Apple offers more iPad management features than you might think

Margaret Jones

A corporate iPad deployment can muster scary thoughts -- employees downloading apps willy-nilly, lost devices, corporate data leaks -- but there are many built-in iPad management features that can help IT remain in control.

Aaron Freimark Aaron Freimark

Apple's iPad comes with management capabilities that IT administrators can use to keep track of and lock down the devices. All you have to do is get your iPad pilot program off the ground and figure out how to unlock the management potential at the core of Apple's popular tablet.

Aaron Freimark, chief technology officer at New York-based Apple reseller Tekserve, discusses the challenges of corporate iPad management and shares tips for a successful iPad deployment in this interview:

What's the biggest challenge of managing iOS devices in the enterprise?

Often, the pilots just don't go well. It's difficult to find experienced help, I think. We have a number of customers. One of them is Cablevision. We just completed a 3,000-iPad rollout, but they did a pilot that failed. They were about ready to give up, and we persuaded them to try again, but that's not an isolated case. We're seeing more and more cases where [companies have] attempted to do something. They have this vision of how they want to do a deployment, how they want the iPad to work, and then [it] just doesn’t work well. I don't think that gets talked a lot about, because it's embarrassing for a lot of companies.

What management features do iOS devices come with?

They come with a lot more than I think most people and administrators realize. iPads are marketed just for retail, for consumers: "Hey look! It's got this great photo app. It's got Siri." Those things aren't really interesting for companies. But each update of the operating system brings new features for companies.

Today on an iPad, you can have apps lock down, you can inventory devices in a fleet, you can install apps over there air, you can wipe individual apps without doing a full device wipe, you can install and remove identity certificates over the air without touching the devices. All of that is built in to each iPad. You might need a tool like mobile device management software to unlock that, but … the management [capabilities are] already installed.

What management features would you like Apple to include in the next generation of iOS devices? What's missing?

What I want to see and I think what a lot of companies want to see are features to make deployment easier. Thinking about a company-managed device -- it might be in the hands of a particular person, or it might be locked down as a kiosk -- it's not easy to deploy iPads.

We've seen an uptick in iPad projects since Windows 8 was released.

Companies aren't going to use an iPad the same way you or I would. They want to lock down the settings. They want to restrict things, some more than others. It's nice to leave things open for people, but in some cases, you really don't have that option. You have to lock everything down. There are ways of disabling the built-in apps, hiding them and hiding settings, but it's complicated to do. That's something I think Apple could help companies with.

Is iCloud just as problematic as services such as Dropbox or SkyDrive?

It's not the same as Dropbox or SkyDrive. First of all, one of the management features that comes with the iPad is the ability to turn off iCloud backups and the ability to, on an app-by-app basis, prevent iCloud backup just for that app's data. So if an enterprise is deploying an app, they can say, "I never want this data backed up." And that's just a management switch that can be triggered.

However, for certain companies -- and I would say for a lot of companies, unless you're in a highly regulated field -- iCloud is fantastic. I'm not so concerned about data getting out there. I'm more concerned about data not being backed up and about downtime from having lost a device. It's really hard to convince people to back up, but iCloud makes it much, much easier.

Do you think that Windows 8 tablets can compete with the iPad in businesses?

A lot of companies we deal with had tablet deployments they wanted to do. They were ready for projects, and they waited until Windows 8 was released to see the reaction. And when they saw Windows 8, the reaction was kind of, "Meh." And that actually gave the green light to iPad projects.

We've seen an uptick in iPad projects since Windows 8 was released. I'm sure Windows 8 is going to fit really well in a lot of places, and IT departments are really going to like it. But it’s not what users are going to like and be used to.

View the next item in this Essential Guide: Apple AirPrint and iOS printing alternatives: An IT overview or view the full guide: Advanced guide to managing iOS devices

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