Cross-Platform System Insights: Mac, Windows, & Linux

Written by Mike Ranellone on February 13, 2020

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At any given time, you may need to look up a device’s OS version, installed patches, licensed apps, hardware usage, or other info to help with troubleshooting or security maintenance. But if you manage more than a handful of users and systems, it can be cumbersome to pull and organize this information manually. 

In a Windows Server® domain with Active Directory® (AD), you can use the PowerShell cmdlet Get-ADComputer. But if you have a heterogeneous environment with Mac® and Linux® systems mixed in, AD doesn’t work as a central hub for systems data. Third-party monitoring and reporting solutions exist, but for most organizations, it would be more convenient and cost effective to have cross-platform OS telemetry rolled in with whatever system management solution you’re already using. That’s why JumpCloud® now offers a premium System Insights feature, available as part of Directory-as-a-Service®.  

Let’s look at some of the big-picture benefits of consolidating access to system telemetry, then tour a selection of the data points you can pull with System Insights and how to use them in your day-to-day.

Benefits of Cross-Platform System Insights 

Easy access to cross-platform system data can help streamline projects related to security and compliance, asset inventory, and end user enablement. Here’s more on how it relates to these areas of system administration: 

Security & Compliance Benefits 

When it comes time for a compliance audit, you’ll need to demonstrate that all the systems in your fleet meet industry minimum requirements, which may include up-to-date OS patches, disk encryption, password complexity, and other endpoint hardening measures. You may also need to pull a list of all users who have access to the machines (both virtual and on-prem) in your environment. And if a new security vulnerability is publicly reported that affects a certain OS version, you need a way to easily identify any instances of that OS active in your fleet. 

Asset Management Insights 

System data is also crucial for asset management, helping admins keep track of hardware and software configurations and things like machines’ serial numbers. You may also want to track software installations and licenses to see what’s being used and what could be consolidated. And when you’re considering future hardware purchases, it can be useful to know how employees in different roles are using their system components. For example, most users these days probably don’t need much local storage. Usage data could help justify ordering new machines that only have small SSDs.

End User Enablement

As much as it can feel like end users get in the way of bigger IT projects, the truth is that improving their experiences with technology can increase productivity and save time and frustration on your end. The more issues you can preemptively troubleshoot, the fewer support tickets you’ll see. And when you do have to look into an issue, remote system telemetry can help you avoid interrupting a user’s workflow while you rule out possible problems. It can be helpful to know right away if a system is running low on storage, memory, or CPU, for example — or whether it’s been running for too long without a reboot.  

Key System Insights Data Points & How to Use Them 

Here are some of the most fundamental data points you can pull from System Insights in near real-time, from any location, along with some of the goals they can help you accomplish: 

OS version and installed patches

  • Weed out older operating systems that don’t meet compliance requirements 
  • Ensure all systems are properly patched 
  • Identify any recently announced security vulnerabilities within your fleet 

Installed applications and app versions

  • Troubleshoot apps that are hogging a system’s CPU 
  • Clean up unused licenses 
  • Identify any unapproved apps installed by users 

Inventory of each system’s local user accounts 

  • Determine whether any systems have guest accounts enabled — these can be a weak point in security 
  • Find any local user accounts that aren’t managed by your core directory service and are therefore vulnerable to attack  
  • See which users have access to which systems — this can be especially useful for cloud server IAM 

Each system’s available memory, storage, and CPU

  • Troubleshoot slow operating speeds and other user issues 
  • Make informed purchasing decisions based on actual hardware usage 

Last reboot time 

  • Solve user issues such as unfinished installations or system updates 

Network connections 

  • Troubleshoot network connectivity and speeds 
  • Ensure network access is properly segmented as a security precaution  

How to Pull & Organize Cross-Platform System Telemetry 

If you’re testing Directory-as-a-Service with a free account for up to 10 users and systems, System Insights is already available to you. You’ll find select key data points in the Admin Console interface, and you can pull hundreds more using the PowerShell module. You can also leverage JumpCloud’s API to integrate System Insights data with another solution such as an SIEM or other IT asset management suite. 

And if you’re already a paying JumpCloud customer, your Customer Support Manager can set you up with a System Insights trial — just reach out to us at [email protected].

Mike Ranellone

Mike is a writer at JumpCloud who's especially interested in the changing role of tech in society. He cut his teeth in the ad agency world and holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Colorado-Boulder and a B.A. in English and music from St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY. Outside of JumpCloud, he's an avid skier, cellist, and poet.

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