Very powerful and hard to work with
August 02, 2019
Very powerful and hard to work with
Score 7 out of 10
Overall Satisfaction with Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager
System Center Configuration Manager was used as a solution for OS deployment, remote troubleshooting, and patch management for Windows PCs in our organization. The plan was to use it to manage close to a thousand PCs in total. As the product required an excessive number of man-hours to implement and support, its use was dropped after a year, and an alternative selected. The main goal was to improve OS deployment and replace WDS.
- Remote Control works well and does not require a lot of configuration. It must be understood that the Remote Control feature of System Center Configuration Manager is different from RDP, as it does not establish a separate user session and allows a tech to troubleshoot issues in a way visible to a user.
- It is easy to add client devices for management, and multiple options are available (push, Active Directory, etc.)
- It's modular and extensible. For example, a third-party company, Parallels, makes a System Center Configuration Manager plugin to manage Macs from the same console.
- Installation is very laborious and complicated. The number of things to manually configure during the installation is incredible.
- OS deployment is hard to configure and troubleshoot. The Microsoft article on deploying Windows 10 via System Center Configuration Manager in a test environment takes 44 minutes to read (Microsoft's estimate, not mine -- check here: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/deployment/windows-10-poc-sc-config-mgr). If something goes wrong, there are multiple log locations to check on both the server and client, making troubleshooting difficult.
- The management console looks old, and its performance isn't great. It is often hard to find settings in the console, and it refreshes slowly. The old name for System Center Configuration Manager, SMS, comes to mind often. "Slowly Moving Software."
- As an educational institution, we got System Center licenses bundled with other software at essentially no cost. It was a great advantage of System Center Configuration Manager for us.
- The included remote control feature is useful -- many deployment solutions do not have that included.
- Zero-touch deployment will save a lot of work hours for a large organization when it works properly, as there is no need for manual intervention for OS deployment.
The console is not intuitive and does not work well often. Due to the complexity of the product, documentation can be confusing. When properly configured, routine tasks like OS deployment, remote control, and software deployment are easy to do. Troubleshooting of System Center Configuration Manager issues is hard, as there are various logs, and their content can be hard to understand.
Our organization does not pay for Microsoft support, so it was not used in regards to System Center Configuration Manager. Microsoft documentation for the product is good, but there is a lot to read, as it has a large number of features. Organizations with access to Microsoft support will have a better experience with the product than I did.
We use AD GPO to deploy software, WDS for OS deployment, and Spiceworks for inventory. This solution has significantly reduced feature set compared to SCCM but much easier to troubleshoot and configure. Currently, we are looking into ManageEngine Desktop Central and SmartDeploy for OS and software deployment.
I know many people have a great experience with System Center Configuration Manager, but it is not suitable for organizations that cannot commit a significant amount of time to configuration and deployment. For example, my organization uses Jamf Pro for Mac management. It took me a couple of days to configure every setting needed for an adequate Mac deployment. System Center Configuration Manager took way longer. Most MSPs in our area do not want to deal with it due to its complexity either. A big organization will find the product more suitable, as configuration tasks are the same whether an organization has 1000 or 10,000 computers, the installation will be more useful with scale. In my case, trying to deploy System Center Configuration Manager as a personal project while doing other tasks was not a success.