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    What is Group Policy? How Can it Manage Windows Devices?

    Windows ended 2023 with a 72.79%1 share of the global desktop OS market. Throughout the years of its evolution, Windows has catered to various tech requirements of organizations. Desktop or laptop management is one such facet that Windows has addressed over the years. One such native Windows feature is Group Policy. Group Policy lets organizations control the user accounts and applications on Windows devices.

    What is Group Policy?
    Defining Windows Group Policy and UEM as an Alternative

    This blog is all about knowing and understanding Group Policy and how it can manage Windows devices. We will also shed some light on a more extensive outlook of managing Windows devices using a Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) solution

    What is Group Policy or Group Policy Object (GPO)?

    Group Policy is a component within the Microsoft Windows NT series of operating systems (such as Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, Windows 11, and Windows Server 2003+), governing the operational settings for both user and computer accounts. Group Policy offers centralized control and setup of operating systems, applications, and user preferences within an Active Directory (AD) framework. Each configuration set within Group Policy is termed a Group Policy Object (GPO). Local Group Policy (LGPO or LocalGPO) is a variant of Group Policy that facilitates managing Group Policy Objects on standalone computers without the need for Active Directory.

    Group Policy functions akin to a series of commands that IT administrators can deploy to users and computers within AD domains. It leverages AD to manage and regulate system configurations, including account settings, device wallpaper, and control panel preferences, among others. These directives can be remotely distributed to numerous devices within the organization’s AD domains.

    How to Manage Windows Devices Using Group Policy Management Console (GPMC)

    The Group Policy Management Console (GPMC) serves as an extensive administrative tool utilized by administrators for executing a wide array of Group Policy management tasks. GPMC is part of the AD Domain Services (AD DS) package. The Group Policy Management Console (GPMC) serves as a platform enabling the configuration and application of Group Policy Objects (GPOs) to Organizational Units (OUs). GPOs encapsulate directives utilized for effecting changes on device endpoints within the OUs.

    Windows device management using the Group Policy Management Console (GPMC), administrators can employ the console to create, edit, and enforce group policies across the network. By navigating through the GPMC interface, administrators can configure settings and restrictions to govern user and computer behavior, ensuring consistent and secure operation within the organization’s environment.

    How to Change Group Policy Settings

    To change Group Policy settings, administrators can utilize the Group Policy Management Console (GPMC) on a Windows server. They begin by opening the GPMC, navigating to the desired Group Policy Object (GPO) they wish to modify, and then right-clicking on it to edit the Group Policy. Within the Group Policy Management Editor, administrators can explore various policy categories, such as Computer Configuration or User Configuration, and adjust specific settings according to organizational requirements. 

    How to Change Group Policy Settings
    Changing Group Policy Settings

    Once modifications are made, administrators save the changes, and Group Policy will propagate them to applicable devices within the network.

    Also read: What is Windows MDM Policy

    Looking for Enhanced Windows Device Management Capabilities? Think UEM!

    There’s no doubting the benefits and capabilities of Group Policy and GPOs. They have long been the cornerstone of device management for organizations using Windows-based systems. Group Policy provides a centralized way for IT admins to configure settings and manage user accounts within a Windows domain. 

    However, its effectiveness is slightly limited, considering modern workplaces and heterogeneous IT environments. 

    Platform Dependency: Windows Group Policy primarily caters to Windows devices, leaving organizations with a mix of operating systems, including macOS, iOS, Android, and Linux, with disparate management solutions.

    Complexity and Scalability: Managing Group Policy Objects (GPOs) across a large-scale environment can become cumbersome and complex, leading to scalability issues and administrative overhead.

    Inflexibility for Modern Work Environments: With the rise of remote work and the proliferation of mobile devices, the rigid nature of Group Policy falls short of providing seamless management across various endpoints and locations.

    The abovementioned limitations may compel organizations to look for options that can provide a more holistic approach with enhanced Windows device management capabilities. One of the prominent and powerful options in this case is UEM or Unified Endpoint Management.

    Key UEM Features for Windows

    Device Enrollment and Provisioning

    Simplifying the process of enrolling and provisioning Windows devices is essential for efficient device onboarding and lifecycle management. UEM solutions offer automated enrollment, allowing users to self-enroll their devices or enabling bulk enrollment for corporate-owned devices. There are also out-of-the-box options along with compatibility with Windows Autopilot. Auto-enrollment accelerates deployment times and ensures standardized device configurations from the outset.

    Policy Management and Configuration

    UEM solutions offer granular policy management capabilities tailored for Windows devices. Administrators can configure settings related to security, network connectivity, device restrictions, and application management centrally. This ensures consistency across Windows endpoints and simplifies administration tasks.

    Application Deployment and Management

    UEM software facilitates seamless deployment and management of applications on Windows devices. Administrators can distribute apps and manage them remotely, including app updates. Application management capability ensures users have access to the latest productivity tools without disruptions. With a UEM solution, admins can also allow or block apps based on organizational and end-user requirements.

    Security Controls and Compliance

    UEM solutions bolster the security posture of Windows devices by enforcing security policies, such as encryption, password requirements, and device authentication (BitLocker). Additionally, features like remote wipe and lock and location tracking help mitigate the risk of data breaches in case of device loss or theft. Device compliance monitoring and reporting capabilities assist organizations in meeting regulatory requirements and maintaining audit trails.

    Patch Management and Software Updates

    Keeping Windows devices up-to-date with the latest patches and software updates is critical for eliminating security vulnerabilities. UEM solutions automate patch management processes, ensuring timely deployment of updates across all managed Windows endpoints. This reduces the risk of security breaches stemming from unpatched software vulnerabilities.

    Remote Troubleshooting and Support

    UEM solutions offer streamlined remote troubleshooting and support for Windows devices alongside real-time monitoring capabilities. IT administrators can troubleshoot issues, resolve technical problems, and provide assistance to end-users without the need for physical intervention, thereby minimizing downtime and optimizing productivity.

    Reporting and Analytics

    UEM software provides comprehensive reporting and analytics capabilities to gain insights into device performance, compliance status, and security posture. A unified dashboard (with notification alerts) enables IT administrators to proactively identify trends, anomalies, and potential security threats, facilitating informed decision-making and risk mitigation strategies.

    Expand Windows Device Management Scope with Scalefusion

    While Group Policy is an excellent way to control Windows devices, it has its own limitations when the device fleet is large and dispersed. A UEM solution like Scalefusion overcomes these limitations with a far more comprehensive set of features. As workplaces evolve further, organizations must adopt and update their technology stack to create a modern, innovative device or endpoint management environment.

    Schedule a demo with us to explore the endless possibilities and scope of Scalefusion UEM. Start your 14-day free trial today!

    Abhinandan Ghosh
    Abhinandan Ghosh
    Abhinandan is a Senior Content Editor at Scalefusion who is an enthusiast of all things tech and loves culinary and musical expeditions. With more than a decade of experience, he believes in delivering consummate, insightful content to readers.

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