Apple recently has improved its mobile device management features, but IT groups are discovering a new set of challenges when they start to move to larger numbers of iOS devices, MacIT conference attendees are confirming this week.
Marin County Day School, in Corte Madera, Calif., ran a pilot program of about 60 iOS devices for students in 2011. From an IT viewpoint, it was a continuous discovery of the current limitations of Apple's tools. The small staff was backing up each iPad individually, says IT director Robert Bardenhagen.
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"Scaling is a problem," he says. That's daunting because the K-8 school, like many enterprises, is eager to expand the population of iOS devices.
Another issue was Apple's model of users pulling apps individually from the iTunes App Store. Bardenhagen, with an IT manager's viewpoint, is looking at a push model, which would let IT create, maintain and update an institutional software image on the devices.
Configuration profiles are XML files that load settings and authorization information to Apple's device management tools include the iPhone Configuration Utility (IPCU) and, with Lion Server, a feature called Profile Manager, which uses enterprise directory services and the Apple Push Notification Service to create XML files, called configuration profiles, that load settings and authorization information for both Mac OS X and iOS devices. [Apple's support page for Profile Manager is here]
Profile Manager handles application installs, policy settings, security and some asset tracking, says Derick Okihara, IT technician for Mid-Pacific Institute, a Honolulu, Hawaii, private coeducational college preparatory school, for preschool through 12th grade. At this week's MacIT conference, Okihara gave an overview of Apple's iOS configuration and management tools.
Profile Manager is missing a number of features: There's not remote control capability, no backup for iOS devices, and it can't block iOS firmware updates. In relatively small deployments these might not be missed.