While at Microsoft, I spent time supporting several Windows versions and the management tools available to deploy and manage the desktop. At one point, I was even certified in MS System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) which today is the most widely used tool to manage Windows desktops. Although they provide many options, tools like SCCM are very complex and take a lot of resources to deploy and manage. During my time in the education space at Microsoft, I witnessed how schools started utilizing Chromebooks mainly because of how easy they are to deploy and manage as opposed to Windows machines. Microsoft took notice of this and has taken major steps to make Windows easier to deploy and manage, starting with Windows 8 but mainly with Windows 10. In this post, I’ll take a look at some of these improvements and how they can be utilized.
As mentioned above, up till at least Windows 8, a major desktop management solution such as SCCM was required to deploy and manage Windows desktops. Starting with Windows 8 and continuing with each version, Microsoft started adding 100’s of Mobile Device Management (MDM) APIs to the OS. These APIs allow Windows to be managed by an MDM solution such as MS Intune which is much easier to utilize then a legacy solution like SCCM. Info on the APIs included in each release of W10 can be found here.
The MDM APIs allow Windows to be managed easier but what about deployment? Historically a process known as imaging has been utilized to handle deployments. And while imaging has gotten easier over the years, it is still a major process that requires resources to manage. Last year, Microsoft released a new tool to manage deployments called Windows Autopilot which is cloud based and can be utilized to setup and pre-configure new devices. It can also be used to reset, repurpose, and recover existing devices. Info on Windows Autopilot can be found here.
Now, we have the ability to manage and deploy Windows devices with easy to use cloud based services like Intune and Autopilot but we still have the decades old issue of keeping Windows updated. Microsoft is resolving this issue with a new system they have dubbed Windows as a Service (WaaS). The goal of WaaS is to deploy Windows a single time and then manage it seamlessly without the major upgrades Windows had in the past (XP, Vista, 7, 8, 10). Microsoft now releases an upgrade to Windows every 6 months and that upgrade is delivered via Windows Update. An overview of WaaS can be found here.
I mentioned Chromebooks above; they are very popular in education not only because of how easy they are to deploy and manage but also because they are perfect for testing. Because Chromebooks only run a browser, they are perfect for online HTML testing because a student cannot access other applications during testing. Microsoft has addressed this issue by allowing “Assigned Access” (also known as Kiosk Mode). Assigned Access allows Windows to be configured to only allow access to a single application like a browser which is perfect for testing in education and also allows the device to be fully utilized once the testing is completed. Info on how to utilize Windows Autopilot can be found here.
In summary, while Chromebooks are easy to deploy and manage, Microsoft has made great strides in making Windows much easier to deploy and manage while also offering a productive operating system which allows thousands of applications to be utilized.
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