Taming The iBeast: Managing iOS Devices With the Apple Configurator App

Taming The iBeast: Managing iOS Devices With the Apple Configurator App

Coinciding with the release of the new iPad, Apple released a new app for the Mac earlier this year that aims to provide another avenue for Mobile Device Management.

 

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The Apple Configurator App “makes it easy to mass configure and deploy iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch in a school, business, or institution” according to the Mac App Store. The app is aimed more for larger businesses, but can be used by smaller sized businesses wanting to take control of their iOS fleet.

The app is free to download, and addresses three areas of MDM:

Prepare devices

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  • Configure up to 30 devices at a time
  • Update devices to the latest version of iOS
  • Create and restore a backup of settings and app data from one device to other devices
  • Import apps into Apple Configurator and sync them to new devices*
  • Use the built-in editor to create and install iOS configuration profiles
  • Enroll devices with your Mobile Device Management solution for remote management

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Supervise devices
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  • Organize supervised devices into custom groups
  • Automatically apply common configurations to supervised devices
  • Quickly reapply a configuration to a supervised device and remove the previous user’s data
  • Import apps into Apple Configurator and sync them to supervised devices*
  • Define and apply common or sequential names to all devices
  • Restrict supervised devices from syncing with other computers

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Assign devices
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  • Add users and groups manually or autopopulate via Open Directory or Active Directory
  • Check out a device to a user and restore the user’s settings and data on that device
  • Check in a device from a user and and back up the data for later use, possibly on a different device
  • Apply custom text, wallpaper, or the user’s picture to a device’s Lock screen
  • Import and export documents between your Mac and Apple Configurator
  • Sync documents between assigned devices and Apple Configurator

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* Installing paid apps from the App Store requires redemption codes from the Volume Purchase Program for Education or Business. The Volume Purchase Program is not available in all regions.

While this app does afford great MDM capabilities the restriction of the app to Macs does make other MDM software more appealing to the Enterprise which is still largely Windows based in terms of PC’s and laptops.

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The below table comparing Apple’s Configurator App with other MDM software was created by Enterprise iOS, a website dedicated to discussions on iOS devices in business.

Notes:

“MDM”, refers to the combination of ActiveSync, MobileConfig Profiles, and Apple’s interface for MDM commands that is used by most vendors.

Apple Configurator is listed twice, since it can be used in two different ways. Devices can be unsupervised — which means they are simply prepared for deployment — or supervised, something altogether different.

MDM Configurator (unsupervised) Configurator (supervised)
Installation web page or (sometimes) app USB USB
Delivery of Updates OTA Push USB from original computer USB from original computer
Multi-user devices? No No Yes, with short backup-and-restore cycle
Set up mobileconfig restrictions, web clips, email, VPN, etc.? Yes, with push updates and changes Yes, only during initial config Yes, only during initial config
Update iOS No Yes Yes
Set Lock Screen Image No Yes, with optional device name Yes, with device and/or user name and/or user photo
Set Wallpaper No Yes Yes
Install free apps Yes Yes Yes
Owner (Apple ID) of free apps End User Installer Installer
Install Paid Apps with VPP Codes Yes Yes Yes
Owner of Paid Apps End-User ? Device
Revokable and Reuse VPP Codes? No Yes (if device erased by ACfg) Yes
Passwords entries needed for N app installs on a single device? N (most implementations) or 1 (some implementations) 0 0
Can push documents? Not through MDM (some have companion app) Yes, as part of initial image Yes, per-user docs backed up and saved
Query installed apps Yes No No
Remove Wipe Yes No No
Ideal for BYOD and/or widely-dispersed users Initial configuration and deployments, especially when paired with MDM Classrooms, loaner units, trainings, kiosks