Does Your IT Team Need Windows Analytics?

I’ve been working in the IT world for most of my adult life which is give or take a few decades. Having managed IT teams that were challenged with supporting desktop environments, Windows Analytics is a topic that is close to my heart. Not only does it provide useful insights into your desktop environment, but the savvy IT manager can utilise some of these solutions for free.

Written by

Ken Kaban

Ken Kaban

Technical Services Director

on

1 Nov 2017

Introduction: Transitioning to Windows as a Service

In the last 5 to 10 years, changes in IT have exponentially grown to the point where IT departments are struggling to keep up with the rate of change around them.  Managing desktops in a company has always been a challenge since the early Windows days (or should I say DOS days?) not to mention upgrading to a new OS.

 

With Microsoft’s approach to Windows 10, there’s a regular update cadence that is a lot more frequent than previous versions of Windows. Add to this the modern workplace approaches such as where staff work and how they consume apps is starting to challenge IT teams. Fortunately, Windows 10 has built in telemetry capabilities that will help.

What is Windows Analytics?

The word Telemetry is derived from Greek roots: Tele = remote and Metron = measure. It’s this remote measurement of data that is the foundation of Windows Analytics. In a nutshell, telemetry data is gathered from your desktop estate and is analysed in Microsoft Azure to provide you insights and analytics. Microsoft is sharing it’s knowledge gained from other environments to you with upgrading, deploying, servicing and supporting your current and future Windows 10 estate.

 

Now there’s a lot of products out there that provide telemetry data. We’ve been using these products and tools for years. I’ve always had a cautionary approach to these as they can easily complicate your environments with drivers and agents and so on. From an IT management perspective, the simpler we make our environment, the easier it is to manage and support. Well you can’t get simpler that telemetry data being built right into the OS.

When does it make sense to utilise Analytics data?

Telemetry data gathered from your desktop estate is simply that, data! Until you put some intelligence and analysis behind that data, it struggles to become “knowledge”. When we’re working within our organisation, we can only view our internal limited telemetry data and come up with a small set of insights. By sharing your telemetry data with Window Analytics, your IT team will gain telemetry insights referenced across all Microsoft environments.

 

This is where Microsoft Analytics really shines. By centralising the data in The Cloud and by utilising the knowledge gained from other Windows 10 environments, you can really fast track a lot of the time consuming internal analysis work required when upgrading, managing and monitoring your Windows 10 desktops. Within days you can analyse key questions that you’d be asking your IT team: What hardware will work on Windows 10? How many apps do we have deployed across our estate and what are they? What’s the current health of our desktops?

Telemetry data and controlling telemetry data streams

Fortunately, all telemetry data is encrypted using SSL and uses certificate pinning during transfer. Data is uploaded on a schedule that is sensitive to event priority, battery use, and network cost. Real-time events, such as Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection, are always sent immediately. There are also different telemetry categories based on your Windows 10 license version that you can configure and manage. The levels are cumulative and are illustrated in the following diagram:

 

 

It’s straightforward enough to search on Microsoft’s website and understand what each of these levels are. It’s even more re-assuring to know that we can control these settings using regular IT admin tools such as GPOs or System Centre.

 

Where will Windows Analytics help?

I think Windows Analytics should be used by all IT teams, no matter how big or small. Sometimes teams are so busy firefighting that they don’t have time to see the bigger picture. It takes good management to see that a couple of days of effort could yield in weeks or months of time savings.

So now we get to the real crux of the matter: Where does it make sense to use Windows Analytics?

Windows Analytics has 3 different solutions that each provide a different benefit. Let’s have a quick look at each solution:

Upgrade Readiness: This is where Windows Analytics really saves time and effort. Within a few days, your team can understand what hardware, software and drivers are going to work in Windows 10 before you even begin migrating. With a best practices workflow built into the solution, you should be able to reduce your migration efforts considerably.

   

Update Compliance: So once you’re in a Windows 10 environment, you’ll want to monitor your Update Compliance. This will help in ensuring that devices are secure, up-to-date and protected.  Your team will be able to monitor the status of any threats available from your telemetry data and respond accordingly.

 

Device Health: Similar to Update Compliance, Device Health gives you insights into your device heath that have more of an end-user impact. Pro-actively remediating end-user issues is can help in reducing support costs and improving IT operational efficiency.

 

Of course, these are the common scenarios that you can leverage but there are quite a few more if you’re creative in your thinking. If you’re capturing hardware information, budgeting for hardware refreshes just got easier. The even more creative IT teams could extend the information out to help with application licensing and portfolio rationalisation.

How to get started with Windows Analytics Upgrade Readiness

Windows Analytics is a part of the Microsoft Operations Management Suite (OMS). If your team don’t have an existing OMS environment, they can sign up for a free trial using Microsoft Online credentials (such as live.com).

Once you’ve signed into your OMS Workspace, you simply need to add the three Windows Analytics Solutions from the “Solutions Gallery”. Look out for the dark purple icons with Windows Analytics across the top.

 

Once you’ve added a solution to your workspace, you’ll need to configure it. You can do this by opening each solution and going into “solution settings”. From here, you’ll be directed to relevant pages that help you understand the minimum tasks that you need to complete the setup and establish communication to Azure.

Summary and Next Steps

Windows Analytics can provide IT departments with insights that the team can really utilise. From preparing for Windows 10 upgrades to ensuring Windows 10 desktops are compliant and effective, there are a lot of tools in this goodie bag.

 

Now remember that all of these capabilities are utilising Azure and built in Windows telemetry information. This means no hardware onsite, no complexity for IT and simpler management of your devices. Add to that that you can utilise them on the free 7 day tier of OMS, and you have a good enough reasons to get started! I also hosted a webinar talking around this topic.

 

The Windows Analytics home page

Understand and configure telemetry data for your organisation

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