Open Source MDM

Written by Kelsey Kinzer on May 5, 2021

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Since the release of Big Sur 11, Apple® now requires IT organizations and managed service providers (MSPs) to use a mobile device management (MDM) solution to manage devices running the latest version of macOS®. MDM solutions have become vital to today’s IT environments, not only due to Apple’s influence as an operating system provider, but also because of the substantial increase in remote work. 

If you’re in the process of finding the right MDM technology for your organization, you’ve probably considered open source MDMs as a budget-friendly option. Free MDM is certainly an enticing offer, especially if other operating systems follow in Apple’s path of requiring this type of functionality. Is open source MDM the answer?

To help you decide what’s best for your organization, this article will cover everything from how MDM has evolved to the pros and cons of deploying an open source MDM solution.


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MDM: Then vs. Now

MDM is a service that makes it easier to manage end user devices without disrupting the user’s workflow. MDM features can deliver an efficient experience for IT administrators and end users alike, plus allow IT to ensure that employee devices meet your company’s configuration and security specifications.

Historically, admins had a number of options to manage Apple Mac® systems as well as devices at large. System management tools such as Microsoft®’s SCCM (previously known as SMS) led the way as an option for system management within an on-premises Windows®-based network and provided some basic Apple and Linux® management capabilities. Mac-centric management solutions started to appear as well once Macs became more common in the workplace. Open source configuration management tools have often been used to manage Linux fleets. Of course, manual management is always an option for IT admins, although as the fleet size increases, this can be less enticing.

Now however, a new generation of device management tools have emerged. When MDM solutions first arrived, they focused on mobile phones and tablets. But as user behavior changed and organizational needs grew, IT organizations required MDM tools that could also cover desktop, laptop, and server systems across Windows, macOS, and Linux operating systems. 

Early MDM solutions couldn’t accomplish this, because they were restricted to on-premises systems, specific operating systems, or other limitations. In today’s world, the enterprise software category of system management is evolving to include cloud-delivered MDM solutions as part of the system management category. Some might even say that the MDM category is becoming the overarching label for the system management and device management categories.

Pros and Cons of Open Source MDM

There are a variety of tools and approaches that can work for your IT organization, but is open source MDM the best course of action?


  • Free
  • Checks the MDM box
  • Variety of options


  • Time intensive to implement
  • May lack critical functionality and platform support
  • On-prem deployment

Yes, there are advantages to open source MDM — but let’s look closer. Is a tool really free if it takes internal resources to stand up? If it lacks functionality, won’t you just be starting over again in two months when your IT team realizes they need a more sophisticated tool? If it doesn’t support all of the operating systems that you need, will you need multiple tools?

Open source MDM solutions exist for those willing to do the heavy lifting of setting up a server, installing and configuring the software, and then ultimately managing the solution. Although the software is free, the time and effort required to implement it is not. This is typically an investment that costs more in the long run than truly free, turnkey MDM.

Ultimately, though, the major concern for IT admins and MSPs is generally less about the cost of the solution and more about whether it has the right functionality and the ability to accomplish what they need it to. The good news is there are free and cost-effective MDM solutions available that do not require you to sacrifice performance. 

Better Device Management Is Possible

There are two key areas involved in the remote management of devices – user and system management. 

User management is the ability to create, delete, and modify user access to the system. This may include specifying password complexity rules and also second factors of authentication such as MFA via TOTP, biometrics, or WebAuthn. 

System management is the ability to secure, configure, and update your entire fleet. You should be able to lock, wipe, shut down and restart machines to maintain security compliance and more. Remotely configuring a device to the right state is also a critical capability, especially for zero-touch enrollment, as is keeping the device up to date with the latest software and patches.

You may be able to manage the systems you need with an open source MDM, but wouldn’t it be better to have a holistic approach to device management and consolidate user management into your free MDM tool? JumpCloud Free does exactly that, and your first 10 users and 10 devices are free until you scale to more. Your account never expires, and we won’t ask for a credit card when you sign up here today for free. Plus, during your first 10 days, you have access to free 24×7 in-app chat support with our platform experts to help you get started. That’s MDM as it should be.

Kelsey Kinzer

Kelsey is a passionate storyteller and Content Writer at JumpCloud. She is particularly inspired by the people who drive innovation in B2B tech. When away from her screen, you can find her climbing mountains and (unsuccessfully) trying to quit cold brew coffee.

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