What are your experiences with the Mac App Store in a small business?
January 9, 2013 9:10 PM   Subscribe

I’m an IT Consultant / Sysadmin and my clients are Apple-centric small businesses of 1-25 employees, with most falling between 5 and 10. I prefer purchasing software direct from publishers, but I’m now running into some software that is Mac App Store only and I’m not finding a good way to manage this.

I’m an IT Consultant / Sysadmin and my clients are Apple-centric small businesses of 1-25 employees, with most falling between 5 and 10. I prefer purchasing software direct from publishers, but I’m now running into some software that is Mac App Store only and I’m not finding a good way to manage this.

My users are local admins, and allowed to have iTunes on their work computers with their own account. The options I see are:

1. Use Apple’s volume licensing, but this has the hassle of DUNs, and for small purchases of 2 copies of BusyCal that will inflate a $60 purchase to $600 because of the minimum purchase of 20 which is not acceptable for the smaller companies.

2. Create AppleIDs tied to employee’s email addresses and put a company card on the account. The employee manages the account, but then there could be confusion if they also have personal AppleID on the computer for iTunes, purchases made on the wrong account. The account could be moved to another person if that employee leaves the company.

3. Create email aliases on the admin@company.com account and create a bunch of corresponding individual AppleIDs so the employees do not have the password. This give me work in keeping track of passwords, updating credit cards, etc

4. Have employees purchase on their personal iTunes account, let them expense the cost, and if they leave the company just repurchase the software. This seems to be the cleanest method as there is no additional bookkeeping for me and no confusion with multiple Apple IDs, and they can install updates themselves.

I’m leaning towards option 4 for the smaller companies, and volume license for places that are maybe 15+ employees. I'd like to hear about resources, anecdotes, and other approaches.

The other wrinkle in this process is the free Apple updates that require an Apple ID such as iPhoto. A volume license can’t be used for free apps, so counting a personal Apple ID there would potentially be 3 Apple IDs for a particular machine.
posted by ridogi to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Combine 2 and 4. No way will some employees have the extra $60 to spend on software at the exact moment you need them to have it. So use their existing AppleIDs if they're already using them on that machine, and charge it to the company card. If they don't, then use their employee emails to make new AppleIDs. OR require that employees create new AppleIDs with their work email addresses.
posted by eustacescrubb at 10:27 PM on January 9, 2013

Refresh! Someone said the same while I was writing!

I have done #2 before for a small 5 person or so setup. They were an outlier in their company as a Mac using group so their corporate email and their company issued cards as high level sales folk was available to use in that fashion.

I read Apple's site and I see what you mean about the DUNS thing... That does not make it possible for you to merely buy in volume for all in one set.

However they also seem to be working off a personal ownership sort of deployment model in their business guides, so I think a combo of 2 and 4 would make sense.

They have their own company mail accounts. Check.
They have personal Apple ID. Check.
A Company credit card(s) exists. Check.
Employees have the ability to make expense reports to company. Check.

If so, then the paid Apps are purchased with their Store account on their company email with company card. Then they switch to their own personal account they can get their own free apps if they like... Though honestly they could do that on the company account as well. If the employee later needs to get a paid app for company use and mistakenly uses their own account for it. Then they must fill out the expense report to be reimbursed.
posted by Bodrik at 10:30 PM on January 9, 2013

Best answer: Actually option 3 doesn't sound complicated to me as long as you have a convenient and secure way of managing passwords and credit card information. I have tons of such information on LastPass and can access it from any computer. I feel it's pretty safe to have sensitive data there because it's encrypted locally on the client. And it's not like credit card information is hyper-sensitive anyway - financial risk to the credit card owner when a credit card number is fraudulently used is very minimal.
posted by Dansaman at 10:34 PM on January 9, 2013

Response by poster: Just some clarifications as situations vary between companies, and even within particular companies as for example there are some people with personal Apple IDs in use on the work computer and some people without.

Often the company card would just be the owners AmEx used multiple times. From what I understand that isn't a problem, but maybe there is some limit that gets it flagged for fraud from the credit card company or from Apple.

I could certainly keep track of this info (for example with option 3) as I have a secure database set up. My concern is that it isn't worth them paying for me to do all that organizational legwork as the cost to just repurchase the software when an employee leaves wouldn't add up to a sizable amount. Likely purchases are the OS, BusyCal, Pixelmator, and Numbers so it shouldn't add up to a lot—maybe $30-100 per person tops. If Filemaker, Office or other more expensive software goes Mac App Store only then it would be be a different game as that would be upwards of $500 per employee, but I don't see that happening so this should be just Mac App Store only software.

Anecdotes about specific methods that led to confusion from employees or worked smoothly would be helpful.
posted by ridogi at 11:01 PM on January 9, 2013

I'd combine 2 and 4, and two accounts on the box. "Installer" and the user. The Installer account gets the corporate Apple ID setup in iTunes/App Store. The user account gets, if the user wishes, a personal account, but I'd honestly discourage that, under "a work computer is not YOUR computer, why are you trusting YOUR information on it?"

