System Center 2012 SP1 and Windows Intune 4 review

Microsoft upgrades its cloud management service

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Windows Intune continues to develop as a cloud management service that fits the way many companies now manage remote workers on multiple devices.

We like

You don't have to learn Group Policy, or upset users, to make sure PCs have up-to-date anti-virus or to make apps available to users on most of the devices they'll bring to work – including Windows RT and iPads.

The licensing is sensible; you can manage five devices for each user with a single licence and you can choose whether you pay £3.90 per user per month for just Intune or £7.20 a month to add a Windows 8 Enterprise licence with software assurance.

We dislike

Intune works best when you fit the profile. Some scenarios quickly become complex if you're doing something slightly out of the ordinary (like using Office 365 and wanting to manage Android devices through Intune).

It doesn't have all the features of a more powerful desktop or mobile management system, although not all businesses need one, and if you do you can use it with System Center.

We'd also like to see Microsoft offer an alternative to Silverlight so you could manage a Surface user from a Surface or an iPad user from an iPad.

Overall verdict

System Center 2012 is an enormously powerful and complex management system; as well as adding Windows 8, RT and Server 2012 support, SP1 takes advantage of Intune to cover all the bases. But on its own, Intune is less overwhelming and it fits well with the BYOD scenario.

The Windows RT support in Intune is the perfect example of Microsoft's new user-centric approach; you get very few options to turn off features but you can see the devices, use your existing Active Directory authentication to give them access to company resources, and can provide and recommend apps from the Windows Store.

Even for Windows 8, you can be sure they're running up to date anti-malware software, check whether they have enough disk space and make sure they get the latest version of the software you want them to use. You get the productivity benefits of computers that are secure and properly configured without annoying users or taking up a lot of admin time, and for a reasonable monthly price.