When Should You Deploy the Latest macOS Update, Big Sur?

Written by Leia Schultz on November 2, 2020

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From what we know about macOS® Big Sur, the upcoming update will have significant implications for IT administrators. The information and OS betas Apple® has already shared mean it’s something that IT teams will need to plan and be prepared for.

First on many admins’ minds: Should they wait to deploy Big Sur? As with all big software updates, we can reasonably expect initial bugs and user experience issues that Apple will need to work out after the first general release.

The decision to deploy on day one or delay the update will ultimately come down to your organization’s needs. But you’re not alone. In fact, Tom Bridge (MacAdmins Podcast Host and Founding Partner at Technolutionary) and Bradley Chambers (9to5Mac Writer and IT Director) recently sat down together to provide expert advice in a recent JumpCloud® recent webinar.

If you missed it, feel free to check out the full recording, or keep reading to learn exactly what you need to know about deploying (or delaying) the Big Sur update.

Need-to-Know Facts about Big Sur 

Apple has yet to inform the public the exact day that macOS Big Sur will be released, but they have shared some information about what admins and users can expect. Here’s a high-level overview (with more takeaways here):

  • Tom notes that users will notice Big Sur’s “huge visual difference,” such as new icons and a floating bar dock.
  • Both IT admins and end users will have unique changes to adjust to, as Bradley suggests. The user experience will be changing as well as IT-specific concerns, like the new Apple MDM criteria.
  • As with all major OS updates, Big Sur may not be in its final state when it’s initially released. Expect updates to be made after it becomes generally available. 

How to Roll out Big Sur

The two main options for how IT admins can handle Big Sur are:

  1. Deploy immediately
  2. Delay for testing and bug fixes

You might have a gut reaction on which is better, but just based on Tom and Bradley, we know that the IT community is split on this decision. Let’s walk through both perspectives.

Why deploy immediately?

Tom is in favor of immediate deployment for the sake of security for his organization. As he says, “The most secure operating system is the one that Apple releases on day one.”

Why wait to deploy?

Bradley plans to delay updating for three weeks to allow for Apple bug fixes and a better end user experience. His reasoning: “If you do deploy, there are things that could break that aren’t your fault but will be your problem.”

Additionally, while Tom plans to deploy immediately at his organization, he doesn’t think that’s the right course for everyone. He has clients that he expects will need up to 90 days to test Big Sur before deploying across the organization.

How to Decide What’s Right for Your Organization

Admins should only deploy Big Sur when both IT and end users feel ready. Identify the things inside your organization that are “mission critical.” Tom mentions examples like: “Do you have a VPN that’s driven by a kernel extension? Do you have security software driven by a kernel extension?”

Know your deal breakers and start testing as soon as you can to identify if waiting to deploy is safest. If your end users are able (and willing) to embrace the quirks that might be encountered early on with macOS Big Sur, deploying immediately might be the safest option for your organization.

How to Block Big Sur Upgrades

Should you decide that your organization isn’t ready for immediate deployment of Big Sur, JumpCloud admins can block end users with standard or administrative permissions from upgrading to macOS Big Sur using JumpCloud’s Block macOS Big Sur Policy.

This Policy enables admins to restrict the macOS Big Sur installations, including beta versions. From an user experience standpoint, end users cannot complete launching the installer and do not receive a block message. 

Next Steps

Want to learn more about how to manage macOS Big Sur? Check out the latest MDM-centric Office Hours recording where product lead Scott Reed goes into depth on MDM, the software that Big Sur requires, and cross-OS device management with JumpCloud’s directory platform.

If you’re ready to try out the Block Big Sur Policy or MDM, sign up for a JumpCloud Free account. You can add 10 users and 10 devices at no cost — we won’t even ask for a credit card while you evaluate the platform.

Leia Schultz

Leia is a product marketing manager at JumpCloud who focuses on the insights and device management products in the Directory Platform. A native Boulderite, she can be found frequenting local breweries, OZO coffee shops, and hot sauce suppliers, and enjoys seasonal outdoor activities like camping, biking, and skiing (which are all better when partnered with beer, coffee, and hot sauce).

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