Managing Devices with Apple Business Manager

This article provides a complete overview of Apple Business Manager, its key features and offers a few tips that will help you to get started with the portal.  

Apple Business Manager: Managing Devices
With Apple Business Manager, end users can get to work with their iPhones and iPads much quicker 

Any IT admin looking to familiarize themselves with Mobile Device Management (MDM) will need to prepare for a huge number of new programs, portals and platforms before it all starts making sense.

As to be expected with Apple, the company has their own solutions for enrolling devices into an enterprise. ABM, DEP, VPP – taking in all the information associated with all of them is demanding and time consuming, so we put together a quick overview of all three to help you get the gist of it all quicker.  

What is Apple Business Manager (ABM)? 

Apple Business Manager is a web-based portal for IT-admins available to use in 65 countries worldwide. It helps IT administrators to automate deployment of iOS, macOS and tvOS devices in organizations, manage roles for mobile devices in organizations and enables the large-scale purchasing and distribution of books or apps by location. It is not a replacement for mobile device management; instead its features require assistance from a suitable MDM solution, like Cortado MDM. Educational institutions have a separate portal: Apple School Manager.  

Why Should You Use MDM and Apple Business Manager? 

Companies that allow employees to use mobile devices at work without MDM are missing out on many security and productivity-boosting features.

Whether it is for introducing BYOD or corporately owned devices that let employees work effectively on the move, MDM is an invaluable piece of software. With just a few clicks, businesses can set up new iPhones and iPads, manage apps and easily secure all corporate data from private employee data.

An MDM solution and Apple Configurator is sufficient for enrolling a small selection of different devices – say a mix of BYOD/supervised iOS devices. But if a company is interested in deploying a larger number of corporately-owned iPhones and iPads, perhaps across different sites, Apple Business Manager is invaluable, thanks to it’s important extra features at device-purchasing stage. 

These are two most important aspects in Apple Business Manager that businesses will want to take advantage of: Automation of device enrollment and the volume purchasing tools. 

  • Automating Device Enrollment (aka Device Enrollment Program)
    Similar to Android zero-touch, Apple Business Manager provides admins with the tools to automate and streamline device enrollment. The admin-team will not need to manually prepare each device with software, accounts and any other necessary configurations. What’s more, a company’s MDM controls always stay on the device and are non-removable.

    Apple Business Manager also delivers a straightforward, out-of-the-box setup experience for end users. To simplify enrollment, it is possible to trim down the initial setup process that each employee is confronted with once a new device is switched on. IT admins can remove steps in the setup assistant so end users can use their device quicker. This tool is therefore ideal for companies looking to enroll devices across different branch offices, locations and departments, whilst also simplifying the entire process. It is therefore something every larger business in this scenario should consider taking advantage of.  
  • Bulk Buying and App/Content Distribution with the Volume Purchasing Plan 
    The Volume Purchasing Program is another important tool, integrated into Apple Business Manager, for organizations that are looking to purchase large quantities of apps and books, manage app licenses as well as keep track of purchases and inventory. When using Apple Business Manager, content such as apps or books can be bought in bulk with a wider range of payment options. Mobile device management solutions in combination with the VPP features are then used to easily distribute them over-the-air.

    Distribution is possible once your MDM solution is linked with Apple Business Manager via a secure token that is uploaded to your MDM server. Apps can be assigned and pushed via mobile device management to managed Apple devices that run the following operating systems or later: iOS 7, OS X 10.9 or tvOS 10.2. As long as the app is also available in each country’s app store, app licenses can also be distributed internationally. The process of app distribution itself can be easily overseen due to the central management console.

    Crucially, VPP allows the organization to retain ownership of app licenses so apps that are no longer needed by users can be revoked, reassigned or deleted. With VPP, company licensed apps can be efficiently and silently pushed to deployed devices too. 
The ABM workflow at a glance
Apple Business Manager at a glance. To deploy with ABM, IT admins initially need:  Devices bought from Apple or Resellers, an ABM Account & DUNS Number and an MDM solution that supports Apple Business Manager, like Cortado MDM

Do You Need Apple Business Manager for Bring Your Own Device Schemes? 

Although it might sound like this question has an obvious answer to some, it does get asked a lot. As companies are purchasing the devices themselves, Apple Business Manager is designed for deploying supervised devices, i.e. corporately owned Apple devices with supervised mode switched on.  End users of supervised devices can’t delete the MDM capabilities and IT admins are able to extra enact controls that affect the entire device – something not possible in Apple BYOD. 

BYOD enrollment therefore involves different methods, like initiating enrollment via the installation of a configuration profile. However, when User Enrollment – Apple’s reworked BYOD concept – arrives later this year, companies will indeed need Apple Business Manager in their toolkit in order to create the necessary Managed Apple IDs. 

How Much Does Apple Business Manager Cost? 

Another frequently asked question is how much does Apple Business Manager cost? Good news – Apple Business Manager itself is free to use. However other costs, such as device costs, subscription costs for the MDM solution and perhaps the membership costs for the Apple Developer Program (if you are looking to distribute custom apps to businesses in Apple Business Manager) will need to be considered.  

2 Mistakes to Avoid When Deploying Apple Devices 

  • Don’t buy your devices outside of Apple / the registered resellers for Apple Business Manager. Apple recommends that you purchase your devices in bulk from either Apple or a reseller so that enrollment can take place at the purchasing stage. Enrolling is something done by the resellers or Apple, therefore it is important to take the provisioning steps in the right order.

    However, if you have already purchased hundreds of iPads or iPhone which you wish to enroll, then it is still possible to manually enroll it using the Apple Configurator software (2.5). You will need to have a MacOS device before you are able to download the software at the Apple App Store to get started. 
  • Don’t underestimate the initial work that needs to be done. As previously mentioned, Apple Business Managerrequires more steps than Android zero-touch. Each organization must contact Apple in order to setup a DEP account, and to do this, they need a D-U-N-S number, Apple ID and the Reseller IDs at hand. The D-U-N-S number in particular must first be applied for, which will result in extra waiting time if not already acquired. Make sure you keep on top of the updates to the system too. DEP will reach end of life in December 2019, so it’s best to make sure that you have upgraded to Apple Business Manager by then if you just have a DEP account.  >> How to upgrade to Apple Business Manager 

Ready to Get Started? 

If you already have the free trial of Cortado MDM, consult our step-by-step help guide for deploying devices with Apple Business Manager and Cortado MDM.  

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