Microsoft System Center Essentials review
System Center Essentials sets out to gather the strands of network system management into one place, and succeeds.
Review Date: 11 Mar 2008
Reviewed By: Ian Parsons
Price when reviewed: (£1,665 inc VAT)
Keeping all the various Windows systems software patches up to date can be a tedious and time-consuming task. Deploying application packages can be a problem, and tracking and resolving errors can be a full-time job. There are software solutions to ease the burden, but an all-in-one solution is preferable.
Enter Microsoft's System Center Essentials (SCE). SCE gathers the strands of network system management into one place with a single console interface.
Installation is no problem, although you'll need Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) installed beforehand, as well as .NET 2 and 3. If you have SQL Server installed SCE will use it, but if not the installer will set up a copy of SQL Server Express. It will also upgrade your copy of WSUS. The console application can be installed on a workstation with 2GB of RAM and either Windows XP or Vista, as well as on the server.
Once installed, the system can discover all the systems on the network, and can then accumulate information about them. Once it's done that it's possible to find out exactly what the situation is with any system, since the inventory module collects data on more than 30 separate items. You can then arrange for software updates to occur at regular intervals, which is where WSUS comes in. Even third-party and in-house updates can be managed and deployed.
Monitoring and reporting facilities are extensive. Each system's performance can be monitored, even down to the Windows service level. When problems are discovered, SCE flags up alerts on the management console; these can also be sent to users via email or SMS. The software can provide useful info about the problem, and fix it using built-in troubleshooting wizards.
Reporting is comprehensive and very detailed, with more than 50 report types. Apart from the information displayed on the management console, the report-generating module can produce performance statistics and histograms for a wide range of factors and time intervals. Factors range from overall reporting information down to specific disk drives and network adapters. Each report can be tailored to individual requirements and stored or printed.
SCE's abilities can detect and monitor networked printers, routers and switches, and can even provide a network diagram.
There are a few things to watch out for. It only works with Active Directory, and it will only support Windows 2000 Professional and Server, Server 2003, XP and Vista, although it will support both 32- and 64-bit versions of the last three.
Cost could be a problem, as Jon Honeyball pointed out, but this is likely to be less of a factor in the SME field, where technical expertise tends to be at a premium. And SCE's limitation of 30 servers and 500 PCs shouldn't be of much concern. Allowing for the licensing costs, SCE could save money by allowing technical support staff to make better use of their time.
Author: Ian Parsons
- Google gets one million DMCA piracy takedowns a day
- What's on this week's PC Pro podcast?
- Twitter bans beheading video, lets family members remove death photos
- HTC launches One M8 for Windows... but only in the US
- Nokia Lumia 530 UK release date and price revealed
- Steve Ballmer steps down from Microsoft board
- Google's self-driving cars can speed... "for safety reasons"
- Firefox gets Chromecast, but no Mozilla TV hardware yet
- Goodbye Chromebooks? Specs leak for $199 HP Stream
- Would you let your child sign up for a Google account?
- 20 years of PC Pro: our first A-List
- Wikipedia's "right to be forgotten" protest hits the wrong note
- 3D printing hits the high street for plastic selfies
- 20 years of PC Pro: What amazed us in our first issue
- How Google Glass ruined my lunch hour
- Smartphone battery packs: can a USB power pack beat the festival battery blues?
- Windows Easy Transfer – not so "easy" in Windows 8.1
- Formula 1: what a difference virtualisation makes
- Office of the future: comfy chairs and tablets everywhere
- I went to Glastonbury and the only thing that got high was my smartphone
- How to download YouTube videos: save YouTube videos to your iPhone, iPad, laptop or Android device
- Nexus 5 vs Moto G 4G (2014 model)
- Chromecast vs Roku Streaming Stick vs Apple TV: what's the best TV streaming device?
- The 8 best small tablets of 2014: what's the best compact tablet?
- How to edit PDFs: make change to a PDF
- Building a patently better future
- How to update Android apps individually: stop Google Play apps from auto-updating
- Samsung Galaxy S5 vs HTC One M8: what’s the best iPhone 5s alternative?
- Best music streaming apps: Spotify vs Rdio vs Google Music vs Deezer vs iTunes
- 12 best Android smartphones of 2014: what's the best Android phone?
- 10 ways to make your business more secure
- Top five VoIP mistakes
- How to add in-app purchasing to an iPhone, Android or Windows app
- Remote-control ransomware: TeamViewer and software hardball
- Why laptops with serial ports matter to the Internet of Things
- Make your mobile battery last longer
- Small steps into handling Big Data
- Nexus 5: does it really run stock Android?
- How to get broadband to a garden office
- How to write your company's IT security policy