Jamf Blog
September 20, 2021 by Jen Kaplan

What does same-day support really mean and why is it so crucial?

With most — if not all — device management vendors touting same-day support for new operating systems and features, we set out to put their claims to the test.

“Support” for new Apple operating systems has become increasingly complex. The way Apple ships new operating systems has evolved and become more dispersed, with iOS, iPadOS, and tvOS often shipping on a separate day than macOS. Beyond a shift in timing, Apple is also adding incremental updates to core technology, like User Enrollment, that are building transformational enterprise workflows.

For Apple vendors, “same-day support” of new operating systems is not just about unlocking a few new Configuration Profiles; it’s about aligning with the direction and vision of innovative workflows and developing alongside foundational technology to ensure businesses and schools aren’t left behind. From table-stakes security compatibility with new operating systems, to iterative key feature and workflow support, an Apple focus is critical — and not all management and security vendors are created equal.

It starts with the betas

Apple’s Fall operating system releases provide three months of beta availability on average. Apple’s Spring operating system releases usually provide about seventy-five days of beta availability. This poses a challenge for cross-platform management and vendors who support the management of Windows and Android devices that are unable to plan all of their releases around Apple.

In fact, it’s not uncommon for there to be a lag in support for new Windows and Android operating systems, or beta testing availability, as businesses with Windows environments are far less likely to upgrade as soon as a new operating system is available. The Apple world is different.

When new operating systems are on the horizon, organizations need their device management and security vendors to support the Apple betas. Organizations need this support to adequately test Apple releases prior to their general availability. New operating system features may appear to be minimal but are in fact incredibly impactful. If a device management provider doesn’t assess and support critical same-day capabilities, there can be major ramifications. 

Same-day support for new operating systems, and their betas, allow IT to better identify the impact of new features in order to test and prepare their organization ahead of an upgrade. If vendors don’t support Apple’s betas, customers can’t run a complete test or worse, devices running a beta could be kicked out of enrollment altogether. This is unacceptable for the Apple community, which is why Jamf has demonstrated a history of commitment to compatibility for Apple’s betas.

Compatibility support is table-stakes, especially when it comes to security

For Apple management and security vendors, compatibility for new operating systems the day they are made available to the public is non-negotiable. When end users unbox a new Apple device or are ready to upgrade existing ones, compatibility support means they can run the latest operating systems the day Apple makes them available. And the IT and InfoSec teams that support these end users can be confident that critical Apple Enterprise Management - especially security workflows - will remain intact.

It has always been important for management vendors to support new features like Configuration Profiles and MDM commands, and integrations with key Apple programs like Apple Business Manage and Apple School Manager. But same-day support in the world of security is even more important. If security vulnerabilities exist in an older release, users must be able to move forward to the latest version. And organizations should never be prevented from moving to the latest version of software because their security solution provider wasn’t ready — something that happened with many cross-platform security companies when macOS Big Sur shipped in November 2020.

Here is why same day security compatibility is critical in an Apple world:

  • Protection from security vulnerabilities within your environment. Old versions of software are always less secure. Therefore, it is in your best interest to encourage your users to upgrade to the latest operating systems to ensure you don’t fall prey to data breaches and system vulnerabilities because your devices are out of date.
  • Minimize downtime. When it comes to new operating systems, IT groups must choose the upgrade path best suited for their environment and prepare end users accordingly. When you don’t have reliable same-day support, you can’t take advantage of the most efficient upgrade paths available or worse, existing workflows break and users experience downtime.
  • Integrations remain intact. More organization than ever are taking advantage of Apple services like Apple Business Manager and Apple School Manager. Vendors must also support these Apple services to ensure existing workflows for distributing apps, data syncing for students and classes, etc., function as expected.

Accelerating key feature benefits and adoption

When Apple management and security vendors understand and align with Apple’s vision that the future of work demands new and innovative solutions, businesses and schools benefit. As Apple debuts new features and workflows, it’s critical for vendors to research, understand and evangelize them to ensure their customers can truly succeed with Apple.

Bonus for IT:

You get access to these new management features and workflows! This includes new and improved capabilities for Apple device management, and the ability to customize and configure new end user features based on the unique needs of your environment. A vendor’s ability to accelerate the use of new features also eliminates the headache of running out of date operating systems and supporting old application versions.

