Microsoft Systems Center 2012
Article Series 1.2
This article takes a look at the Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager, or SCCM. First, we will discuss the role and features of the product, and then expand a bit on the various new changes made in this version of the software, and what distinguishes it from earlier versions.
The SCCM is the brains of Microsoft’s System Center 2012 Suite. It maintains consistency in system configuration and management by using templates in the individual build process. The templates are used and crafted by IT Professionals to meet the individual needs of their organization. Whether they be security, business or functional application needs, SCCM does it all. To support this organizational structure, SCCM has additional components called Compliance Settings that maintain consistency across various systems and machines by preventing users from updating using unsupported or unique update parameters – a sort of regulatory safeguard for your system.
Next, let’s talk about the features of SCCM. Microsoft offers with this product hundreds of features that IT administrators can use as a part of their configuration to enhance their management practices. While some are more apparent than others, the general major features are as follows:
Operating System Deployment – All computers are based off of an operating system. However, deploying an operating system to all the computers of a vast organization can be quite a trying task. SCCM makes it simple to do by providing all the necessary tools to quickly and easily deploy and operating system as either an imaged installation or as a scripted method of installation.
Patching and Updating – Once an organization’s operating system of choice has been deployed, the work doesn’t stop. SCCM include the mechanism and tools needed to patch and update current systems, improving on the often used Windows Server Update Services tool by providing administrators with a more active patching capabilities. The active update system also conforms to any organization’s needs, forcing system patches, updates and reboots as dictated by the administrator based on policies set and published by the IT department.
Organizational Tools – In order to efficiently and effectively provide system updates and patches, the management tool needs to know what hardware and software each system in a network is running. That’s where SCCM comes in, providing the tools necessary to track the physical and digital assets of the systems it is managing. In addition, SCCM integrates a report generation tool that includes the ability to create personalized and customized reports on practically anything, ranging from asset inventory reports, to patch and update levels of each machine in the entire enterprise. Finally, SCCM also provides compliance management, ensuring that all systems have the same software, drivers, updates, settings and other important information to easily meet the most stringent compliance rules.
Remote Control – In the unfortunate event that a system needs to be serviced, SCCM has a remote-control process that allows the IT Administrator to remotely log in and control any computer either on or off the network with ease, making diagnosing and troubleshooting problems that much easier.
Software Deployment – Even though the operating system deployment will install the base OS itself on a server or client’s system, there are other things that need installations from time to time. An example is applications that need to be managed. SCCM allows and Administrator to effortlessly install, update, and manage software applications on any system, including unique applications configuration and customization.
HTTP and HTTPS Client Connections – An important part of SCCM is it’s ability to provide the simplest and most efficient form of client connections. In most organization’s networks, to manage a system it had to be directly connected to the network for someone to connect to, or someone had to VPN remotely to the network to apply patches and updates. With SCCM, this antiquated mode of support is gone, with a new HTTP and HTTPS connections system in place. This means that a remote system need only be connected to the internet, and it can be reached and provided support and updates from anywhere in the world, connected to the SCCM server through a secure HTTPS tunnel.
When Microsoft’s SCCM first debuted years ago, it left quite a bit to be desired. The interface was unfriendly and unintuitive, and its functionality was limited at best. However, with the current corporate movement towards cloud-based servers and computing, Microsoft has really upped their game and developed a product that vastly improves on its predecessor. Despite being the newest edition, SCCM 2012’s interface has not changed much from it’s 2007 predecessor – many changes were internal to provide the most efficient and feature rich experience possible. Here’s a quick summary of what has changed in the newest release:
New Setup Options – IT Professionals are now given the option of installing additional site system roles, such as Management Points and Distributions Points, during the setup process.
Addition of a central administration site – The newest editions of SCCM has added a new configuration option of setting up Central Administration Site at the root of the SCCM hierarchy. Now, instead of having the Central Site also being the Primary Site for all SCCM roles, the Administration Site is used for reporting and to facilitate communications between primary sites, thus adding the option of an additional layer for administration.
Behind-the-scenes Changes – SCCM now uses database replication to transfer data and update changes of site database content with other sites. It has also removed the need to configure Network Load Balancing Management Points – management points are now automatically set up and configured when they are added to a site.
Elimination of Native vs. Mixed Mode Sites – Both mode sites are no longer distinguished from the other. This means that potentially an organization could communicate with internal Management Points over HTTP while simultaneously requiring external Management Points to connect over HTTPS, providing more flexibility and security.
Elimination of Site Roles – SCCM no longer has system roles for many points, instead including them in a hierarchy with no need to specify a default Management Point.
Security Improvements – The newest version of SCCM provides various security improvements, including the addition of role-based administration to provide organizations with the ability to manage and administer endpoints across an entire enterprise, and improvements in the use of certificates and the introduction of user and device collections.
Microsoft’s System Center Configuration Manager runs it all. From the first steps of deploying an operating system, to managing, updating, and supporting a vast array of systems in an enterprise organization, SCCM makes it simple and easy to do, and PSS can help. We have the experts available to help you move your organization to the next level of efficiency and productivity.
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