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Device Management. Not just for big business.

*Article updated 01/09/2017 with DEP*

The proliferation of mobile devices in the workplace, both BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and those provided corporately, mean a growing headache for small businesses, trying to manage data access, data security and the devices themselves. KRCS, as experts in MDM, can help.

What is Device Management?

To start this article we should probably define what we mean by device management, because this is often misunderstood.

Device management can be applied to varying degrees. In it’s most basic implementation a mobile device management solution (MDM) can be a safety net. Simply used as a live asset register and offering the ability to locate devices when they are lost, erase them or reset passcodes. Register devices in to the MDM via a simple web page when they are new, and forget about it until needed.

At the other end of the spectrum, an MDM can be used in conjunction with Apple’s deployment programs to streamline every single part of the life of a device. That allows preparation of devices with a suite of apps and pre-defined settings without even taking them out of the box, and take the job of ongoing device management completely away from the end user.

True MDM is all done ‘over the air’. That means that the devices don’t need to be in the same place as the person managing them because the secure server sending commands to the devices is hosted in the cloud (on the internet), so the device will be subject to management wherever it is in the world in relation to the person administering the web interface of the MDM.

Who Uses Mobile Device Management?

MDM for Apple devices grew in popularity during the early years of the iPhone, allowing large businesses deploying thousands of iPhones the ability to do so in an efficient way. Businesses could automatically configure email, calendar and other settings, and latterly also install a ‘managed’ suite of apps owned by the organisation that would not allow data to be passed to unmanaged apps (thereby keeping business data within the business).

The next big requirement for MDM was in education, notably when iPad was launched. Schools, colleges and universities all recognised the benefit of iPad to their students but required varying levels of management for their users depending on their age, level of responsibility for the device etc.

And in recent years MDM has spread to everybody else! Organisations deploying 5, 4, 3, 2 or even 1 single device have realised the benefits of device management. A big growth area for mobile devices that we’re working in is retail, where iPad is proving a smash hit as a replacement for the traditional cash register. In that environment where down time at the counter costs £’s every second forward thinking entrepreneurs opening their first stores are doing so with a managed iPad at the heart of it.

Don’t Think You Need Device Management?

If you’re not convinced that you need an MDM for your mobile devices, let me give you a ‘for instance’:

You’ve embarked on a new business venture and have opened your first retail store selling custom jewellery. Lots of homework went in to selecting the right software to run that business and you chose Vend. Your cashiers get to use their great iPad app on the counter, and you get visibility of up to the second sales figures and reporting from your iPhone, even when overseas on a purchasing trip.

During one of those purchasing trips you receive a phone call from the store telling you that the assistant manager has resigned after a heated debate about the quality of coffee in the staff facilities. But on their way out of the door the disgruntled coffee lover applies a new passcode to the cashiers iPad and flounces off.

Now nobody can transact, and the store might as well be closed. The store manager had a bright idea and rushed home to get his MacBook remembering a way of erasing iPads even if you don’t know the passcode, but once erased the iPad said that ‘activation lock’ was enabled and asked for iCloud account details before it could be used, unfortunately those of a member of staff who left the store 3 months ago! Nobody knew what the Apple ID and password were for that iCloud account and the store remained unable to transact…

An absolute disaster, I’m sure you’ll agree, but not far fetched as anybody who has worked in retail will know. How could these events have been effected by device management? Here’s how:

1. Using free Apple deployment programs and an MDM the device can be put in to a ‘supervised’ mode automatically when it’s first turned on. That effectively tells Apple that your organisation owns it, and allows you to bypass iCloud activation lock

2. An MDM would have allowed the business owner to send a reset passcode command to the device, and turned this crisis in to a two minute hiccup.

3. If the iPad had been enrolled in an MDM the store owner would have been able to stop the issue in the first place using the single app mode. This would allow the store owner to send a command to the iPad when she’s not in the store locking the iPad to the Vend register app, making passcode settings inaccessible.

And I could go on. Trust me, device management is essential for any business or school using mobile devices.

It’s Free! Interested now?

The real deal maker for device management is that it’s free.

First register for your free Apple deployment program account at deploy.apple.com for business, or school.apple.com for education. This is the Apple run part of the solution that allows you to register device serial numbers as owned by your organisation when you buy them, and buy apps from a web store called VPP (Volume Purchase Program) so they don't have to be purchased ad-hoc on the device itself.

Once you’ve got your Apple account sorted it’s time to choose an MDM. These are provided by third parties, and come in all different shapes and sizes.

Which MDM should you choose?

KRCS have spent many years working with MDM providers, and we currently recommend two premium products which have a minimal cost (typically £10 per device per year). These are Jamf Pro (formerly known as the Capser Suite), and Mobile Manager by Lightspeed Systems.

Jamf Pro is the ‘Rolls Royce’ of MDM solutions for Apple products and ideally suited for larger deployments of devices in schools and businesses.

Lightspeed's Mobile Manager is also an excellent product, and designed to be more accessible for schools and with specific features designed for the education environment.

But I said this was free, right?? And there are plenty of free MDM solution out there, unfortunately most of them are free for a reason, and it results in them not being particularly user friendly or up to date with the latest capabilities, with one standout notable exception. That’s Jamf Now. Developed by the same people who brought us Jamf Pro, their 'Now' product is an amazingly simple but powerful MDM designed specifically for smaller businesses and schools deploying Apple mobile devices.

Jamf Now is what we call a ‘freemium’ product. The first three devices that you register are completely free, and without restriction on features. As your deployment grows and you need to register more devices the cost is just $2 per device per month (approx. £1.40).

DEP for business

There is an additional level of protection, and convenience, you can add if your company is providing the devices to the staff. This is Apple’s Device Enrolment Program (DEP).

DEP registers the device as yours, and allows it to be added to your MDM without needing to open the box. Apple Premium Resellers (APR), like KRCS, are able to register the serial number of your devices with Apple and add them to your DEP account, which is free to setup, so they can all be added to your MDM in one go. This means you can hand out the devices to staff without the need to get them all out, setup, and registered in the MDM individually. This saves you time, and allows the staff member the excitement of opening their brand new Apple device themselves!

For more information, and how to set yourself up a DEP account, please find our dedicated article here.
More information can also be found on Apple’s own website here.

Get in touch

If this article has got you interested in MDM, KRCS are experts in mobile device management and would love to help get it set up in your organisation. To start the ball rolling simply give us a call on 0115 985 1797, or email info@krcs.co.uk

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