When Microsoft launched Windows Intune, its cloud-based desktop management service for small businesses, it received a fairly muted reception. This was mostly because it lacked features seen by many as essential to such a product — not least, software distribution. So just a few months later, there's a new and updated version which (no prizes for guessing) sees software distribution added, along with a number of other much-needed new features and enhancements.
Microsoft has opted to use its Azure storage service to support the new software distribution option within Intune, with 2GB of space provided free to customers signing up to the 30-day trial. Those who then opt to buy it will get a — so-far unspecified — permanent allocation plus the option of renting more to hold their packages and updates ready for deployment over the internet.
It’s possible to distribute both Microsoft and third-party applications using the new Intune, with a wizard to help create distribution packages, plus tools to direct and monitor the distribution process. The new version also sees licence management extended beyond Microsoft volume licensing agreements, to include retail and OEM licences and licences for third-party applications.
Elsewhere, it's now possible to perform tasks on managed PCs, although to start with you're limited purely to running malware scans, updating malware definitions and rebooting remote systems.
New hardware filters have also been added to enhance inventory reporting, and it's possible to get the software to generate alerts when client computers exceed user-defined thresholds — when disk space starts to be used up, for example.
Another welcome change is the option to install the Intune client agent offline and enrol it into the hosted service later, when the PC connects to the internet. Read-only administrators can also be configured and there a number of minor changes to the interface to improve usability.
A much more complete and rounded service following this update, Windows Intune is available for £7.25 (ex. VAT) per managed PC per month, with upgrade rights to Windows 7 Enterprise on those PCs included as part of the deal.
And because it's a cloud-based service, if you're and existing customer you don't have to do anything to benefit — in fact, you've probably got the new version already.