Apple Business Essentials – Here’s What We Know

Written by Pam Lefkowitz on December 16, 2021

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Apple recently announced its next foray into the world of enterprise mac management with the announcement of Apple Business Essentials (ABE). As always, a new announcement from Apple brings excitement to the Mac community. There is much to rejoice about as Apple shows more interest in the SMB community, Mac Admins, and what these admins need to successfully and securely manage their fleets. However, there is still a lot we don’t know yet (the product won’t be fully released until Spring 2022), and some (big) open questions regarding what we do know. Let’s break this new release into what we know about ABE, who it seems best fitted for, and what you should be asking Apple (and yourself) as we learn more.

What Is Apple Business Essentials?

Apple Business Essentials is a device management solution that allows the admin to remotely configure, deploy, and manage Apple devices. It uses managed Apple IDs for authentication and authorization and includes iCloud storage. 

The program requirements are as follows:

  • iOS 15
  • macOS Monterey 12.1 or later
  • tvOS 15
  • Safari or Chrome
  • All company devices must be in Apple Business Manager (ABM), or you must use Configurator to get them there
  • Individual BYODs can be User Enrolled for iOS

Pricing for ABE is:

  • Single Device, 50GB
    • Each employee in the plan gets one managed device, iOS OR macOS.
    • Each employee gets 50GB of iCloud
    • $2.99/user/mo
  • Multi-Device, 200GB
    • Each employee in the plan gets three managed devices of any type
    • Each employee gets 200GB of iCloud
    • $6.99/user/mo
  • Multi-Device, 2TB
    • Each employee in the plan gets three managed devices of any type
    • Each employee gets 2TB of iCloud
    • $12.99/user/mo

Who Will Benefit from Apple Business Essentials?

ABE will fit the bill if your company is a small-footprint, homogeneously Apple-based organization or if you’re a consulting company supporting Apple-only SMB’s. It would be beneficial to carefully consider all your options, however, if your company (or client SMB) is poised for growth over the next couple of years. When considering the solution for your deployment and identity access management services, you want to take into account the solution provider with the best future-proofing options.

With this initial announcement, it seems ABE will do a few things well: 

  • It’s tied directly to Apple Business Manager, which is helpful in deploying your workforce’s App Store apps.
  • If a small business is Apple-homogenous and only uses Apple software, it can handle about 85-90% of what that small business needs.
  • It works with Azure AD, a benefit for small companies that will likely choose M365 for their productivity suite.
  • It has a familiar Apple UI Design.

But we think these are not enough to warrant choosing this as your deployment solution.

Questions You Should Be Asking

We all get excited when Apple releases a new product and that excitement can be counted on to act as a Reality Distortion Field…that feeling that causes us to love something without questioning it. New product announcements are our Kool-Aid. But excitement for a new product or new feature, blind loyalty to a product, is no way to run your IT suite. We encourage you to take a beat, step back from the excitement, and ask yourself (and Apple) some key questions about ABE as they relate to your workforce:

  • Does it handle FileVault key escrow?
  • Can it deliver your non-App Store apps to your workstations?
  • Can it federate ALL of your logins for other IT resources?
  • Do you need to federate with something other than AzureAD?
  • Do you need to deploy custom apps to your iOS devices?

Pricing Considerations and Clarifications

While Apple says the pricing is per user (email address), it’s really not. There is a different price if the user has a single device ($2.99) than multiple devices ($6.99). The plans also include storage at 50GB for the single device plan and 200GB (or 2TB) for the multi-device plan. Those seem to be very narrowly-defined use cases. What if your users need 100GB but only have one device? Now you’ll pay for the higher tier. Likewise, if your 3-device user doesn’t need iCloud storage you don’t have an option for that. 

Apple’s BYOD plan is undefined in their current literature. Will they have one? What is the implementation for it? If BYOD isn’t part of the ABE, it is a challenge to think of a situation where a user in a small-medium business would have more than one device but easy to think of a situation where they would need more than 50GB of storage. And what’s included in that storage – mail? Music? Pictures? 

We’ve Seen It Before

We love Apple. But we have learned that our love for them can leave us feeling, sometimes, a bit confused. Apple has ventured into the enterprise space on other occasions: the cylinder MacPro, JointVenture, OnForce, the XServe, Server.app, and the recent acquisition of Fleetsmith. Apple periodically teases us about playing in the business enterprise space. But what their history has shown is that they capture the audience, only to abandon them a couple years later. We love Apple, but we want to know that we can trust them to commit to a relationship.

Is ABE Right For My Business?

Having done this work for years now, we have a good sense of what you may need as your SME grows. So as you consider ABE, keep your 1, 3, and 5-year strategic plans in mind while you ponder these potential issues: 

  • If you want your FileVault keys protected from prying eyes, if you want them to be kept in a secure location, you’ll need more than ABE.
  • If you want your users to have their business apps seamlessly work with their company passwords, you’ll need more than ABE.
  • If you want granular control of your users and devices, you’ll need more than ABE.
  • If you want MFA everywhere, you’ll need more than ABE.
  • If you want to manage across all platforms, you’ll need more than ABE.
  • If you want to use storage that allows you to collaborate with an yone anywhere using any productivity suite, you’ll need more than ABE.
  • If you want a Billing Administrator, you’ll need more than ABE.
  • If you want to do billing through your management portal, you’ll need more than ABE.
  • If you want automated resolution of conflicts, you’ll need more than ABE.

Trust is Key

Users and IT Administrators have to trust their provider from the beginning of the information cycle all the way through implementation and use. You will never have to guess at your pricing with JumpCloud. You will always know your features and you can trust us to stick to our promises. For all those situations where you’ll need more than ABE, JumpCloud should be your “more”.

Now is a great time to fully evaluate JumpCloud for free. Test at home, with a small group, or in production. You’ll have our full platform for 10 users and 10 devices. Includes full platform functionality and 10 days of Premium 24×7 in-app live chat support.

Pam Lefkowitz

Pam is an IT Columnist at JumpCloud where she uses her experience as a consultant and MSP to write about IT admin life and tech. Outside of (remote) work hours, she spends her time with her dog, visiting her kids across the country, and being creative with fiber.

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