End users benefit too:

  • Keeping end users productive. Apple operating systems often introduce new features that support greater efficiency and productivity for organizations of all kinds. When a vendor doesn’t build upon these features and accelerate their usage, they inhibit your users from taking advantage of helpful functionality.
  • Keeping your end users happy. Apple makes it easy for end users to upgrade within minutes of a new release. The ease of upgrade, combined with compelling new functionality, motivates millions to click ‘update’ the moment new software goes live. In turn, Apple users expect to be able to successfully update their device(s) the day a new operating system becomes available, similar to how they experience their personal devices at home. By accelerating and supporting new key workflows and features from Apple, you ensure this expectation is met.

While compatibility is key to preparing for Apple upgrades, if a vendor doesn’t enable and accelerate new features, they are not truly supporting the latest Apple technology.

Extending the value of your Apple technology

Beyond supporting new features in Apple’s operating systems, a key area Apple vendors can and should go above and beyond for customers is their ability to enhance Apple’s features by adding unique value through differentiated workflows and partnerships. Apple vendors should seek out and deliver technology that extends the value organizations get from their Apple investment.

A primary example of extending Apple’s value, put into practice, is how vendors supported Custom Enrollment, a feature of Apple’s Automated Enrollment workflow, allowing vendors to customize the experience for users enrolling new devices. When Custom Enrollment was introduced, many vendors simply added a URL for a splash screen during the enrollment process. But this put additional work and security concerns on the shoulders of the IT teams creating these enrollment experiences. Jamf built on what Apple introduced by creating configurable enrollment panels to take the work and security concerns off the shoulders of our customers while delighting their end users. Then we extended the value of this solution with Jamf Connect and Azure AD, which allows end users to leverage a single identity to enroll and set up their Mac while keeping their username and password in sync for everyday use.

By adding unique workflows and security capabilities to new features like Custom Enrollment, Apple vendors can extend the value they deliver to businesses and schools, ensuring they get the most out of their Apple investment.

Not all support is created equal

To help you wade through the Apple support gimmicks, here are a few things you should confirm your Apple management or security vendor offers before putting your name on the dotted line:

  • Active beta programs that provide you with the ability to test compatibility with Apple’s beta software. At Jamf, we host our beta program on Jamf Nation.
  • A vendor shouldn’t have a reputation of asking customers NOT to upgrade to a new operating system or deploy the latest hardware from Apple. When Apple released macOS Big Sur, management and security vendors should have enabled customers to upgrade (like Jamf).
  • A proven track record of delivering same-day support for previous Apple releases. At Jamf, we announce same-day support across a variety of channels. See our history.
  • Videos, documentation and digital content to fully demonstrate the management tool’s ability to support new features. Simply seeing a list of new features from Apple doesn’t equate to support.
  • Building support for new key features directly into the user interface of the management platform, instead of just relying on other tools to create and upload configuration profiles.

The Jamf difference

At Jamf, we are dedicated to helping organizations succeed with Apple. In fact, it’s our mission statement. In order to achieve our mission, we believe it is critical that we support all of Apple’s releases either on the day they become generally available or before — and we have been doing so since 2002.

When it comes to same-day support, we don’t simply offer baseline compatibility. We accelerate usage and adoption of new features along with developing on top of what Apple provides to extend the value of your Apple investment. We put our money where our mouth is, which is why we’ve dedicated multiple engineering teams to ensuring organizations stay secure and users are supported with all the new features from Apple.

We’re sure you’ve done your homework. We’re posting a public service announcement because we’ve heard horror stories of other vendors sending their customers an email warning them of potential issues, lack of support or worse – a halt on upgrading to the latest operating systems altogether. This last point is most troubling since some security vulnerabilities can only be addressed with an operating system upgrade. The moral of the story: read between the lines when vendors claim to offer Apple operating system support.

Beyond technology, we’re here to help make this OS upgrade season your best one yet with our Apple expertise and a variety of free resources to help you on your journey. And when we say support, we mean support. But don’t just take our word for it. Do your homework on us, too.

Jen Kaplan
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