At Jamf we often hear the question, “Do I really need Apple Business Manager (ABM) to manage my Apple devices if I already have mobile device management (MDM)?” Though it depends on your current situation and what you’d like to achieve, the short answer is yes if you want to get the most from your Apple devices.
To get into the long answer, ABM not only adds useful security options and supervision possibilities — the whole out-of-the-box user experience is unmatched. Alongside your MDM solution to fill the gaps, ABM (as well as Apple School Manager, or ASM) provide a solid set of features to make managing your fleet easier.
When do I need ABM?
For example, think about these 3 different scenarios where Apple Business Manager could lend a hand:
- Purchasing new devices or refreshing old ones
- An opportunity for a device refresh is not coming up for a while
- Your company’s Apple hardware is constantly increasing or you expect a steep increase in the near future
All 3 scenarios can be reasons to combine Apple Business Manager and MDM to ease IT pain points, control and support problems, create efficient onboarding experiences and improve end-user productivity. Apple Business Manager alone isn’t a fix-all magic wand, but it integrates useful solutions and add-ons to save time, stress and effort.
What can it do?
Additionally, ABM is a free tool which functions as a database of your Apple purchases. It not only keeps track of devices, but also your App Store Apps and Apple IDs. Because of this, you can deploy apps to any Apple device without the need for an Apple ID or by having a managed Apple ID on these devices (a standard Apple ID works as well).
All new devices show up in Apple Business Manager right after they are purchased and these devices can be assigned a Name, User, Groups, Apps etc., before even being shipped to your location, or even better, direct to the end user’s home. The end user then receives their new device, unpacks it and starts it up — all without you ever having to touch it. Apple Business Manager will have already forwarded the serial number to your MDM and the rest is like magic. Apps, restrictions, settings, even pdfs will seamlessly install while the end user logs in for the first time and they can start working right away.
Even if you are not investing in new Apple hardware right now, you can still apply for Apple Business Manager, set it up, configure it and link it to your MDM to prepare yourself for future additions to your fleet. Don't forget that that if a device gets wiped, it will always reconnect to your Apple Business Manager after reinstalling the OS and, therefore, will always be in your company’s control and equipped with the right tools.
Maybe a device has gone missing? If it is powered on and reinstalls the OS, it will automatically add itself to your MDM instance and will be under company control again.
Think about a company continuously growing their headcount, and in turn, growing their device count. With Apple Business Manager they don’t need to add every single device manually to their management system — it appears right after purchase.
Note that iOS devices can also be added to ABM afterwards through Apple Configurator 2 (a Mac App). This is not the preferred method, but it does help getting older iOS devices or iOS devices bought before Apple Business Manager was created the same security and management options as your new ones.
So, when it comes down to it, yes, you can use a MDM tool without ABM, but you will be missing out on a ton of useful features. This is also a two-way street: you can have ABM without MDM, but then Apple Business Manager will only function as a serial number database. In summary, a combination of both will give you the best experience.
Realize you’re lacking Apple Business Manager? Reach out to your Apple representative to get things in place.