Weekly quickTIP

A Crystal Ball into Your Network

Reacting to problems is not the way to manage a network. Systems Center Essentials can help you anticipate issues so they don't spiral out of control.

Proactively managing a Windows network is more than answering calls from users when problems occur -- that's called firefighting. Proactive management is about gaining a situational awareness of what's going on in your environment and acting before problems occur. At the same time, it's also being able to automatically update and install patches, software and configurations to machines without having to touch them one by one.

This week's quickTIP is the first of four on System Center Essentials, humorously pronounced "ski" by the Microsoft blue badges. (I wonder if any of them are snowboarders...) This tool, designed with the smallest networks in mind, gives the little guys the same management power as what's in the largest Windows environments. Need to install Acrobat anywhere? Package it and automatically install it everyone without leaving your chair. Need to watch for disk drives running out of space? Configure an alert to send you an e-mail before it happens.

Why do I want to talk about this particular software? Because with it alone, you, the small-environment administrator, can get some of your life back.

SCE is designed as a combination of the software update and management components of Microsoft’s System Center Configuration Manager (formerly SMS), plus the management capabilities that come with Systems Center Operations Manager (formerly MOM). Layered over the top is a skin that makes easier some of the traditional configuration tasks associated with these enterprise-scaled tools, while at the same time allowing for the rich configurations they natively provide.

For you, the little network admin, what do you get for your $2,929 retail price? You get the ability to manage and monitor up to 10 servers and 50 workstations. You gain the capability to push software and configuration updates using the same WSUS mechanisms that now push your patches only. You also get a tool that centralizes all your event log information into a single location that can be configured to page your mobile device when problems occur -- or rather, before they do.

If you haven't figured this out already, I'm a big fan of Microsofts newest SMB management platform. Over the next three columns, I'll tell you some of the specifics why.

Stay tune for next time, when I tell you about SCE's discovery and inventory capabilities that fill reports on your servers' and workstations' composition.

About the Author

Greg Shields is Author Evangelist with PluralSight, and is a globally-recognized expert on systems management, virtualization, and cloud technologies. A multiple-year recipient of the Microsoft MVP, VMware vExpert, and Citrix CTP awards, Greg is a contributing editor for Redmond Magazine and Virtualization Review Magazine, and is a frequent speaker at IT conferences worldwide. Reach him on Twitter at @concentratedgreg.

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