Apple’s recently announced Business Essentials service is a powerful entry point into the world of Apple device and user management. But there’s a point at which small and midsize organizations (to say nothing about large enterprises) will outgrow the service. At — or ideally before — that point, it will be time to research what other Apple device management solutions are on the market.
In this story I’ll look at companies that support Apple’s MDM (mobile device management) platform and that specialize in Apple device and user management.
What exactly is MDM, and is it the only way to manage Apple products?
Let’s start with a brief recap of what Apple MDM is and how it operates. MDM is an open platform that Apple launched in 2010 to make management and security provisioning of its mobile devices simple for enterprise environments. Apple’s MDM launch coincided with the introduction of the iPad and the iPhone 4 at a time when business users had already begun to use their personal devices for work purposes — with or without IT’s involvement (the latter a phenomenon that came to be dubbed shadow IT). MDM offered a way to integrate those devices (and any company-purchased Apple devices including iPhones, iPads, Macs, and Apple TVs) in a secure manner.
Somewhat counter to its usual way of working, Apple itself did not build its own MDM software, preferring to leave that to third-party companies that had an enterprise focus and user base. Many of those companies merged or were acquired, and most began to focus beyond just Apple devices as Samsung launched its own security and management product called KNOX and as management capabilities in Android came online. Over time, those vendors’ MDM products added even more capabilities, expanding to become enterprise mobility management (EMM) suites and eventually unified endpoint management (UEM) platforms that cover a wide range of devices and OSes.