Getting a bunch of iOS and Mac devices setup is more of a logistical challenge than a technical hurdle. When you buy a couple iPads, it’s pretty simple to set them up for the email, security settings and apps that you need those devices to have. You can put them all on a table, give them an Apple ID and then set them up identically to give to users. But the first time someone wipes a device, or looses a device that you need to wipe, you’ll have to do that manual labor again. And if you’re buying more than a couple of Apple devices, then the amount of time becomes amplified to manage all of these tasks. This is where a management solution comes into play.
The first management solution that many look at is Apple Configurator. Apple Configurator is a free download off the Mac App Store and allows you to setup “profiles” for devices. These profiles then get applied to devices, automatically configuring settings on the devices: for example, disabling access to the App Store or configuring an email address. Apple Configurator has a lot of cool things that it can do, but you have to connect a device to a computer running the same instance of Apple Configurator that you used to setup devices initially, so over time it becomes pretty labor intensive and logistically challenging to manage a growing or permanent set of devices.
Next, many look to Mobile Device Management, or MDM for short. MDM allows you to manage devices over the air, instead of over USB. MDM can push settings to devices wirelessly. So if you decide you’d like to switch mail services, you can change the settings on all of your devices without plugging them into a computer, having users manually enter new mail settings or worse, manually entering those settings for the users when they bring you the iPad.
The point of management solutions was once to restrict what people could do. This made sense, because with viruses running rampant in corporate networks and users accidentally clicking on a button and blowing up their computer, doing so helped to further secure devices while also reducing the support burden for those devices. With iOS devices and even the Mac, it’s getting harder and harder for a user to break a device. Therefore, we’re in a place now where we want to empower users rather than restrict them.
We worry less about security vulnerabilities on devices where the operating system isn’t able to be altered. This allows us, as with Apple, to improve the experience for the people who use devices. Which invariably leads to a mixed use of those devices. Facebook coexists with the work apps. But then, when people take devices home they’re often responding to mail and working a little at home to make up for any wasted time working on personal items in the office. By using the Apple deployment programs as they are designed, we can reduce the amount of manual effort required to manage devices while making for the most graceful user experiences possible!