else. The inbuilt Helpdesk Operator role grants members access to end users assignments, policies devices apps etc. and even see if their devices are registered in AD and in the future you will even be able to see applications installation status and enrollment status of devices.
Getting access to this level of information on the helpdesk at the time of a users call to the service desk is very powerful to assist staff in resolving any issues at first contact and getting your end users back to fully functional work as soon as possible.
If only Configuration Manager had a nice friendly website that we could give easy RBAC access to for Helpdesk and Support staff to get basic troubleshooting information without them needing the console or giving away the keys to the ConfigMgr kingdom…… Oh wait…. I’m sure I’ve blogged about that before….. 🙂
If you are like me and have spent many years (even decades) looking at the Configuration Manager console you probably can’t think that there could possibly be any other way to do you work on a day-to-day basis. Navigating the Configuration Manager console becomes second nature after a while and we don’t really think about it.
However, what if there was a new way to look at the Configuration Manager console that was easy to teach new staff members to learn and use, gives staff members access to just the features they need (and no more) and is available everywhere we need it without needing an app installed?
Well now there is!
Cireson, Your System Center Experts, have announced the Cireson Portal for Configuration Manager. It is a web-based experience to help manage and standardise daily tasks outside of the native Configuration Manager Console. This new approach to the ConfigMgr console empowers everyone on your IT team with anywhere, anytime access to inventory data, collection membership, software management and deployment, OSD management and deployment, and more.
Full Disclaimer: At this point I want to make the disclaimer that I work for Cireson. I also want to point out that I have worked with ConfigMgr since SMS v2.0 and that I will try my utmost to not let my involvement with Cireson colour my judgement of this tool and what it means for the SysAdmin’s daily workload.
With that out of the way….. This product is the best thing since ADR’s!
Any admin who uses ConfigMgr on a daily basis knows what a HUGE relief it was when we got ADR’s in the 2012 release of ConfigMgr. It saved us hours of packaging and testing and mucking about. In my opinion, the Cireson Portal for Configuration Manager is the most important innovation to the administration of ConfigMgr since ADR’s were introduced.
Why am I so confident about this portal and it’s claims? The answer is that it is build is being directed and overseen by Wally Mead himself. For anyone involved ins the Configuration Manager world for more than 5 minutes knows who Wally is, but in case you don’t Wally was involved with the ConfigMgr product within Microsoft for 22 years and literally wrote the book on all things ConfigMgr. So when I say this solution has pedigree, you know I mean it.
Enough talk, let’s take a look at some of the ways the Configuration Manager Portal changes the way people will use and interact with ConfigMgr on a daily basis.
If you are a ConfigMgr admin in Australia, no doubt you know, and often tell stories at dinner parties, about the incident where “SCCM Task Sequence blew up Australia’s CommBank” also reported as “Disastrous patch cripples CommBank“. Many ConfigMgr admins shudder at the thought of how easy this mistake was and often bring this up when explaining to their managers why they don’t want to give Service Desk or other IT teams access to the ConfigMgr console.
The Configuration Manager Portal is designed to give Configuration Manager Admins what they have always dreamed of… a way to easily give others access to the parts of Configuration Manager they require and nothing else! With the Configuration Manager Portal, Admins can easily configure targeted access for different Analyst Groups using Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) so that these Analysts can add Configuration Manager to their tool belt and maximise the value they bring to the business without the keys to the kingdom…. and potential disaster.
At the core of why the Configuration Manager Portal is it is a localized web-based portal and therefore there is no Configuration Manager Console deployment that needs to be created and maintained. Also it is a simplified interface that makes it easy to use and intuitive, thereby reducing the time that is required to spend on training Analysts.
Don’t get me wrong, the Configuration Manager Portal is not designed to replace the OOB Configuration Manager Console for actual Configuration Manager Administrators. The traditional console has everything and admin needs to not only operate day-to-day, but also upgrade, plan, expand, migrate etc. But for non-admins, or non-admin tasks, the Configuration Manager Portal is perfect to get in and get the job done.
What about a specific example?
For many organisations, the Service Desk (Level 1 Support) is a volume business. Time management and efficiency are the keys to success for incident and request triage, first-call resolution, and escalation. Correctly gathering and analysing required information about an incident or service request in an expedient manner allows for a faster resolutions or fulfillment of service.
Leveraging the Cireson Portal for Service Manager with the Configuration Manager Portal gives Service Desk Analysts the tools they need to gather and analyze the info they need to do their jobs more efficiently. Upon receiving an Incident Request, they can quickly use the Configuration Manager Portal to gain information on affected resources such as:
- User Device Affinity lookup and edit
- Current Inventory
- Software Deployment Status
The Service Desk Analyst can also use the Configuration Manager Portal to initiate a Software Deployment on demand if you as the admin allows it via RBAC right.
What about Desktop Support or the Server team?
Desktop Support staff spend much of their time away from their assigned workstations resolving issues and providing services at the end user’s location. Having to access a locally installed Configuration Manager Console can add unnecessary time when needing to get the end user back to being productive. Server Support teams put a premium on time, especially when dealing with server outages. Therefore, Server Analysts need quick access to information and remediation tools for servers either from their desk or in the Data Center, and sometimes from remote locations.
Having a web based ConfigMgr console allows Desktop and Server teams to:
- Get software update status and apply patches when necessary
- Deploy or upgrade software, if required
- Deploy a new OS Image to a computer or server
- Migrate a computer to an new OS (such as Windows 10 + Office 365) using MDT
- View reporting for all of the above
Finally, Managers can easily report and track the overall health of the organisation using simple to access dashboards to get a high level view of the entire IT operation.
Watch a sneak peek of the solution featuring Cireson Co-Founder, Shaun Ericson, and Microsoft MVP, Wally Mead. View now.