Selling Windows Intune to SMBs for mobile device management

For VARs wondering if selling Windows Intune makes sense, find out which customers benefit the most from Microsoft's cloud systems management tool.

Value-added resellers can capitalize on selling Windows Intune to small and medium-sized businesses that can use Microsoft's low-end cloud-based systems management service in lieu of more expensive options.

Windows Intune is not as feature rich as System Center Operations Manager or most third-party management suites, so it will not be a good fit for all of your customers. But there are two customer profiles that will benefit from Windows Intune.

How Windows Intune serves SMB customers

You may find that Windows Intune is a good fit for some of your smaller customers. Because small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) often lack the resources to deploy a comprehensive management solution such as Microsoft System Center products, they may still be manually performing critical management tasks.

Selling Windows Intune to these customers allows them to centralize software distribution, patch management and malware protection, while delivering other benefits, such as remote assistance to users.

Windows Intune has a simple interface, and the software is easier to understand than typical system-management products. Another advantage to selling Windows Intune is that it is a cloud-based service. Customers benefit because there are no up-front licensing costs and no capital cost for a server. Customers simply pay a monthly fee for service.

Value-added resellers (VARs) often regard cloud services as lost revenue, but there are a couple of ways that VARs can make money by selling Windows Intune. First, as a Microsoft Authorized Reseller, VARs are entitled to a portion of the subscription fees. Building a service package for Windows Intune customers can garner VARs additional revenue opportunities.

Windows Intune's role in BYOD systems management

The other area in which it might make sense for VARs to market Windows Intune to their customers is in situations in which customers are allowing (or considering) bring your own device (BYOD). One of the big problems with BYOD is that end-user devices can be very difficult to manage. If your customers plan to allow users to connect to their networks using personal devices, then they need to ensure that the devices are securely connected to the network.

Mobile device security can be challenging because much of the management software available is designed for PCs and does not work very well for securing mobile devices. For example, System Center Operations Manager 2012 requires that mobile devices be joined to a domain. Devices such as iPads, Android tablets and even Windows Phone 7 are incapable of being domain joined. So organizations choosing to participate in BYOD must find a way to manage these types of devices outside of System Center.

Exchange Server is one option for mobile device management, and it allows various security policies to be applied to mobile devices through the use of ActiveSync mailbox policies. The security policies that Windows Intune can enforce on Mobile devices are nearly identical to those that Exchange Server 2010 offers. But Windows Intune can do one thing that Exchange Server can't. It supports the side-loading of applications onto mobile devices. Side loading refers to application deployment outside of the device's app store. This is an important capability for organizations that run custom mobile apps or that want to provision users with a set of specific mobile apps.

About the author
Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a six-time recipient of Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional award for his work with Exchange Server, Windows Server, Internet Information Services, file systems and storage. Posey has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once responsible for the Department of Information Management at Fort Knox. As a freelance technical writer, he has written for TechTarget, Microsoft, MSD2D, Relevant Technologies and other technology companies. You can visit his website at www.brienposey.com.

This was first published in September 2012

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