Automated Device Configuration Solution Also Creates IT Department Efficiencies
One-by-one. One-at-a-time. That’s how we as an IT support outsource, as well as in-house IT departments have always configured new devices for company employees – or reconfigured devices for re-use by another employee. The result of manual device configuration has been a delay in getting new technology into the hands of employees – thus a delay in the potential productivity it adds.
Additionally, one-at-a-time speaks to an inefficient process, especially when a business is updating equipment across the company. One-by-one also creates opportunities for human error: someone gets improper access to a program or fails to have critical solutions installed on a business laptop or phone.
Recently, Microsoft launched Windows Autopilot (Autopilot), a cloud-based, automated device configuration solution. It promises to provide a faster and improved out-of-box-experience (OOBE) to users, as well as greater efficiency for IT teams.
How Windows Autopilot Works
According to the Microsoft website, in user-driven mode Windows Autopilot can be shipped or distributed directly to the end user with the following simple instructions:
- Unbox the device, plug it in, and turn it on.
- Choose a language, locale and keyboard.
- Connect it to a wireless or wired network with internet access.
- Specify your e-mail address and password for your organization account.
After that, the process is fairly automatic and the user can monitor progress.
Windows Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) is the nexus for configuration specifics and user set-up. The IT team inputs directions for which third-party software and apps are to be installed. They can set up configuration policies by group and function to assure proper access to the right applications for each user.
There is also version control, giving IT the option to push out the software version that functions best and to delay installation of new versions until inevitable bugs are worked out.
A second option is white-glove deployment. In this scenario, IT can provide configuration data directly to its device wholesaler or the manufacturer. Devices are configured for specific end users via individual profiles and arrive at their desks fully ready to go. The only instruction needed is, “Turn on your device, sign in and go to work!”
Beyond, improved OOBE and IT control, using Autopilot can result in a number of other benefits.
Freed from one-at-a-time configuration, IT can focus on broader network issues, mission-critical functions like cyber security security training and user customization.
Given today’s Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement, companies can also use Autopilot to configure a user’s own device with a password protected company account section. We especially think of user devices at this pre-holiday time of year in anticipation of configuring the many new employee devices purchased or received as gifts during this season.
We also see potential value in overall IT inventory management -- keeping track of all hardware and software on our networks at any given moment. The IT inventory process is becoming more and more essential to cyber security efforts as threats mount.
Autopilot also works in reverse, allowing us to use it to wipe devices clean when a company is finished using it. Whether it’s the device of an employee leaving the company, or an older device being donated to a school, we don’t want company software or data going with that device. This is for both cyber security and compliance with software licenses that limit usage to the original purchaser of a license.
Does Windows Autopilot solve all configuration issues? Well, it is technology after all. Our expectation is that there will always be some issue to work around or bug to be overcome regardless of the technology. In our IT world patches and system updates are a daily fact of life.
However, any time we can bring greater efficiency to daily functions, it’s a good thing. We’re looking forward to deploying Windows Autopilot for more of our current clients and bringing it to bear on future accounts.
If you’d like to learn more about Windows Autopilot and how it can simplify your device configuration process, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Soundshore Technology Group’s expert team is here to help. While you’re visiting, please take a look at our full list of services.