Endpoint Analytics: Introduction to solution

In recent years, but especially in the last period, we have witnessed an epochal change in the way people work. To help companies in this evolutionary process, Microsoft has made available the Microsoft Endpoint Analytics service that provides the information needed to measure how the company is working and the quality of the user experience it is providing to its employees.

In this article I’m going to list the main features and functionalities of this new service.

At the beginning of the Covid-19 emergency, people responded by making sure that everyone could work remotely but, with the gradual return of people to the company, we are realizing that some aspects of the working method will be much more persistent and durable.

Microsoft Endpoint Analytics, announced in General Availability before the start of Microsoft Ignite 2020, is an integral part of a much broader service called the Productivity Score that Microsoft provides to improve business productivity.

The advantage that this service brings is to help companies transform the way work is done, making full use of the resources made available based on the following fundamental aspects:

  • Visibility: you need to understand how your company actually works based on the user experience (employee experience), how they share information, how they conduct meetings or how they communicate with each other. In addition to the user experience, a technological experience is also provided that allows information on the status of the devices, the network connection and the operation of the applications used.
  • Insights: allows you to identify opportunities to improve the work experience and check how the measures taken have improved productivity.
  • Actions: make appropriate arrangements to improve the way the work is done.

Endpoint Analytics can help identify policies or hardware problems that can slow down devices and implement remediation activities before generating disruptions; this service is very useful in this moment where the devices are not often connected to the company network and any troubleshooting activities turn out to be complicated.

Microsoft Endpoint Analytics is divided into 3 macro areas:

  • Startup performance: allows you to identify any latencies during the boot or device logon phases;
  • Raccomanded software: provides information and advice on optimizing the software layer installed on the devices;
  • Proactive remediation script: allows you to automatically start remediation activities before any disruptions or blocks occur on the end user side;

The benchmarks displayed are provided by Microsoft as reference parameters that allow you to compare these scores with similar companies based on some factors such as: type of subscription, sector, geographical area, etc…

Obviously, all the data sent are totally anonymous and fulfill all aspects concerning the processing of personal data.

Below is an overview of the flow of data sent by each device:

Figure 1 – Endpoint Analytics data flow

Startup Performance

As we all know, a poorly performing IT infrastructure has a significant impact in terms of decreasing business productivity; for this reason Microsoft has prepared a section dedicated to the speed and efficiency with which devices allow the user to be productive.

The startup performance section allows you to identify any delays in the system startup phase or during the access phase that cause slowdowns in everyday productivity.

The startup score is a score between 0 and 100 and is an average between the Boot Score and the Sign-in Score; these two indicators are calculated as follows:

  • Boot Score: this score is based on the average time elapsed from the start-up phase up to the moment in which the user login credentials are requested. Obviously, the time in which any updates to the operating system are applied is excluded from this score.
  • Sign-in Score: this score is based on the average time elapsed from the time the credentials are entered until the system is ready for use (when the desktop is fully loaded and the CPU appears to have settled below 50% for at least 2 seconds). Also in this case, the times of a possible first logon or accesses after the application of a Feature Update are excluded from the score.
Figure 2 – Startup Performance

In addition to the scores indicated, there is a section dedicated to the actions that you can take to increase your score such as replacing systems with mechanical disks or reviewing policies that slow down the startup process.

The following reports are also available for further details on the status of your systems:

  • Model performance: performance results are provided based on the hardware model;
  • Device performance: the boot and logon times for each registered device are provided;
  • Startup processes: the processes that have the greatest impact on the performance of the devices and that cause delays during the startup or access phases are displayed;

Raccomended Software

The Recommended Software section provides an overview of the state of adoption of software recommended by Microsoft to improve end-user productivity and user-experience; software also includes modern device management such as the adoption of Intune or Windows Autopilot.

Figure 3 – Raccomended Software

Proactive Remediation

As previously reported, in the last period, it is complex to conduct troubleshooting activities on company devices as they are often disconnected from their infrastructure; for this reason Microsoft has introduced Proactive Remediation which consists of a repository of scripts that can be useful in intercepting any anomalies and thus avoiding disruption to the end user.

At this link, a series of Powershell scripts are available that can be loaded into the section and distributed on various devices; it is also possible to distribute custom scripts based on your needs.

To activate this feature, you need to follow some simple steps:

  • Access Microsoft Endpoint Manager Admin Center console.
  • From the left ribbon, select the Reports option.
  • From the Analytics menu, select the Endpoint analytics item.
  • From the Proactive remediations node, select the Create script package item.
  • In the Basic section, assign a name and description to the set of scripts that you want to distribute.
  • In the Settings step, load the script that will perform the detection of the problem using the appropriate button and, subsequently, the script that will have to conduct the remediation activities on the device.
  • In the Assignment section, select the device group on which the script package will run.

Requirements

In order to proceed with the activation of Endpoint Analytics, you must have the following prerequisites:

  • Windows 10 Education, Professional (with some limitations), Enterprise version 1903 or above;
  • The devices must be registered on Microsoft Intune (co-management mode is allowed);
  • The devices must be in Hybrid join or directly Azure AD join;
  • Configuration Manager Current Branch version 2002 or above;
  • Connectivity from devices to Microsoft cloud endpoints;

Costs and Licensing

Devices registered on Endpoint Analytics can be used by users who have associated one of the following licenses:

  • Enterprise Mobility + Security E3 or higher;
  • Microsoft 365 Enterprise E3 or higher;

In order to take advantage of the Proactive remediation functionality, the device must have one of the following licenses:

  • Windows 10 Enterprise E3 or E5 (included in Microsoft 365 F3, E3, or E5);
  • Windows 10 Education A3 or A5 (included in Microsoft 365 A3 or A5);
  • Windows Virtual Desktop Access E3 or E5;

A fundamental aspect is that, in addition to the cost of the licenses / subscriptions mentioned above, there are no additional costs for the use of Endpoint Analytics. The types of data entered are not subject to costs.

Enrollment of devices in Endpoint Analytics

Enrollment devices in Endpoint Analytics does not require the installation of an agent; it is only necessary to configure some settings on the Windows 10 systems that you want to monitor.

Below are the steps necessary to connect the devices through Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager:

  • Open Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager console;
  • Select the Administration section from the ribbon at the bottom, expand the Cloud Services folder and select the Co-Management item;
  • Right click on the CoMgmtSettingsProd resource and select Properties;
  • Within the Configure upload tab, activate the option Enable Endpoint analytics for devices uploaded to Microsoft Endpoint Manager.

The Enable Endpoint Analytics data collection configuration defined on the Client Settings side on the Configuration Manager is active by default. However, the data will not be sent to the Admin Center portal until the aforementioned option is activated.

If you upgrade from version 2002 to version 2006, the values of the Custom Client Settings will be maintained. The default value on CM 2002 for the Enable Endpoint Analytics data collection setting is No; if, on the other hand, an upgrade from version 1910 or earlier is performed, the setting will be set to the new default value (Yes).

References

Here are some useful references to the official Microsoft documentation:

Conclusions

With Endpoint Analytics, companies are able to improve user productivity and reduce IT costs due to slowdowns/problems on various devices; this solution provides detailed information on device configuration, boot/access times and system performance. In addition, Endpoint Analytics provides recommendations for modern endpoint management that allow you to further improve the user experience.

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