Microsoft Endpoint Manager Review and Alternatives

The modern workplace has transformed. Now it’s anywhere and everywhere. Employees want the freedom to use the endpoint, application, or network of their choosing; and enterprises want to secure those endpoints to protect their proprietary data.

Microsoft Endpoint Manager (MEM) is the cutting-edge platform that gives organizations complete control over the “everywhere workplace”.

Microsoft Endpoint Manager (MEM) is a Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) tool that enables businesses to securely provision flexible workspaces for their employees, whether on desktops or mobile devices, on-premises or in the cloud, in the office or out in the field. A UEM is a class of software tools that provide a single console and capabilities for securing and managing all endpoints including servers, desktops, tablets, mobile devices, embedded devices, virtual machines, IoT, and wearables. UEM is an evolution of, and replacement for, mobile device management (MDM) and enterprise mobility management (EMM), and client management tools. Microsoft was named a leader in the 2021 Gartner Magic Quadrant for UEM.

MEM is highly scalable and supports deployments in both on-premises and cloud platforms via the Microsoft Azure cloud. It integrates seamlessly with other Microsoft products, including Microsoft 365, making it a particularly strong UEM solution for enterprises using the latest 365 cloud features. However, it doesn’t integrate easily with third-party identity and asset management solutions.

Key features and capabilities include:

  • Keep well-established processes for deploying, managing, and updating endpoints in your organization with minimal infrastructure and process overhead.
  • Microsoft Defender for Endpoint enables automated remediation of malware infections and vulnerabilities
  • Manage all personal or corporate-owned endpoints with zero-touch provisioning both on-premises and remote.
  • Securely access corporate resources through continuous assessment and intent-based policies powered by Azure Active Directory
  • Onboard, manage, and report on encryption, antivirus, firewall, and other security technologies to protect work data
  • Proactively improve the user experience and track your progress against the organization and industry baselines with the help of Integrated Endpoint Analytics

Endpoint Manager is a solution platform that unifies several Microsoft technologies and helps organizations build a secure and resilient flexible modern workplace and modern management by supporting Bring-Your-Own-Devices (BYOD) policy, zero-trust security controls, and more to protect data, secure access, and manage risk in the cloud and on-premises networks. It’s not a new license. The services are licensed according to their license terms. In most cases, Microsoft 365 may be the best option, as it gives you Endpoint Manager and Office suite. The technologies and services that make up Endpoint Manager include the following:

Microsoft Defender for Endpoint

Microsoft Defender for Endpoint
Figure 1.0 | Microsoft Defender for Endpoint architecture | Image Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft Defender for Endpoint is an enterprise endpoint security platform designed to help enterprise networks prevent, detect, investigate, and respond to advanced threats. The product is built into Windows 10 and Microsoft’s cloud service; and offers endpoint protection, endpoint detection and response (EDR), vulnerability management, and more for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS devices.

Key features and capabilities include:

  • Attack surface reduction: This capability was designed to provide the first line of defense in the security chain by applying relevant security patches and protecting the integrity of configuration settings.
  • Threat and Vulnerability Management: A built-in capability that uses a risk-based approach to discover, prioritize, and remediate endpoint vulnerabilities and misconfigurations.
  • Next-generation protection: A modern way of containing emerging and zero-day threats using AI and deep learning to further reinforce the security perimeter of your network.
  • Endpoint detection and response: Endpoint detection and response capabilities are designed to automatically detect, investigate, and respond to advanced threats that may have made it past other security layers.
  • Microsoft Secure Score for Devices: The feature was designed to dynamically assess the security state of your enterprise network, identify unprotected systems, and take recommended actions to improve the overall security of your organization.
  • Microsoft Threat Experts: Provides proactive threat hunting, prioritization, and additional context and insights that further empower security teams to identify and respond to threats more effectively.

