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    Evaluating Apple Business Essentials for MDM: Is It Up to the Mark?

    Being a $2.66 trillion technology and product company is no mean feat. That’s Apple for you! 

    Apple’s reputation for crafting elegant, user-friendly devices has made it a preferred choice among consumers.

    What is less widely known, however, is that the technology powerhouse extends its expertise to the business as well. Launched in April 2022, Apple Business Essentials (ABE) exemplifies this, offering a suite designed expressly for the needs of small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

    Apple Business Essentials
    Evaluation of Apple Business Essentials as an MDM Solution

    However, there’s a pressing question for businesses. Is the ABE product suite genuinely as effective as purported, particularly concerning Mobile Device Management (MDM)? In this blog, we will dissect the workings of ABE, ascertain its efficacy as an MDM tool, and explore an innovative strategy for managing diverse devices.

    What is Apple Business Essentials?

    To grasp the concept of Apple Business Essentials, one must first become acquainted with Apple Business Manager (ABM). ABM serves as an online platform that allows IT administrators to deploy and manage Apple devices efficiently.

    Initially designed to meet the demands of both the enterprise and educational sectors (referred to as Apple School Manager in the educational context), ABM equips organizations with essential functionalities. These include the ability to enroll devices, manage organization-specific Apple IDs, and control user access to previously acquired applications and books.

    So, what precisely is Apple Business Essentials? Essentially, Apple Business Essentials expands upon ABM by incorporating additional services such as cloud storage, AppleCare+ for technical support, and an MDM tool. This comprehensive suite enables administrators to configure, deploy, and manage Apple devices remotely, streamlining the management process for businesses.

    Eligibility Requirements for Apple Business Essentials

    To qualify for utilization within the ABE framework, devices must adhere to the criteria outlined below:

    • Procured through Apple directly or via an Apple Authorized Reseller that carries an active and validated Apple Customer Number. Alternatively, the device should be associated with the reseller’s Reseller Number, ensuring seamless device enrollment.
    • Corporate-owned devices need to be registered within ABM (Apple Business Manager), which is achievable through the Configurator for administrators.
    • For personal devices brought by employees (BYOD), iOS devices can undergo a user-initiated enrollment process.
    • It is mandatory to have the latest versions of web browsers, specifically Safari version 14.1 or newer, Chrome version 87 or above, or Microsoft Edge starting from version 87.
    • Compatibility with operating systems is required, namely iOS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS 12.0.1, or tvOS 15, to ensure full functionality within the ABE program.

    It’s important to note that specific requirements for the operating system may be adjusted based on the device’s designated purpose.

    Benefits of Apple Business Essentials

    Apple consistently prioritizes enhancing the user experience (UX), a principle that is clearly evident in ABE. Here are several key benefits that make ABE highly appreciated among IT administrators:

    Simple & Easy

    Implementing Apple Business Essentials (ABE) is a direct process. An administrator is required to enroll their organization and establish a primary administrator account by inputting their official name, professional email address, contact number, and position within the company. 

    Thereafter, admins have the capability to generate managed Apple IDs and assign them to their users. The initial administrator has the authority to include up to four additional administrators to ensure operational continuity in the event that any admin is unable to access the system for any reason.

    Settings and App Automation

    Administrators are particularly fond of the functionality provided by the Collection feature in ABE. This tool enables them to distribute applications and configurations to individuals, groups of users, and devices seamlessly.

    Take, for instance, Patrick, an IT administrator of a SaaS company, who is looking to equip his CXOs with a digital signature app that allows them to review and sign critical business documents. He seeks to implement a setting that restricts access exclusively to CXO-level documents (like SLAs). Utilizing the Collection feature, Patrick can acquire the necessary app licenses, adjust the settings accordingly, and designate the “CXO” user group to this specific collection.

    Furthermore, the flexibility of placing users into multiple collections means administrators can tailor collections to suit specific tasks, users, or a combination of both.

    AppleCare+

    Despite a consistent rise in employees transitioning back to office settings post-pandemic, a considerable portion continues to operate remotely.

    This highlights the value of integrating AppleCare+ into ABE, presenting a notable advantage for administrators. In scenarios where in-house IT support is unfeasible for employers, AppleCare+ steps in to fill the gap, offering comprehensive technical assistance to an organization’s remote workforce, encompassing repair and replacement services.

    Challenges of Apple Business Essentials

    While ABE boasts a range of beneficial functionalities, certain IT admins find its capabilities lacking in some areas, which is understandable. Below are a few aspects these administrators believe could be improved within the solution.

    Pricing Structure

    Like many SaaS solutions, ABE provides a selection of monthly subscription models that are differentiated by three levels. The cost adjusts based on the number of devices covered by the subscription, with a single-device option priced at $2.99 and a three-device option available at either $6.99 or $12.99 (more storage). Included in these subscriptions is data storage, offering 50 GB for the single-device plan and 200 GB (or an option for 2 TB) for the three-device plan.

