September 10th 2013 – “This should brighten everyone’s day”
New iPhones, new iPads? New laptops? A watch? What about the iMac? It’s been a while since all of these had received some love from Apple looking back at changes made in the last year or so. Oh, and the iPod as well, what does it’s future hold.
Going by the tagline, we should be expecting changes to all of these. If not, the schoolkid who has an old iPod shuffle and wants to have something for Christmas might be disappointed.
But, hardware aside, what’s going to brighten a Sysadmin’s day?
Apple have promised lots in the iOS 7 pages. New features are always good to have “Institutions … can use their MDM solution to assign apps to students and faculty and staff members over the air” sounds brilliant.
What’s needed for all this to work though?
- A robust wireless network
- A network configured to allow push notifications to traverse it
- An MDM solution, correctly deployed to allow communication to Apple
- A copy of Mavericks server to cache apps locally (how many times will Garageband be downloaded before the internet pipe is swamped)
And how about those VPP codes you have at the moment, deployed through Apple Configurator – how do they fit into this new world?
There’s a pretty hefty list of catch-up work to do if these aren’t in place yet. In the Southern hemisphere the academic year is on our side. We’ll get a few months before the new school year starts in January 2014 to work through these processes.
(oh, and don’t forget about proxy servers – an authenticated proxy server is great for tracking students and being able to have accountability, but for devices like iPads which want to access the internet at will, better think of a strategy to make these easy for people to use.)
Apple Configurator is a great tool for setting up iOS devices, but what happens after they are released into the wild? A Mobile Device Management solution is your friend here for being able to make changes to the devices over the air (OTA).
If you’re looking for a Mobile Device Management system there is a potentially bewildering array of choices. The most common offerings you’re likely to come across are Meraki, Casper Suite, SimpleMDM, AirWatch and Apple’s own Profile Manager which is built-in to Mac OS X Server. EnterpriseiOS have a good comparison of the feature sets of 30 MDM systems at http://enterpriseios.com/wiki/Comparison_MDM_Providers. Some of these solutions are free, some have a relatively high cost to get going with. Some are free for now with the caveat that they may become pay-for in the future.
Which MDM solution is right for you comes down to answering some key questions;
- Do you want to be able to give users a menu of apps to choose from?
- Do you want to deploy VPP codes to users in an easy way?
- Do you want reporting on the iOS devices in some way?
- Do you want to deploy content (eg iBooks) to devices?
- How do you want to authenticate the devices?
- Are you looking at BYOD deployment and want students to be self-sufficient with their support needs?
An MDM solution is an excellent asset to have. Typical uses for MDM are;
- Deploying wireless network details onto devices.
- Pushing out webclips to devices for new services.
- Configuring email settings onto devices.
- Locking or wiping an iPad in case of loss
Recently we rolled out a new wireless network. With around 150 iOS devices around the campus, some in groups in classrooms and others in staff members’ hands, being able to deploy a new wireless network profile to all of these devices assisted in a smooth transition from one system to another.