Microsoft Intune

Microsoft Intune
Figure 2.0 | Relationship between Endpoint Manager and Intune | Image Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft Intune is a Microsoft cloud-based management tool for mobile devices that aims to provide unified endpoint management of both corporate and BYOD equipment in a way that protects corporate data. Intune enables IT admins to configure specific policies and control how their organization’s devices and applications are used, including mobile phones, tablets, and laptops. One of the biggest benefits of Intune is that you can have a productive mobile workforce without worrying about the security of your organization’s data. Intune allows employees to use their devices to carry out their day-to-day activities while making sure your organization’s data stays protected and isolated from personal data.

Intune does not require on-premises infrastructure for clients, and management is accomplished using a web-based portal. Supported platforms include Android, iOS, macOS, and Windows Operating Systems.

With Intune, IT admins can:

  • Set rules and configure settings on personal and organization-owned devices to access data and networks.
  • Deploy apps to mobile devices from any location to several devices concurrently.
  • Choose to be 100% cloud with Intune, or be co-managed with Configuration Manager and Intune.
  • Protect your company information by controlling the way users access and share information.
  • Ensure that the devices your team members are using are compliant with your security policy.

Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager

Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager was designed for managing large groups of computers providing remote control, patch management, software distribution, operating system deployment, and hardware and software inventory. Configuration Manager supports the Microsoft Windows and Windows Embedded operating systems.

Configuration Manager increases IT productivity and efficiency by automating manual tasks, making the most of hardware and software investments, and reducing administrative overhead.

Key features and capabilities include:

  • Automated secure deployment of applications, software updates, and operating systems.
  • Cloud-powered analytics and management for on-premises and internet-based devices.
  • Supports effective and efficient management of endpoints such as servers, desktops, and laptops, including taking real-time actions.

Azure AD

Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) is Microsoft’s enterprise cloud-based identity and access management (IAM) solution. Azure AD is based on the good old on-premises local directory service, but it is not a replacement for the on-premises directory service but incorporates modern features to support cloud computing or hybrid work culture. Azure AD is the backbone of the Office 365 system, and it can sync with on-premises Active Directory and provide authentication to other cloud-based systems via OAuth.

This service helps your employees to authenticate and access cloud-based resources, such as Microsoft 365, Dynamics ERP and CRM, Azure portal, and thousands of other SaaS applications; as well as access resources located at corporate intranet networks.

Azure AD offers the following license types:

  • Azure AD Free Provides user and group management, on-premises directory synchronization, basic reports, self-service password change for cloud users, and single sign-on across Azure, Microsoft 365, and many popular SaaS apps.
  • Azure AD Premium P1 Includes all the features of the free edition plus access to both on-premises and cloud resources, and support for advanced administration, such as dynamic groups, self-service group management, Microsoft Identity Manager, and cloud write-back capabilities.
  • Azure AD Premium P2 Includes all features of Azure AD Premium P1 plus support for risk-based Conditional Access and Privileged Identity Management to manage administrators’ access to resources.
  • Pay as you go licensing model is also supported to gain access to specific features such as Azure AD Business-to-Customer (B2C) which provides I AM solutions for customer-facing apps.

Windows Autopilot

Windows Autopilot just as the name implies is a set of Microsoft Windows programs that simplify the way devices get deployed, set up, and configured for productive use. It introduces a faster and more reliable way to deploy and manage windows OS and applications to devices throughout their entire life cycles. With Windows Autopilot, there’s no need to manually set up new devices before handing them out to your users—the entire experience is zero-touch for IT.

You can also use Windows Autopilot to reset, repurpose, and recover devices. With a combination of a Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution and Azure Active Directory (AD) organizations can ensure Windows devices are ready for corporate usage with zero admin intervention. If your device gets lost or stolen, Windows Autopilot and Intune can remotely remove data, lock down a device so no one else can open it, and automatically restrict user access. Using cloud-based services, Windows Autopilot:

  • Create and auto-assign devices to configuration groups based on a device’s profile.
  • Reduces the time IT spends on deploying, managing, and retiring devices.
  • Automatically join devices to Azure AD
  • Auto-enroll devices into MDM services, such as Microsoft Intune
  • Reduces the infrastructure required to maintain the devices.
  • Maximizes ease of use for all types of end-users.

