iOS management is convoluted and confusing. Apple’s fan boy mantra, “it just works” is actually the antithesis of my experience. It isn’t all thorns in my side; there are some useful features Apple’s provided, especially in Profile Manager.
In this post I will explain my understanding of each management tool and how I tried to implement them. I offer concluding information on their resulting successes and failures.
Furthermore, I ask Apple for a better solution; one integrated solution. I welcome your feedback, comments, and critiques. Did I miss something? Additionally, share your own successes and failures.
My experiences are from Seattle Pacific University Library. In my position I oversee the Tech Desk, which manages two different groups of iOS devices. The first is for general student circulation and the second is for individual librarians for use with their work and teaching.
I was excited when Apple released Profile Manager with the Lion Server app. When Apple released the app we purchased an iMac with an Intel Core i7 processor. This iMac is our dedicated general server (Lion Server app), Mac imaging server (DeployStudio), iTunes sync computer for the circulated iOS devices, and the Mac computer available to assist students with a wide range of needs when visiting the Tech Desk (video editing, video conversion).
Configuring Profile Manager was fairly straightforward. Following Apple’s documentation guided the process. The main steps are below.
I use the iMac mentioned above. Nothing too complicated is needed.
Install the app via the App Store.
If you are installing paid apps enter the Apple ID you want associated with the apps. This is the Apple ID that is required in the Preference section of the Apple Configurator app. You cannot use your VPP account that was used to purchase apps. However, you will need your VPP account available to install apps by importing redemption codes. This is confusing!
Apple’s documentation is helpful.
I use the iMac mentioned above. Nothing too complicated is needed. Really anything that can run the latest version of iTunes should work.
Normal iTunes setup
Login with normal Apple ID (not the VPP one, more confusion!)
Our Current Setup: Profile Manger and iTunes Sync Station Hybrid
I use Profile Manager through the Lion Server app to install manage profile settings on the iOS devices. This works great for restricting certain features I don’t want students using when they check out the device.
Profile Manager also provides great tools to lock or wipe the iOS device in the event of loss or theft. We still can use the Find My iPad (or iPod touch) app through iCloud if we want for those features in addition to GPS location.
For librarian iOS devices we can send free apps over the air and wipe the iOS device in the event of loss or theft, this is great way to manage because we don’t have to mess up their Apple ID or general settings. If they decide they don’t want the profile installed anymore they can uninstall it at anytime (however they lose apps that were installed through it.)
iTunes Sync Station
I use iTunes to install and update apps. When a device is returned from check out we automatically “Erase all Content and Settings” directly on the iOS device. Then we connect the device to iTunes and restore it from the master backup. If needed, we perform updates to apps using the normal Apple ID.
App Purchasing: VPP for Education
I dislike the current app purchasing situation. It isn’t intuitive or integrated. I can’t track licenses or revoke used redemption codes. It isn’t very easy when I manage two different types of device pools.
What’s Possible: “It Just Works” Solution
Apple’s tools to manage iOS devices don’t follow the “it just works” mantra. Their tools are confusing and lack continuity. People, from what I gather, including myself, are left to figure out a solution that works, but the solutions are cobbled together. I love Profile Manager, but I struggle to find the usefulness of Apple Configurator. Though, Apple Configurator does seem to be an attempt at non-server based Profile Manager. Profile Manager already manages iOS devices and Mac devices. I think that is the direction Apple should continue with. What could Apple do to make these better tools for iOS (and Mac) management?
Merger Profile Manager and Apple Configurator
iTunes is great for general users, but not enterprise worthy, I really don’t want to update iTunes every week…
Rebuild Apple Configurator from the ground up based on Profile Manager, but market it as a separate app, not as a server. It will live on a computer, but require a USB connection to configure and update iOS devices and Mac devices like Profile Manager does now. It is the corded version of Profile Manager. Profile Manager Server and Profile Manager Local (or some other name).
The New Profile Manager (Server and Local Versions)
The new Profile Manager is still the same component of Lion Server app, but with better and enhanced features.
What else would you like to see in managing iOS devices (and possible even Mac devices)? What concerns do you have and see? Did I miss something; does Apple already provide the experience I want?
I think Apple has an opportunity to really expand the offerings of Profile Manager and their other purchasing tools.