Managing Devices with Apple Business Manager

Building on our ultimate guide to iOS management, we look at Apple Business Manager, its key features and have a couple tips to help you get started.  

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, it has its own solution for enrolling devices into an enterprise called Apple Business Manager (ABM).

What is Apple Business Manager (ABM)? 

Apple Business Manager is a web-based portal for IT-admins available to use in around 65 countries worldwide

It helps IT administrators to automate deployment of iOS/iPadOS, macOS and tvOS devices in organizations, manage roles in organizations and enables the large-scale purchasing and distribution of books or apps.

ABM does not replace mobile device management solutions; instead its features require a MDM solution, like Cortado MDM. Educational institutions have a separate portal: Apple School Manager.  

Why Should You Use MDM and Apple Business Manager? 

Companies which allow employees to use mobile devices at work can use ABM and a MDM solution to leverage several security and productivity-boosting features. With just a few clicks, businesses can configure multiple Apple devices, manage apps and easily secure all corporate data from private employee data.

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 the device-purchasing stage. 

These are two most important aspects to take advantage of: Automation of device enrollment and the volume purchasing tools. 

  • Automating Device Enrollment (aka the Device Enrollment Program)
    Similar to Android zero-touch enrollment, 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.  
  • 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 which 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 a Bring Your Own Device Scheme? 

Yes. While Apple Business Manager is most often only used for deploying supervised devices, i.e. corporately owned Apple devices with supervised mode switched on, if you want to use User Enrollment – Apple’s reworked BYOD concept – companies need ABM 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. Recommended resellers are listed on Apple’s website.

    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 Manager requires 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 must be applied for, which will result in extra waiting time. Make sure you keep on top of the updates to the system too. DEP reached end of life in December 2019, so make sure that you have upgraded to Apple Business Manager 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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