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OS X is becoming more like iOS (Not in the way that most people think)

Client Computing | Posted on January 31, 2013 by Joseph Byer

There’s been lots of discussion of the two OSes merging to the point where a Mac will be all touch-driven. Personally, I can’t see that happen as there’s a certain level of functionality we’ve come to expect from a mouse-based OS like OS X. Also, let’s not forget about gorilla arm.

Rather, the change is happening under the hood, in how Macs and iOS devices can be managed in a corporate environment. As each full version update of iOS adds more functionality and control from an administrator perspective, Apple is adding features to OS X making it more compatible with Mobile Device Management solutions.

What does this mean for businesses? It means they can offer more choice in the BYOD model, where the “D” can now include any model from the current line-up of super-sexy MacBooks.

To break this down, here’s what Apple started doing in OS X Lion: There’s been a move away from the Managed Preferences, the traditional way of mapping AD Group Policy to the OS X user’s System Preferences, moving towards…
Management Profiles similar to those used in iOS. Settings such as Email, Network, VPN and even passcode policies can be pushed to Mac OS X with Management Profiles. One way to create and deploy these profiles is with Apple’s own Profile Manager, part of the OS X Server tools. However, many of the leading-edge MDM solutions are adding the ability to manage Macs along side mobile devices, including AirWatch, MaaS360, Mobile Iron and Absolute Manage.

Of course this all depends on how you want to treat the Macs and MacBooks in your environment, as well as their users. Under the Managed Profile strategy, you’re asking them to enroll the devices (in a BYOD scenario) or pre-enrolling them yourself (in a corporate-owned scenario) rather than locking down every specific control on the device. The good news is the self-enrollment process is very quick and user-friendly, all it takes is to log into a website for the Profile Manager or your MDM solution – and away they go!

If managing Macs the same way you manage your Windows PCs is still your thing, that’s also an option. Macs can bind to Windows Active Directory, sync with Exchange Server and access network file shares with no additional tools, however mapping Group Policies to Managed Preferences often requires 3rd-party products. Solutions from JamF, Quest and Centrify provide plug-ins for MS Systems Center or Symantec Altiris to offer comparable management to what you’ve come to expect from managing your Windows systems. In the case of JamF, their Casper Suite solution runs as a complete stand-alone solution to manage both OS X and iOS devices, with the option to tie into MS SCCM or Altiris.

So there are no shortage of management tools for Mac in a business setting, the trick is in finding the right tool to manage as many various platforms as possible. Today, between Windows, Mac OS X, iOS and other mobile OS platforms, there is no one “silver-bullet” solution that does them all. You need to decide if Macs will be treated like Windows PCs or Mobile Devices. The good news is you have a choice, and those options are getting better with each new release of OS X.

To get a better understanding of the Macs in your environment today, take advantage of the Softchoice’s award-winning TechCheck. Now with the ability to capture the data on all your Macs (along side your Windows PCs, or on their own) get detailed information on what versions of Mac OS X you have in your environment, AppleCare warranty status and hardware specs to plan for future upgrades. Contact your Softchoice rep to get started on a path to better Mac Management!

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