Image: Microsoft Surface black touch cover

What is Windows Analytics?

Windows Analytics is the collective name for a growing number of Azure solutions leveraging Windows Telemetry data to produce insights into your IT estate. For years,Microsoft has been collecting telemetry data to allow them to improve their products, and, more controversially, to monitor the way people use them. Organisations have always had the option to opt out of this data collection to a lesser or greater extent, but now that Microsoft is sharing this data there is perhaps reason to reconsider this approach.  In this article we shall look at the insights offered by the Windows Analytics Device Health solution for Windows 10 / Server 2016 clients and servers.

Image: Device reliability screen shot Windows analytics

 

How Windows Analytics helps IT teams and end users

The insights surfaced by this solution highlight the pain (and lost productivity) end users will put up with before going to their IT teams. These insights allow your IT team to direct their focus to the most impacted users and allow them to work in a proactive way; going to the user and being the IT hero, rather than waiting for the exasperated user to come to you. The first insight provided is a list of your organisations’ most frequently crashing devices. Drilling into this list gives further detail on the crash type and the associated driver where available.

Speaking of drivers, the next insight shows you the drivers most responsible for causing crashes in your estate. Clicking through allows you to compare the frequency of crashes for the driver by version. This may show that affected devices will likely be resolved by either upgrading to a newer driver, or rolling back from a new, less stable driver.

A more specialised aspect of this solution will be of interest to organisations deploying Windows Information Protection (WIP). Insights are provided in relation to applications on client devices requiring configuration for WIP, allowing IT admins to pre-emptively create allow rules for apps commonly being blocked by WIP.

When I deployed the Device Health solution for Silversands, we found that overall our estate is working quite well, but we have the benefit of being a small company with a largely homogenous estate. Enterprises with large, unwieldy IT estates will get the most out of these types of insights; but even we have benefited from deploying Device Health. Immediately after deploying the solution I was able to identity one device that was experiencing frequent crashes caused by the network driver. Drilling into the driver-induced crash log analytics showed that the device was running an old version of the driver. Spurred on by this, I was able to go visit the device’s owner and (pleasantly) surprise them by letting them know their device would be more stable, simply by upgrading their network driver. They confirmed to me that their device had suffered the dreaded Blue Screen of Death multiple times but hadn’t yet spoken to IT because of the anticipated pain of handing over their device! This is one small success story, but scaled across a large estate could represent a significant improvement in productivity.

 

Image: Log screen shot Windows analytics

The Device Health solution requires the enhanced telemetry data collection level and your OMS workspace configured to subscribe to Device Health data. As with the other Windows Analytics solutions there are no costs involved in enabling Device Health so long as you have a suitable Windows 10/2016 license.

Image: Settings screen Windows analytics

How can Silversands help?

Silversands has a wealth of Microsoft experience and expertise. If you would like to learn more about Windows Analytics and how Silversands can support you, please get in touch by completing the contact form. We also post regular blogs about topical IT issues so please do follow us.

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