What can I get to manage a set of 15 or so iPads?
March 6, 2013 1:32 PM   Subscribe

My workplace will get me whatever I need to easily manage a dozen iPads. What should I ask for?

In am loosely in charge of the dozen iPads owned by the school where I teach. I am finding that far too much of my time is being eaten up with manual updates on the darned things. Even if each takes only a few minutes, multiply that by how many we have and it is getting unwieldy.

Now, we will be getting even more and I am told it will be enough that we have to upgrade to a commercial account and that means some management tools will be available. I have no idea what these tools are or how to work with them. I am not an IT pro, just a teacher who is 'good with technology' and so has had this delegated to me.

I have been told that any requests I make regarding what to get will be honoured; money is no issue. But I have to request everything all at once because we are getting it from fundraising money which has to be spent in a certain way.


What I would like to do in an ideal world is set up things so that the is some master iPad (either virtually in a web interface, or one of the physical ones) where any changes I make on it automatically go to the other ones. I'd also like to be able to share things like ebooks, web site bookmarks, video and music to all of them so I can push it once and have it go to all of them.

Can I do these things? What do I need to tell them to get for me? Will I need an IT degree to get it all working?
posted by JoannaC to Technology (7 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Easy: OS X Server.

Comes with Profile Manager built in, does pretty much everything you want, has a nice web interface.

It's no longer a big retail product, just buy it from the Mac App store on a mac running the latest version of OS X and you're good to go.
posted by Oktober at 1:37 PM on March 6, 2013

They make sync and charge boxes for this kind of thing. Here's a company I know of but have never tried personally.
Also there are file cabinet-ish things that let you sync, charge and lock up the ipads if you need that too.
posted by rmless at 1:48 PM on March 6, 2013

Apple Configurator - free product from Apple v OSX Server, manages up to 30 iDevices - http://www.wired.com/wiredenterprise/2012/03/apple-configurator/
posted by Gingercat at 1:56 PM on March 6, 2013

If you can, sign up to go to PSU MacAdmins. Specifically, sign up for the 'Boot Camp' day. Or maybe poke around on their videos from last year. OTA software updates with iOS 6 make life easier, but if you can cache those updates on your local server, and then transfer via your local wifi, that may be easier than tethering each device. Might also want to look into JAMF Software, they make a tool called the Casper Suite. Might be overkill for your needs, but that's what I'd recommend, especially if you want to scale this up in the future to more students.

Also check out Frasier Spears, who has a podcast called "Back to School" where he (and a guy whose name excapes me) talk about deploying tablets in schools.
posted by Wild_Eep at 2:52 PM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I currently use Apple Configurator that others mention to manage 30 iPads and it does the trick. Basically, you set up your AC server with an "image" iPad (with the image's need dependent on your circumstances) and use it as a sync source to deploy Apps & iOS updates to your iPads. A pretty decent guide here.

Apple Configurator - free product from Apple v OSX Server, manages up to 30 iDevices
You can definitely manage more than 30 devices. Perhaps you can only sync 30 one time?

For AC help, more information here (don't worry about the page title of iPhone).
When I was first deploying iPads over the summer, I started out by watching iOS Education Management & iOS Deployment Models at this iTunes podcast- it really helped me to understand how to set up management with Apple-native tools. I would highly suggest watching it before deployment and have an OSX 10.8 server with AC installed & an iPad to follow along with.

For App purchases, you'll want to use the Apple VPP Program. Talk to your Apple Sales rep about this. See more on this kb- be sure to follow the steps exactly or weird things happen with your license numbers.

That said, I leave teachers largely in charge of iPad App updates and tell them they're in charge of downloading free Apps (it helps we only have 3 iPads per classroom and not an entire lab). If you set up the iTunes accounts per the podcast I linked above, you won't associate a Credit Card with the iTunes account, but still able to download free Apps, of which there are a lot in education. Do NOT associate a CC with the iTunes account- you'll want to use the VPP program mentioned above for purchases. Anyways, Apple doesn't think of iOS in terms of central management, but rather in respect to individual user ownership & management. We do have tools to centralize iOS device management, but I think it is something to keep in mind as your school continues on the path of iOS devices.

We've looked into Casper Suite, and the costly catch is they do require a Bootcamp installation, though it's only license fees after that so it could be worth it in the long run. They are known in K-12 as THE Apple management platform.

Among education, 2 popular MDM (typically the term when referring to iOS management) products I see run across my listserv on a regular basis: 1) Meraki (free to use, though Cisco recently bought out Meraki so who knows what'll happen there) & 2) iBoss. I have no experience with either product.

Lastly, if you're going to be in charge of iOS management, I'd look into subscribing to an Apple Listserv. Here's the one I subscribe to, and we get frequent iOS questions and people are very friendly & helpful if you ask questions. Even if you just a lurk, you'll learn a lot just by reading the messages.
posted by jmd82 at 3:53 PM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

We use AirWatch to manage the 300 iPads currently on our school network. There has been a learning curve but we plan to expand to a student 1:1 soon and needed the ability to push apps out remotely. It also monitors the system and if a student deletes an app, it will put it back. It also allows for mass deployment of apps to multiple iPads at the same time and the use of volume vouchers. It takes the IT department to run it and it might be more than you need. It was for us at first but was worth the investment in time and effort because we know we are expanding soon.
posted by tamitang at 5:12 PM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

This guy (http://speirs.org/) is the technologist at a school in Scotland and has been doing this for years and outlines his process.
posted by reddot at 5:10 AM on March 7, 2013

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