Here’s the 10th post in our series of guest posts by Microsoft Most Valued Professionals (MVPs). Since the early 1990s, Microsoft has recognized technology champions around the world with the MVP Award. MVPs freely share their deep knowledge, real-world experience, and impartial and objective feedback to help people enhance the way they use technology. Of more than 100 million users who participate in technology communities, around 4,000 are recognized as Microsoft MVPs.

This post is by Dave Franklyn, who is a Windows Expert IT Pro MVP. Thanks, Dave!

What could you do with an extra $702? Imagine if this $702 was multiplied by the number of personal computers (PC) you supported? That can add up to a hefty sum. Windows Intune lets you do this!

Windows Intune is Microsoft’s premier PC support cloud service. It is designed to help you manage PC’s, identify and fix problems, update operating system and application software, run anti-malware scans and fixes, install software, provide remote assistance and apply advanced security policies, all on PCs either in an Active Directory domain or a peer-to-peer workgroup. It also ensures each person’s PC has a licensed copy of Windows 7 Enterprise, and later, when it officially releases, Windows 8! That’s right; you get Microsoft’s premier client operating system software as part of the Intune package.

I’ve been using Windows Intune for about a year now. The thing I like about it best is, well, there isn’t one thing; I like them all! But as a long time administrator of Systems Management Server and Systems Center Configuration Manager (SCCM), I’ve always like the ability to remotely administrate the organization’s PCs, add software to them, provide updates, and issue elaborate reports on their configuration and status. If you too have worked with SCCM, then you and Intune will fit together perfectly. If you’ve never used SCCM, or don’t know it well due to its complexity, then Windows Intune will be perfect for you. It’s simple to use, intuitive and you can use it on computers that are not part of a domain. Windows Intune lets you centralize management of your users’ PCs regardless of where they are, as long as they can access the Internet.

One of the biggest challenges in setting up a complete system like SCCM is the overhead and server support necessary to do so. Before a single PC can be managed, an extensive set of servers and roles must be installed and configured. Not so with Windows Intune. Windows Intune is a Cloud Service. The infrastructure is provided by Microsoft, so you can get started immediately. There are no servers to set up, server software or roles to install, and no database servers to configure. This also means there are no expensive server licenses to purchase and maintain. All of this is managed by somebody else at Microsoft giving you more time to concentrate on ensuring your users’ computers are in tip-top shape.

Windows Intune is geared to those businesses without an existing PC management infrastructure that need a simple, cost-effective way to manage and protect their PCs. For those businesses looking to reduce their on-premises footprint or are limited in resources to commit to a deployment, Microsoft hosts and manages the infrastructure —alleviating the burden on your IT staff while still keeping them in control of your IT infrastructure. With 15 years of experience hosting some of the world's largest cloud services, such as Hotmail and Windows Update, Microsoft provides the reliability, availability, and security customers expect for their business: highly-secure, high-availability server architecture, 24x7 support, and a financially-backed 99.9% scheduled uptime SLA.

Windows Intune has three main benefits with fourteen separate features. Let’s look at them.

First of all, Windows Intune helps employees be more secure. It does this in a number of ways:

· Help protect PCs from malware. Help safeguard your PCs from the latest threats with centralized Windows Intune endpoint protection.

· Manage updates. Centrally manage the deployment of Microsoft updates and service packs to all or select PCs from the Windows Intune console—and help employees be more secure.

· Proactively monitor PCs. Easily set up and receive alerts on updates, threats and offline PCs so that you can proactively identify and resolve problems.

· Set security policies. Centrally manage updates, firewall, and malware protection settings across all of your PCs, even on remote machines outside the corporate network.

· Take advantage of Windows 7 Enterprise security. Better protect confidential data with BitLocker and BitLocker To Go in Windows 7 Enterprise.

By ensuring employee security, your users can be confident that their PCs will always be available, their data secure, and their overall computing environment will be safe.

Our next benefit is how Windows Intune enables true mobility. Let’s take a look at these mobility features:

· Install software remotely. Deploy most Microsoft software—like Microsoft Office 2010—and many third-party applications to PCs located nearly anywhere through the cloud.

· Gain better control of remote PCs. Remotely initiate on-demand malware scans, forced restarts or malware definition updates.

· Provide remote assistance. Remotely assist your employees to resolve pressing PC issues—regardless of where you or your users are located.

· Make it easier to be mobile with Windows 7 Enterprise. Give your mobile employees the speed, reliability and responsiveness of Windows 7 Enterprise—along with mobility enhancements like faster, easier network connections and troubleshooter guides.

Our last benefit ensures that Windows Intune boosts productivity. It does this through a wide variety of features:

· Track hardware and software inventory. Get a more efficient way to manage all your hardware and software with Windows Intune, so you can more efficiently manage assets, licenses and compliance.

· Increase insight with reporting. Create and save reports on updates, software, hardware, and licenses—and then import data into Microsoft Excel® for further analysis.

· Manage your licenses. Manage Microsoft Volume License Agreements and other license agreements to track how many licenses you’ve purchased against what you’ve installed.

· Be more productive with Windows 7 Enterprise. Give everyone Windows 7 Enterprise—your employees will get productivity-boosting features like an improved, intuitive interface and advanced search capabilities. And your IT staff will have fewer different PC configurations to manage.

· Standardize on the Windows you want. Would you rather use a previous operating system? Standardize your PC environment on the single Windows platform of your choice—Windows 7 Enterprise, Windows Vista, or even Windows XP. Plus, you get full upgrade rights to future versions of Windows, so you won’t need to worry about purchasing upgrade licenses.

So this brings us back to the $702 in savings I talked about earlier. Where did that come from? Well, according to an IDC study¹, the cost savings of using Windows Intune can be substantial:

· IT costs associated with managing and securing PCs:

o TOTAL $521

· User productivity savings:

o TOTAL $63

· Reducing use of other tools:

o TOTAL $118

· TOTAL: $702 per PC each year.

As I started out by saying on this post, imagine this multiplied by all the PCs in your organization. It could very well be a significant cost savings that will launch your business into a higher profit margin while reaping all the security, mobility and productivity benefits Windows Intune has to offer!

For more information on the benefits of Windows Intune, visit http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/windowsintune/pc-management.aspx

¹IDC, “A First Look at How Windows Intune Can Lower Costs and Raise Productivity”; March 2011