    However, it’s worth noting that these pricing plans may not perfectly align with every user’s needs. For instance, a user in need of 100 GB of storage for just one device would find themselves having to opt for the $6.99 plan designed for three devices. Similarly, users with three devices who do not require additional iCloud storage have no alternative but to select from the existing plans. Moreover, the add-on of AppleCare+ shoots up the single-device plan to $9.99 and the three-device plans to $19.99 and $24.99.

    Scalability

    At present, the use of ABE is confined to organizations with no more than 500 employees. This ceiling does not affect most small enterprises immediately, but it can be a significant constraint for midsized organizations.

    Furthermore, while this limitation may not pose an immediate concern, it lacks sustainability for the future. As businesses grow and increase their workforce in the coming years, they will find themselves in a predicament. This inevitably leads to a situation where businesses must revisit and revise their strategies from scratch.

    Granular Management

    Administrators often face a further challenge with ABE: its limited granularity in management controls. Administrators have the capability to allocate apps to users and configure devices to run these apps exclusively. However, they lack the ability to fine-tune the amount of data accessible to each user within the app. Additionally, there is no mechanism for administrators to specify user privileges for specific resources or to define the extent of access permitted to users.

    Multi-OS Support

    It’s quite evident that ABE is specifically designed to cater to Apple devices, which have seen a rise in adoption within professional settings. However, its utility is limited in mixed-device work environments that also incorporate Windows, Android, and Chrome OS devices.

    Admins will be able to manage their Apple device inventory using ABE effectively, but they will need to seek alternative management solutions for comprehensive control over other platforms.

    Is Apple Business Essentials Effective as an MDM Solution?

    Time to get toward the climax and the core of the matter. Is Apple Business Essentials effective as an MDM solution? Well, let’s visit both sides of the coin and be totally transparent.

    The decision to leverage ABE as an MDM tool hinges on various considerations. It is particularly suited for businesses that meet the following criteria:

    • Manage a uniform collection of Apple devices and App Store applications.
    • Employ a workforce already accustomed to Apple’s UI.
    • Intend to maintain a workforce of fewer than 500 employees in the coming years.
    • Do not necessitate administrative provision of detailed access permissions to different users.
    • Do not require the introduction of multi-factor authentication (MFA) measures.
    • Have no intentions to distribute proprietary applications to its iOS devices.

    Yet, if an organization does not align with the abovementioned criteria, it should consider alternative sources for its Mobile Device Management (MDM) needs. This becomes particularly crucial for businesses where they have to:

    • Secure FileVault keys in a protected environment, safeguarded from unauthorized access.
    • Facilitate the integration of business applications with corporate credentials for its employees, ensuring a seamless workflow.
    • Employ a versatile storage solution that supports collaboration across any location and with any productivity software suite.
    • Engage with a billing administrator for financial transactions and account management.
    • Conduct its billing operations via a comprehensive management portal.
    • Require a system for automated conflict resolution to streamline operations.

    Making Multi-OS Device Management Seamless

    Consider a scenario where an organization stands at a critical crossroad. Having effectively implemented Apple Business Manager, the next step involves finding an Apple mobile device management solution that aligns with your needs.

    The decision-makers in the organization seek functionalities beyond those provided by Apple Business Essentials. Moreover, the ideal solution should seamlessly integrate with Apple Business Manager while also supporting the management of both Apple and non-Apple devices.

    How do you proceed? Scalefusion is the answer. 

    Scalefusion offers a comprehensive, multi-platform solution suitable for diverse IT environments. It seamlessly integrates with ABM ecosystems, providing extensive control over devices across macOS, Windows, Android, and Linux platforms. Scalefusion’s MDM capabilities are designed to support both Apple and non-Apple devices effectively, enabling organizations to:

    • Implement MFA throughout their network infrastructure.
    • Apply conditional access (IAM) policies for employees, enhancing the security posture.
    • Exercise detailed control over access to corporate resources, adhering to the principle of least privilege for user access.
    • Protect data with full-disk encryption on corporate devices.
    • Manage everything efficiently from a unified dashboard.

    Final Words: Apple Business Essentials as an MDM? 

    In contrast to individuals who may overlook certain features in favor of what’s familiar, businesses must select solutions that fulfill their current and future MDM needs without compromise.

    For small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) exclusively using Apple products and requiring elementary MDM functionalities, such as app deployment, ABE represents a reliable option. However, it falls short for small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) planning to expand within mixed-device environments.

    Scalefusion offers a unified solution that integrates multi-platform capabilities, enhanced security features, and comprehensive device management—everything through a user-friendly dashboard.

    Contact our experts and schedule a demo to experience how Scalefusion can alleviate your MDM challenges. Register for free and get started with a 14-day trial.

    Abhinandan Ghosh
    Abhinandan Ghosh
    Abhinandan is a Senior Content Editor at Scalefusion who is an enthusiast of all things tech and loves culinary and musical expeditions. With more than a decade of experience, he believes in delivering consummate, insightful content to readers.

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