SCCM Review

Essential in maintaining WSUS updates, and allows our team to reimage a computer within an hour


What is our primary use case?

We use System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) to manage workstations and servers in our Windows environment. We are primarily a Windows-only environment, which is what SCCM is designed to manage. It uses WMI underlying technology to ensure that it is compatible with all versions of Windows, from Windows XP to Windows 10. We use it to manage our Windows workstations and Servers. We use SCCM to do many things, like deploy operating systems, deploy applications, configure settings, gather compliance data, enforce software patching and run reports for software installations information.

We do not use it to do Mobile Device Management, though it does have that capability.

It does not manage products outside of Microsoft operating systems, so this product would be for Microsoft-heavy businesses.

How has it helped my organization?

Using SCCM allows our team to reimage a computer within an hour and have it ready to deploy to a user in less than a day. If we get a new workstation model, we can easily add drivers to the server and it will be compatible with our image. We can count on images and workstations having a specific configuration and having it enforced. It allows us to spend less time doing manual work and more time helping users. It also gives us good business intelligence through its reporting features.

What is most valuable?

  • Deployment of a standardized operating system
  • Application deployment to all domain machines
  • Configurations enforcement
  • Compliance data gathering

Ensuring configuration integrity across the domain is essential for maintaining an environment, so SCCM helps our company enforce a uniform configuration. SCCM’s ability to deploy applications to maintain updates and up-to-date software is also essential. Many vendors will not support end users if we are not on the latest software release, so this allows the IT department to control application versions and deployments. SCCM is also essential in maintaining WSUS updates, as those are a challenge to enforce as well.

What needs improvement?

SCCM is a pretty great product already. It has benefited greatly from having been around since its original incarnation as Small Business Server 2003. It would be cool if the SCCM client had some PowerShell cmdlets built into it, as managing clients remotely can be a pain without knowing the WMI calls to run remotely. Also, continued development PowerShell integration with the console (which they have already started developing).

For how long have I used the solution?

Three to five years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Improperly set security settings can lead to console performance issues. SCCM client issues are also inevitable. We recently had to diagnose and fix downloading issues caused by older BranchCache issues with the old client. Otherwise, the client and server are very stable.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

No. SCCM has the ability to be as big or as small as needed by the business. It can be used by businesses ranging from single office companies to massive international corporations.

How is customer service and technical support?

N/A. SCCM is one of the most popular products on the market, so there are LOTS of online help articles for almost any problem you will have. I have never contacted their support because it's expensive, and I am stubborn and like to figure out problems myself.

Which solutions did we use previously?

N/A

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup takes planning and careful consideration. It will also take input from your networking team, as it will take some router configuration to get PXE booting working. The overall design of the SCCM servers needs to be considered as well, as you can't change the big picture structure later. You have to decide if you want only a primary site or if you want a central administration hub with primary sites reporting to it, so it will take planning to setup.

Configuring the groups, collections, boundaries, and server roles takes time as well. It will also take an understanding of the business's needs and will require IT helpdesk input to be most effective.

Configuring applications and settings takes a bit less time once you have the underlying infrastructure setup, but SCCM doesn't really help you discover install commands outside of MSI or APPX packages. To be fair, there's not much they can do, but a technician will need to be aware of that.

What about the implementation team?

I implemented it, so in-house. 

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

Microsoft has affordable pricing for Small to Medium Businesses, and it comes with many SMB packages already. It is worth investing in these, because the returns in automation and environmental integrity pay back the cost.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

N/A

What other advice do I have?

SCCM is a fantastic solution whose use is only limited by your creativity. Since it allows you to use PowerShell or VBScript to configure settings or execute procedures, a technician can make the any system do what they would like, provided they know how to do it programmatically. It can be a bit of a challenge to setup, configure, and maintain, but once you do, it will benefit you greatly. It is a complicated, complex product, so there is a learning curve, but that complexity is intrinsically linked to its ability to be a powerful tool. If setup improperly, SCCM can wipe out entire environments (don’t make an OS a required task sequence to all computers, for instance), but that is difficult to do.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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