But that's me.

Also, if policy is that only designated people can install software, you give them the password to the installer account.

There is a training issue of "flip to this account to install software." If they don't setup iTunes in their personal account, this is much easier.

If there's more that a few people and a network, central auth starts to become useful, but at that point, you're pobably big enough to have a DUNs and need 20 copies.
posted by eriko at 2:38 AM on January 10, 2013

Have you looked into using Apple's VPP Program? It can be used to redeem Apps on OSX clients and maintains its own internal database (spreadsheet). Using this method, each client can still use their own Apple ID, but all purchasing is done through the centralized Program Facilitator account.

The caveat is that AFAIK, Apple Configurator (the goto program from deploying iTunes apps to iOS devices) doesn't really work with OSX as an end client. You'd need to e-mail links to end-users or post them internally.
posted by jmd82 at 6:44 AM on January 10, 2013

Response by poster: Have you looked into using Apple's VPP Program?

This is my option 1 above, which has the drawback of a minimum purchase of 20 copies for each piece of software.
posted by ridogi at 7:16 AM on January 10, 2013

Missed that, sorry. Working in education, 20 licenses is only a barrier for bulk discounts- we can purchase as few as we want at full price. Didn't know that was a hard barrier for the business VPP program. Lame.
posted by jmd82 at 8:50 AM on January 10, 2013

Response by poster: Missed that, sorry. Working in education, 20 licenses is only a barrier for bulk discounts- we can purchase as few as we want at full price. Didn't know that was a hard barrier for the business VPP program. Lame.

Is there a different program for education? One of my clients with around 20 users is a school, and purchases might be intended for just the admin people and not teachers for example so I wouldn't necessarily want 20 of something, and I also don't want to manage 20 AppleIDs of course.
posted by ridogi at 9:31 AM on January 10, 2013

My small company does 4ish. Employees set up their own AppleIDs; most people (including me) made new ones just for work (see below). We use our own credit cards. We get reimbursed promptly, so it works out ok. I've never used my personal account by mistake -- we need (informal) prior authorization to buy new software, so that puts me in the mindset to use my work account. Also, we're not buying software everyday.

The reason I set up a new account is because I have a mac at home that I purchased some software for, and if I use the same account and software at work, then I can't repurchase the software; I just get prompted to download the already purchased app. The reverse is also true (installing the software bought for the work computer at home). It's not a huge deal. But this can be kind of sticky if you want to follow the commercial licensing rules for the App Store very exactly.
posted by bluefly at 12:34 PM on January 10, 2013

Yes, there is a separate type of VPP for educational institutions.

However... the purchase agreement does mention a 20 count minimum in the case of purchasing for one's institution. There is purchasing for individual educators though.
posted by Bodrik at 8:23 PM on January 10, 2013

Response by poster: I do want to stay within the rules as you point out bluefly, but I also want to avoid confusion and I've seen so many cases of people with multiple Apple IDs create big messes for themselves.

I am also trying to suss out if I'm staying within the app store rules by creating numerous accounts not tied to a person but merely to correspond to a workstation. So if I create id1@company.com, id2@company.com, etc and use one per each specific workstation, regardless of if someone quits and a new employee inherits that workstation. That mimics traditional software licenses, but I'm wondering how kosher it is for an AppleID to not be tied to a person but to an inventory item, for lack of a better way to explain it. I certainly don't want to repurchase software when an employee leaves.
posted by ridogi at 1:31 PM on January 11, 2013

I'm not sure how kosher it is legal wise, but I can tell you Apple people do not want you doing that. When I was going through Apple's training podcasts for VPP deployment, which also touches on how to deal with Apple IDs, they make it very clear to tie apple IDs to Real People, and not institution IDs if it's the same person using that device every time. The main rationale is that syncing becomes an issue, but I'm guessing people using iTunes to purchase personal Apps & Music is less an issue in education (assuming since I've only worked IT in education).
Regardless, I still assign institution IDs to lab iOS devices and it works just fine. As long as you keep the same ID, it should be fine.

If the rules change for businesses, that is one thing I like about the VPP- changing licensesure is as simple as a clicking the software on & off the device from the server instead of having to worry about which license is tied to which Apple ID.
posted by jmd82 at 3:21 PM on January 11, 2013

Response by poster: In most cases I have one employee who is issued one computer, but yes effectively I would like to have a one to one with relationship with an account to a computer. I have for example a shared computer in a teacher lounge and if I put Mountain Lion I am certainly not going to purchase for each employee (20?) whose uses it.

The system is really built for an individual or for businesses over 20 employees. Much like it doesn't scale to families there is not a place for businesses of 2-19 employees, especially the lower end where the minimum purchase of 20 is very cost prohibative.
posted by ridogi at 6:38 PM on January 11, 2013

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