Learn the basics of managing Macs

Getting started can be tricky, so we’ve put together a quick summary of what you most need to know about Mac management.

April 6 2020 by

Scott Strand

At Jamf, we help a lot of people. More than 36,000 organizations all across the globe rely on us each day to help manage over 16 million Apple devices (and counting).

A lot of those devices are computers — from MacBooks to iMacs, Macs are an ideal tool for businesses small and large, and they can be prolific in education, too — faculty devices, Mac labs and technology carts are a few examples.

As more organizations implement technology choice programs and add Mac devices to their environment, be it remote or in-office, IT teams need to stay up-to-date on how to best deploy, manage and secure these devices without sacrificing user experience or productivity.

Getting started can be tricky, so we’ve put together a quick summary of what you most need to know about Mac management below. For more detail, watch our recent webinar, Mac Management 101: Getting Started, or read our e-book, Mac Management for Beginners.

MDM and client management

Introduced in OS X 10.7 Lion, Mac computers gained the ability to understand and apply settings (such as remote wipe or passcode restrictions) thanks to a built-in mobile device management (MDM) framework. Devices communicate back to your management server and receive commands, settings, configurations or apps you define.

While this framework provides a baseline control over Mac computers, macOS is a more robust platform than iOS or tvOS, which may require more advanced functionality. Leveraging client management allows you to install a Mac agent, or binary, immediately after the device is enrolled into management.

This agent enables a hidden admin account to be added, allowing for remote root access to macOS and opens the door for more policies and scripts to be run on a computer. Since agent-based Mac management goes beyond the built-in MDM, you need a third-party solution to take full advantage of advanced Mac management.

Apple services and programs

As Mac computers became more popular in the enterprise and education, challenges arose about how to best deploy devices at scale, how to address Apple IDs and the purchasing of apps. Apple, of course, looked to solve these issues and introduced various programs and services to take device management one step further, making it easier and more cost-effective to manage devices in bulk.

  • Apple’s automated MDM enrollment solution allows organizations of any size to pre-configure devices purchased from Apple or an authorized Apple reseller without ever having to touch the device. The first time the device is turned on, it will automatically reach out to Apple and your mobile device management solution to pull down relevant configurations, settings and management.
  • With Apps and Books from Apple, you can purchase and license apps and books in bulk from Apple and distribute them to individuals via Apple ID or directly to devices without an Apple ID.
  • Apple Business Manager and Apple School Manager are web-based portals for IT administrators to oversee people, devices and content - all from one place.
  • Apple’s Classroom app empowers teachers to streamline classroom instruction, encourage interaction and collaboration, focus a student’s device on a specific app or webpage and view student devices to check for understanding.

Lifecycle management stages

From initial deployment to the end-user experience, it’s critical to understand, manage and support the entire lifecycle of the Mac computers in your environment. This ensures both security and maximized potential for your devices. Apple’s device management framework aids with six key functions across the entire lifecycle of your Mac devices:

  1. Deployment and provisioning - Getting devices into the hands of end users
  2. Configuration management - Applying the correct settings to devices
  3. App management - Ensuring the correct software and apps are on each device
  4. Inventory - Reporting on the status of each device
  5. Security - Securing devices to organizational standards
  6. User empowerment - Allowing users to self-help when they require resources and services

Infrastructure planning

Where you host your management environment is just as important as the management solution you choose. Not only does cloud hosting make upgrades a breeze, it takes the added pressure of server management, disaster recovery, and more off of IT.

Additional Resources

Whether you are an IT veteran looking to stay current or an IT noob looking to learn the basics, we have resources that are a great first step on your road to managing your Mac fleet.

Mac Management 101: Getting Started

Mac Management for Beginners

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