Overview of System Center Desktop Error Monitoring
Every time an application or system fails it affects end user productivity. What if you had a tool that gave you information about application crashes and hangs across your desktop environment? Imagine that this tool is agentless and easy to deploy. Such a tool exists in System Center Desktop Error Monitoring, a core part of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP). Together, the MDOP components shown in Figure 1 deliver to Software Assurance customers a highly cost-effective and flexible solution for managing desktop computers.
Figure 1. MDOP Components
System Center Desktop Enterprise Monitoring 3.5, also called DEM, is an MDOP solution that monitors and reports enterprise-wide desktop application and system crashes and hangs. DEM 3.5 is an easy to use technology built from Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2. Desktop Error Monitoring provides a fast and easy way for organizations to centralize report on, and diagnose Windows and applications issues. This allows your organization to have a complete view of the stability of your enterprise desktops so that IT can react in a more proactive and effective manner.
DEM was designed to solve two challenges that IT organizations face today. The first is the need for a low-cost way to monitor productivity issues. Why do IT Pros lack awareness into desktop issues? Let's look at a common scenario.
Most of the time--over 90 percent according to a recent survey--when an application experiences an error it is resolved when the end user reboots or reopens the application. This causes a productivity loss, as users have to wait for the PC to reboot and get back to the point in the application where they left off. In addition, users can lose data either because they had only partially entered it or because of corruption due to the failure. The root cause of the issue was not fixed by the reboot, IT is not aware of the issue, and any data that IT could have used to help debug the issue is usually lost. IT does not have the data needed to understand the problems that are being experienced by enterprise knowledge workers and to work on a solution. System Center Desktop Error Monitoring provides an agentless, low-cost method to collect all of the application and operating system crashes and hangs that are affecting productivity.
The second challenge that IT faces today is related to collecting data, and then correlating that data, to help increase productivity of end users and the corporate help desk. All organizations deploy service packs, hot fixes, and updates to new applications, but most lack any analytical way to measure whether the upgrade increased or reduced desktop stability. DEM helps IT solve this problem by collecting error data and providing easy to read preconfigured reports.
Microsoft System Center Desktop Error Monitoring helps IT proactively manage problems with application and system components on desktop PCs. Desktop problems, in which operating systems or applications stop responding, are difficult to resolve. Because users typically don’t tell IT when they experience these problems, IT has limited visibility into the issues and cannot proactively manage them.
Through agentless crash monitoring technology, IT can identify the cause and resolution of failures. This makes desktops more reliable and stable, which, in turn increases end user productivity and reduces desktop total cost of ownership. This happens through:
- Identifying the applications with the highest frequency of problems.
- Reducing resolution time via crash details and automatically gathering any known information about these issues from the Microsoft knowledge base.
- Assisting in triaging patch deployments and updates and providing metrics for monitoring post-deployment effects.
- Providing IT with real-time information on critical errors so that they can proactively address them in pre-production.
- Lowering the cost of management.
- Increasing the stability of the environment.
System Center Desktop Error Monitoring (DEM) provides a fast and easy way for any organization to centralize and diagnose application and system crashes and hangs. Instead of sending error reports to Microsoft, DEM uses Group Policy and Windows Error Reporting, which is built into Windows, to send reports to a server you designate within your organization for diagnosis. Since DEM is agentless you don’t have to install anything on your desktops or visit any machines to set it up.
All DEM server data is stored in a SQL Server database, so you can easily query the collected data with many preconfigured reports. This allows you to diagnose problems within your organization proactively. Using this information, you can discover the most frequent causes of errors and ensure that Windows and application patches are prioritized to minimize or eliminate system downtime.
You can also configure your DEM server to upload the results to Microsoft, as well as to have DEM automatically download the latest troubleshooting data based on your specific errors. As we see in the image below, DEM can help you find out if a particular driver is causing issues with desktops in your enterprise and help you find an updated driver.
Figure 2 Windows Error Reporting
To begin using System Center Desktop Error Monitoring, IT runs an easy to use wizard that creates Group Policy Objects (GPOs) than can be incorporated (Figure 3) into your corporate Group Policy. This policy enables IT to route the Windows Error Reporting to an internal DEM Management Server, instead of each desktop sending it to Microsoft directly. With DEM’s agentless crash monitor you don’t need to touch users' PCs to monitor them. Once you have deployed the GPOs to Active Directory, all crash and hang data is automatically captured and stored inside your organization in your central SQL Servers. That crash data can then be used to troubleshoot and find related knowledge base resolutions.
Figure 3 DEM Workflow
DEM provides reporting and analytical features that help foster dynamic IT by allowing administrators to collect, analyze, and pro-actively correct common problems and issues within their desktop infrastructures. All crash and hang data is stored in a relational Microsoft SQL Server database. DEM uses SQL Server Reporting Services to generate reports. Examples of reports that can be generated are "Top Errors in the Network" and "Top Applications with Errors" (Figure 4), "Top Blue Screen Computers" and "Top Blue Screen Computers by User."
Figure 4 Desktop Error Monitoring Report
Imagine the flexibility of a tool that allows reports to be scheduled and emailed out to selected individuals or a distribution list at a corporation. For example, using Microsoft System Center Desktop Error Manager administrators can select specific reports such as the "Top Applications with Errors" to be emailed to a distribution group, including the VP of Application Development or the CIO, once a month. This gives executives outside of IT tremendous visibility into the end user experience and may influence the development team to prioritize time to fix existing application problems.
Figure 5 Schedule reports to be emailed to you automatically or delivered with other methods
DEM can be configured to not only report on issues but also to alert IT administrators when a preconfigured condition is met in the desktop environment, such as many computers crashing. This allows the help desk to be proactively aware of problems before users start calling. In addition, imagine the customer service benefits when the help desk can set up DEM to email an end user when an error occurs, notifying him that a ticket has been opened. Both the standard agentless DEM and the upgraded Microsoft Operations Manager Desktop Error Manager are easily extensible to make exciting and powerful integration with other Microsoft and Third Party software.
Figure 6 Alerts can be generated from various data sources
DEM 3.5 is built from System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2. While you can deploy DEM in your organization in a matter of hours, most System Center deployments are more involved. Since they are built on the same technology, you can easily upgrade from DEM to System Center Operations Manager with no loss of data, no changes to and without having to learn a different interface. It is a seamless upgrade path. This means you can start collecting desktop error data today and begin benefiting from DEM while you plan your larger System Center rollout.
. The features that are added when you upgrade to System Center Operations Manager are shown below in Figure 4.
Figure 7 System Center Offerings
Microsoft System Center Desktop Error Monitoring provides IT with awareness and insight into the application and operating system failures that cause your live PCs to hang or crash. DEM makes it easy to collect, correlate, report ,and troubleshoot these failures through an enterprise-ready, scalable, and low-cost deployment solution for granular error filtering and alerting.
Microsoft System Center Desktop Error Monitoring is part of MDOP, an add-on license available only to Software Assurance customers. Microsoft System Center Desktop Error Monitoring combines with five other tools to make the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack for Software Assurance, which delivers dynamic desktop solutions: Microsoft Application Virtualization, which dynamically streams software as a centrally managed service; Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization, which enables deployment of Virtual PCs in enterprise environments; Microsoft Asset Inventory Service, which translates software inventory into business intelligence; Microsoft Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset, powerful tools to accelerate desktop repair, recovery, and troubleshooting of unbootable Windows-based computers; and Microsoft Advanced Group Policy Management, which enhances group policy through change-management tools.
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