Mac System Reporting in a Mixed-OS Environment

Written by Mike Ranellone on March 27, 2020

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If you manage a mixed-OS environment with Active Directory® at its core, Mac® system reporting can be a nuisance. Where the PowerShell cmdlet Get-ADComputer remotely pulls customizable system data from domain-bound machines, there’s no built-in equivalent for Mac® systems. Sure, you can navigate to Apple’s System Information app on an individual machine, but that isn’t going to work well for organizations with more than a few Mac users. 

As more employees request Macs, you’ll need a way to remotely collect system reports for security and compliance audits, asset management, and remote troubleshooting. Let’s take a closer look at how system telemetry is used in these areas, along with some options for gathering that data. 

Benefits of Mac System Reporting

A Mac reporting tool will provide a high-level overview of your fleet’s status, letting you check how many systems have multi-factor authentication (MFA) or full disk encryption (FDE) turned on, for example. It’ll also let you drill down into a specific machine’s details remotely, so you can view diagnostics and troubleshoot issues from any location without disrupting the user. Here are four common areas of IT administration that call for detailed system telemetry, plus some key information to look for in each situation: 

Auditing & Compliance 

Virtually all compliance frameworks are built around a detailed, up-to-date IT asset inventory, which allows for efficient review of the security measures in place in each system. You may need to prove that OS versions and patches are current, data at rest is encrypted, and that systems don’t have unnecessary local user accounts attached. 

Hardware Inventory Management 

Efficient reporting can also streamline internal operations, with system data informing budgetary decisions and helping to justify IT purchase proposals to the finance department. 

Security

In addition to confirming that preventative security measures are uniformly in place, Mac system reports can also help your team react nimbly to an active threat. If a newly reported vulnerability affects a certain app or OS version, for example, you can use system reporting to quickly discover and fix any affected machines.  

End User Enablement

Remote troubleshooting can save a great deal of time and frustration for both IT departments and end users. If a user reports an issue, you need a way to check their Mac system status baselines right away — things like available memory, storage, and CPU, along with the machine’s last reboot time. And if a problem turns out to be hardware related, remote access to system data can make it easier to interface with a manufacturer’s warranty or service department without pulling the user away from work.  

System data can also be useful when it comes to major software updates. Take the fall 2019 rollout of macOS Catalina™, for example. Apple made drastic changes to the OS, with app vendors and IT departments alike scrambling to catch up. Admins could use aggregated system telemetry to make informed decisions about which users should install the update, and when.  

How to Get Mac System Reports

If you only have to deal with a handful of Macs among a majority of AD-managed Windows® machines, it can be easy enough to manually pull Mac system reports a few times a year as needed. But as the number of Macs in your environment grows, this quickly gets cumbersome. As a result, many IT teams seek out a third-party Mac reporting tool. These tools come at various price points with different levels of functionality. Some provide sleek dashboards for monitoring systems but require a separate solution in order to take action, while others come as part of a more comprehensive Mac management solution. 

Intro to Mac System Management 

If you’re struggling to control your organization’s Macs beyond system data reporting, a Mac management solution may be more effective than a standalone monitoring and reporting tool. This kind of system management platform lets the IT team regulate users’ privileges on their machines, remotely lock out rogue users, and remotely deploy many of the security configurations needed for compliance. 

Because AD doesn’t easily integrate with Mac systems, many IT departments leverage a separate solution to handle user provisioning, authentication, and system policy control for Macs. An ideal Mac management platform would provide the following benefits in addition to remote system reporting: 

  • Password management with customizable complexity requirements and user self-service password changes 
  • MFA/2FA at system login
  • Remote policy enforcement for security, permissions, and system patching 
  • One set of user credentials for system login plus authentication to networks, servers, SaaS apps, email, and virtually any other IT resource  

As a matter of fact, wouldn’t it make sense to have all of your system management and reporting — for Mac, Linux®, and Windows — in one place? What if these functions were available as part of your directory service, housed in one central location analogous to Active Directory for Windows?

Mac Management With System Reporting 

Although a standalone Mac management suite could provide the system administration and reporting capabilities you need, this approach can be costly — and it still doesn’t give you a single, consolidated access control point for all your systems and other IT resources like networks, servers, SaaS apps, cloud infrastructure, etc. 

Rather than establish a Mac management silo alongside Active Directory, you could consider a universal IAM solution that integrates deeply with AD, letting you maintain one authoritative directory for user identities. JumpCloud’s Directory-as-a-Service® provides fully cloud-hosted, cross-platform system management capabilities, with AD-like control over Mac and Linux systems (and non-domain-bound Windows systems, too). The System Insights™ feature can generate detailed Mac system reports, and the group policy and remote command-line functions help you act on them. 
If this kind of holistic approach to Mac management and system reporting sounds appealing, you can sign up for a free account and try managing up to 10 users and systems with no credit card required.

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