What do 3 out of 5 IT pros identify as the highest priority in their job? According to our annual industry survey, it's systems and network management—the day-to-day maintenance and troubleshooting you must do to keep your systems up and your users productive. Maximizing user productivity and maintainging the resources users need to do their job is a big enough challenge, but tossing in the requirement of maximizing productivity while minimizing TCO significantly ups the ante for most IT pros.

So, learning how to manage desktop systems and end-users efficiently is a must in meeting the high-productivity, low-TCO challenge, and making the most of Group Policy is indispensable for effective systems management. In "10 Ways to Manage Desktops with Group Policy" (page 44), former desktop architect and end-user services manager Ed Roth presents a short-course in using Group Policy. He describes 10 targeted measures you can take to control the behavior of desktops. For example, you'll learn how to automate OS installations via RIS; use startup, shutdown, logon, and logoff scripts; standardize OS settings; strengthen desktop security; and control automatic updates—all through leveraging the Group Policy settings that Ed provides in this article.

Get Answers You Won't Find Elsewhere
If you have questions about Ed's article or puzzlers about desktop management or Group Policy in general, be sure to participate in our Author Chat on April 14, noon EST. We'll have Ed and Group Policy guru Darren Mar-Elia on hand to share their experiences with GPOs and to answer your questions about settings for deployment, folder redirection, standardization, security, updates, and other related topics. This is a great opportunity to get the advice you need to build up your systems management and Group Policy expertise. To participate in the chat, go to http://www.microsoft.com/communities/chats/default.mspx.

Meet the Marks
Since the early days of the magazine, two well-known "Marks" in the IT industry—Mark Minasi and Mark Russinovich—have contributed content for our readers. In case you're not familiar with these two Windows IT Pro authors, let me provide a little background information about who they are and what they provide to the IT community.

Mark Minasi. This Mark began writing for the magazine in October of 1995 and, to date, has contributed more than 300 articles to our publications. Some of his most popular articles have been about DNS, and his often-provocative commentaries (e.g., "Follow-Up: Why Microsoft Can't Stop Root Kits," InstantDoc ID 45518) for our monthly Windows IT Pro UPDATE, Special Edition email newsletter spark lively reader discussions. Mark also contributes bi-monthly to our Windows Power Tools column, keeping readers up to speed on the Windows support tools and how to get the most out of them. Mark often describes himself as "an all-around alpha geek." But what really sets him apart from other alpha geeks is his ability to explain things in down-to-earth terms in an entertaining way.

In addition to his Windows IT Pro articles and columns, you might know Mark from his Mastering books (Sybex), the most recent of which is Mastering Windows Server 2003. Mark has authored 19 other technology books, spoken on technical topics in 20 countries, and written and performed in a dozen technical education videos.

Mark Russinovich. This Mark began writing for the magazine in 1996, and his articles provide in-depth information about how all-things-IT work. His internals articles are perennial favorites, and he currently alternates with the other Mark in writing the Windows Power Tools column. Mark R.'s specialty is the free tools that he and business partner Bryce Cogswell provide on their Sysinternals Web site (http://www.sysinternals.com). This month on page 73, Mark drills down into TCPView and TCPVCon, two port-monitoring tools that give you process information beyond what you get with the Windows Netstat tool.

Mark is a Microsoft MVP and chief software architect and cofounder of Winternals Software (http://www.winternals.com). Mark is coauthor (with David Solomon) of Inside Windows 2000, Third Edition (Microsoft Press) and the fourth edition, Windows Internals. He and David Solomon also deliver public and private seminars on Windows internals and advanced troubleshooting. Mark is a frequent speaker at major industry conferences.

Windows Connections 2005 April 17–20, San Francisco
Speaking of industry conferences, don't miss out on this opportunity to see the Marks and other top Windows IT Pro writers in action at our spring conference. It's not too late to sign up—visit http://www.winconnections.com for details.