Endpoint Analytics

Microsoft Endpoint Analytics enables organizations to obtain detailed data about endpoint behavior. The insights obtained from the analytics allow IT admins to understand how Windows devices are behaving and measure the quality of the experience you’re delivering to your end-users without getting direct feedback from them.

The goal of endpoint analytics is to improve user productivity and reduce IT support costs by providing insights into the user experience. The insights enable IT to identify policies or hardware issues that may be slowing down devices and detect regressions to the user experience by assessing the user impact of configuration changes. This will help you proactively make improvements before it negatively impacts business operations. Devices enrolled in Endpoint Analytics need a valid license for the use of Microsoft Endpoint Manager.

Microsoft Endpoint Manager Alternatives

  1. VMware Workspace ONE Is one of the leading UEM platforms that allows IT to deliver a secure digital workspace. It integrates access control, application management, and multi-platform endpoint management into a single platform and is available as a cloud service or on-premises deployment. VMware was named a leader in the 2021 Gartner Magic Quadrant for UEM. A free trial is available on request.
  2. Ivanti Neurons Positioned as a hyper-automation platform that leverages AI and machine learning to address the growing security concerns of the modern workplace. With Ivanti Neurons, organizations can discover their assets everywhere, secure work experience, and automatically identify and fix endpoint issues with real-time intelligence. A free live demo and a free 45-day trial are available on request.
  3. IBM Security MaaS360 A cloud-based UEM platform that helps organizations manage and secure a heterogeneous pool of endpoints, end-users, and everything in between. IBM Security MaaS360 comes with Watson AI capabilities to deliver actionable security insights across your enterprise. A 30-day free trial is available on request.
  4. ManageEngine Desktop Central An on-premises and cloud-based UEM solution from ManageEngine that enables IT administrators to effectively manage endpoints such as servers, laptops, desktops, smartphones, tablets, and wearables from a central point. Desktop Central features and capabilities include inventory management, configurations management, patch management, service pack installation, software installation, desktop sharing, system tools, active directory and user logon report, among others. A free 30-day trial is available
  5. BlackBerry Spark UEM A one-stop platform that enables your employees to securely work from any device, anywhere. It streamlines the management process across devices such as desktops, and mobile and IoT devices. The BlackBerry Spark UEM Suites can be delivered on-premises, as a cloud service, or in a mixed model. The product is available on a free trial.
  6. Citrix Endpoint Management A SaaS-based UEM tool that enables organizations to bring every endpoint, application, and network from any location into one unified view to deliver the digital workspace employees need to be productive. Devices running Windows, macOS, Chrome OS, Android, and iOS can be enrolled into the system. A free personalized online demo is available on request.
  7. Matrix42 Secure UEM This solution combines the advantages of classic client lifecycle management (CLM) and enterprise mobility management (EMM) in a single platform. Matrix42 Secure operates a user-based licensing model that allows your employees to use as many devices as desired without incurring additional costs. The service can be accessed in the cloud, operated on-premises in your infrastructure, or in a hybrid model. A 30-day free trial is available on request.
  8. Google Endpoint Management Allows organizations to enable employees access to Google Workspace and other Google services they use for work from any device and anywhere. With Google Endpoint Management, you can make your organization’s data more secure across your users’ endpoints such as Android, IOS, Linux, Windows, and Mac devices.
  9. Hexnode UEM A cloud-based solution that allows businesses to manage endpoints from a centralized console. Hexnode UEM incorporates Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) solutions to secure, track, and manage corporate and personal devices. Hexnode supports almost all major platforms including  Android, Windows, iOS, macOS, Fire OS, and Apple TVs. You can check it out by signing up for a 14-day free trial.
  10. 42Gears UEM Offers a single platform that empowers IT teams to control and manage all endpoints, regardless of type, user, or use case without compromising security. Supported devices and OSs include desktops, laptops, smartphones, tablets, wearables, IoT, printers, macOS, Windows, Linux,  Android, and iOS devices. A free online demo and a free 30-day trial are available on request.