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
- Toshiba beats retreat from consumer PC market
- Google to follow Apple with device encryption
- U2 and Apple working on "new music format"
- Ellison steps down: but who's really running Oracle now?
- Audioboo to become Audioboom in app revamp
- Apple slaps down Google and police, as it takes high ground on user privacy
- Amazon releases high-end Kindle Voyage Touch
- What's on this week's PC Pro podcast?
- Virgin carpeted again for broadband speed claims
- Microsoft set to make more job cuts
- How to check your identity hasn’t been sold to the hackers
- Tim Cook: this is how much TV has changed since the 70s
- Westminster wins the .London battle
- 20 years of PC Pro: from deep pan pizza to virtualisation
- Five reasons why the Apple Watch leaves me cold
- Apple Watch, iPhone 6 and 6 Plus: Tim Cook's Apple back with a bang?
- BT Home Hub 5: how to get maximum speed
- 20 years of PC Pro: one-star reviews (including "the worst tablet we've ever seen")
- 20 years of PC Pro: our best covers
- Why we've closed the PC Pro forums
- The 7 best Chromebooks of 2014
- iPhone 6 vs Galaxy S5: is the Apple or Samsung flagship smartphone right for you?
- How to install iOS 8 without deleting apps and data
- The best smartwatches of 2014: what's the best smartwatch?
- Nexus 6 (X or Shamu) release date, price and specs rumour roundup
- Best of IDF: top tech and memorable moments from Intel's tech show
- How Apple Pay works and how to use it on your iPhone 6 or Apple Watch
- Tech of the future... and the British boffins building it
- Abuse magnets: the people behind corporate Twitter accounts
- Putting people at the centre of software design
- How to sell more ebooks on Amazon
- 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