With them, you're granted the power of logon scripts, but without the scripting. Using them, you're empowered with enforcing (or merely suggesting) just about any setting on a Windows computer. Given them, you're armed with customizable configuration control that spans far beyond the software Microsoft produces.
Indeed Group Policy Preferences might just be Windows' most powerful administrative tool. And yet GPPs remain today one of Windows' least used tools, and perhaps one of its least understood as well. Quietly buried inside Group Policy, another solution that over ten years past release is still commonly overlooked, GPPs lie in wait for their time in the spotlight.
So if GPPs are potentially so powerful, why are they so rarely used across IT organizations large and small? Their reach is comprehensive, giving administrators extreme flexibility across a range of setting categories. Their targeting is sufficient for many uses, with twenty-seven different targeting items to narrow down which computers get what settings. Even their user interface is pleasantly graphical, requiring just a few mouse clicks to construct most preference options.
Is it that administrators don't need custom control? Surely not. A wide range of administrative problems track directly back to misconfigurations. Controlling them centrally can directly impact how hard admins have to work. Are their targeting options not flexible enough, not delivering the kind of granularity real-world problems demand? Possibly, particularly since third party solutions are available today that supply that greater granularity.
Is the problem educational? Does today's prototypical Windows administrator struggle with making the logic leap from GUI interface to registry value or file contents?
Or, sadly, is the problem merely political? By incorporating GPPs into Group Policy, has Microsoft inadvertently created an untenable political situation, with IT's desktop teams being locked out of what some consider the server team's responsibility?
What are your thoughts? Are you using GPPs today? If you are, why are they successful? If you're not, what's inhibiting you from benefitting from what might be Windows most-powerful administrative tool?