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March 28, 2023 by Felix Peters

Do you really need Apple Business Manager?

What can this free tool from Apple actually do? In this post, we illustrate how you can harness the true power of your Apple fleet with Apple Business Manager (ABM) alongside your mobile device management (MDM) solution.

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, but 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) provides a solid set of features to make managing your fleet easier.

When do I need ABM?

For example, think about these three different scenarios in which Apple Business Manager could lend a hand:

  • You are purchasing new devices or refreshing old ones
  • You want to be prepared even if you're not planinng a device refresh for a while
  • You are constantly increasing your company’s Apple hardware or you expect a steep increase in the near future

All three scenarios can be reasons to combine Apple Business Manager and MDM to ease IT pain points, control and remediate 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 ABM do?

ABM is a free tool that 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 so 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 can receive their new device, unpack it and start it up — all without you ever having to touch it.

For the Mac, the use of Jamf Connect can be helpful at this stage, to create a local user account based on your Identity Provider (IdP). The user will therefore have the same user credentials and password for their Mac as for every other app or resource within the company, all in sync with your IdP.

Meanwhile Apple Business Manager will have already forwarded the serial number to your MDM, and the rest is like magic. Apps, restrictions, settings, even PDFs seamlessly install while the end user logs in for the first time so 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 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, iPadOS and macOS devices can be added to ABM afterwards through an app called Apple Configurator. This app needs to be installed on an admin’s iPhone. This is not the preferred method, but it does help, if you want to have all your devices in ABM to ensure the same level of security and management can be applied to all company-owned devices.

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.

See other topics related to Apple Business Manager

Or maybe you’ve got ABM and are looking to fully empower yourself with mobile device management?

Photo of Felix Peters
Felix Peters
Felix Peters is part of the Apple Alliance team for Europe, based in Amsterdam.
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