Using advanced Apple iOS 7 features for device and app control

Apple iOS 7 features a handful of tools to ease app deployment and device management. Are you taking advantage of what the OS has to offer?

Apple's iOS 7 has come to many iPads and iPhones out there, and the new version of the OS comes with some tools that make life easier for IT administrators.

Apple iOS 7 features, such as advanced mobile device management (MDM) and mobile application management (MAM) tools, offer IT more granular control over a variety of functions, such as how apps interact with the corporate network and with each other.

It's important to note, however, that some of the management features are easier for IT to use than others. Departments may have to give up the ability to control services such as AirDrop so workers can remain productive on their devices. Read on to find out which new features are available and learn how to deploy apps and use IT-focused Apple iOS 7 features.

What MAM tools are available in iOS 7?

Apple iOS 7 is loaded with new MAM features. The OS now automatically encrypts App Store applications' data, and it comes with Managed Open In, which lets IT choose which apps can access data. Per-app VPN lets each app have its own VPN connection, and iCloud's keychain encrypts and stores user IDs, passwords, Wi-Fi keys and credit card information. Apple iOS 7 also has single sign-on for the enterprise.

Can I block AirDrop in iOS 7?

AirDrop lets iOS users wirelessly transfer data to each other's devices, and it's one of a few Apple iOS 7 features that IT can only block if devices are in "supervised" mode. In schools, on sales floors and in airport kiosks, supervised mode is a good way to control corporate-owned iPads and iPhones. But if companies allow employees to use their own devices for work, supervised mode isn't a great fit. It allows IT to have almost-complete control over devices' settings, and there probably aren't many users out there who're willing to relinquish that level of control over their own devices. Additionally, the only way to put devices in supervised mode is with Apple Configurator, which means IT needs to physically connect devices to a Mac computer running Configurator.

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Though this might be discouraging, remember Apple has taken this all-or-nothing approach to new iOS features in the past, such as with iCloud. When that service first came out, IT's only options were to leave it on or turn it off completely. Now Apple gives admins more advanced control over the kinds of data and apps that iCloud can and cannot interact with.

Other Apple iOS 7 features that require supervised mode include IT's ability to filter Web content, install apps without user involvement and disable iMessages.

How has the VPP changed in iOS 7?

In previous versions of iOS, when a user left the company, he took his apps -- and their corporate licenses -- with him. In iOS 7, the Volume Purchase Program (VPP) lets companies maintain ownership of app licenses, which means IT can assign VPP apps to users, revoke the apps whenever necessary, then re-assign the same app and license to another worker. It's also easier for IT to manage and deploy applications to devices because they can be sent out over the air or sent to a user's purchase history to be downloaded. Workers can download apps using their personal Apple IDs, so IT doesn't have to keep track of those IDs or distribute a corporate one.

How do I distribute iOS apps?

Apple's app distribution rules can be a little tricky. Basically, IT can deploy both apps that are developed in-house and App Store apps to users' devices. The process of setting up in-house apps for distribution is involved, but to start, a company has to register for the iOS Developer Enterprise Program. Once that's set up, IT can deploy in-house apps to workers. To do that, admins can send the apps out over the wireless network, through iTunes, with MDM or MAM, or by using one of Apple's configuration tools, such as Apple Configurator or the iPhone Configuration Utility. To deliver App Store apps, the process is a little easier: Use the VPP, MDM tools or Apple Configurator.

This was first published in November 2013

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