Apple Configurator: how to deploy iPads and iPhones in businesses
Do you need to deploy a bunch of iPads or iPhones to staff? Have you given up on Bring Your Own Device? Do you want to give them the hardware, but ensure your line-of-business apps are on there, that updates are installed, and that you can control the devices properly? Take a look at Apple Configurator, a free download from the Apple Store.
This tool lets you apply a whole range of configuration policies to mobile devices. You can decide to have a light touch – for example, you can impose mandatory updates, but allow users to choose their own apps and content from the App Store – or you can implement a more severe lockdown, which might be more appropriate for a kiosk environment or a classroom.
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There are three main areas to this app: Prepare Devices lets you manage the OS, updates, apps and licensing; Supervise Devices gives you control over groups of devices that share common apps, settings and profiles; and Assign Devices allows you to create and manage users and groups, assign a supervised device to each user, back up and restore their content and settings, and distribute and retrieve their documents.
At first glance, the app looks very simple to use, but there’s a lot of depth to it. For example, you can import user and group information from an Open Directory server, and you can buy collections of application licences directly from Apple, then apply these to the machines. You can control how machines are reset, wiped and reconfigured, and you can apply a host of settings that a managed device needs in a business or educational context.
In a business context, you might want to create a set of policies that define Exchange ActiveSync, VPN tunnelling and the Wi-Fi connection to the corporate network, and lock down the installation or removal of apps. You might want to pre-cook the installation of a bunch of line-of-business apps, some of which are internal to your organisation. All that’s required to force these policies onto each device is for the device to be connected via USB, which can either be done individually, or via a charging cart or setup station.
There’s a great deal of power in Apple Configurator, and, if you’re responsible for a number of iOS devices, I strongly suggest you take a look at it.