What is Mac Management?

Written by Vince Lujan on March 19, 2018

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What is Mac management? In short, it describes the ability for IT admins to manage Mac users and systems. Of course, IT admins know this is often easier said than done. Nevertheless, as Apple® continues to move into the enterprise system market, IT admins will need to figure out new approaches to Mac management. In this post, we discuss the future of Mac management. But first, we must look to the past.

Traditional System Management

Windows Management

IT admins have been used to excellent IT management tools for their Microsoft® Windows® based users and systems. In fact, one of Microsoft’s most significant moves was to create an ecosystem of management tools that supported IT admins operating in Windows environments.

Microsoft understood that in order for enterprises to adopt their solutions, they needed to provide IT admins with management tools that could provide centralized control and security for their infrastructure. This, of course, led to the creation of tools like SMS (now called SCCM) and later Active Directory® (AD).

Microsoft released these tools at a time when Windows was essentially the only game in town for enterprise operating systems. This made it easy for Microsoft to establish SMS, and especially AD, as the default system management platforms in most IT organizations. As Microsoft tools were quickly adopted, it made management of Windows systems, users, and applications even easier – which subsequently increased the likelihood that Windows solutions would be chosen. This self-reinforcing cycle was brilliant.

Macs Enter the Game

Active Directory fails in the cloud

The interesting challenge now, though, is that Apple has made significant inroads into the enterprise IT market. Macs are more prevalent than ever. Of course, the existing Microsoft IT management tooling such as Active Directory and SCCM struggle with Mac users and systems. As a result, many IT admins are looking for new Mac management solutions.

Forward-thinking IT organizations are viewing the problem as not just a Mac system management issue, but also including Mac user management as well. The analog for these IT admins is really how Microsoft leveraged AD to manage both users and Windows systems via Group Policy Objects (GPOs). However, what will set next-generation system management solutions apart from legacy tools like AD is the ability to centralize management for Macs, Windows, and Linux systems. If they can provide cross-platform GPO-like capabilities from the cloud, that’s even better.

The Future of Mac Management

complete mac user management

The good news is that a new generation of Mac management solution is emerging that fits the bill. Called JumpCloud® Directory-as-a-Service®, this cloud-delivered user and system management platform can not only manage a fleet of Macs, but also Windows and Linux machines and users.

As a centralized IT management tool, IT admins have the ability to securely manage access to their Macs, add multi-factor authentication for security, and execute policies to manage systems (such as screen saver lock, disabling guest accounts, and much more) with JumpCloud Policies. These are just a few of the features of the JumpCloud platform.

Specifically, as it relates to Mac, the end result is that IT admins no longer need to try and define Mac management because JumpCloud has redefined the concept for modern IT networks. In other words, when you think of Mac management, think of JumpCloud.

User Management and Deployment

Often, the main area of focus with Mac management automation is the device enrollment program (DEP). DEP assists the enterprise in the deployment of a device, necessitating enrollment into an Apple® management solution before configuration. Zero-Touch Deployment with Apple Business Manager provides an automatic enrollment where end users receive their new Apple device preconfigured.

This isn’t as zero-touch as it could be, however, because it still requires manual user creation which can slow down the DEP process. By combining JumpCloud’s Directory-as-a-Service platform along with an MDM solution, IT organizations can truly make it a zero-touch process for end users. They simply boot up their machine and enter a password and their device is automatically set up, configured, and ready for the user — without ever having to pass through an IT admin’s hands.

Security, Policies and Telemetry

Deployment aside, there’s more to Mac automation than the initial setup. Ideally, IT organizations would have a way to manage user accounts on those machines along with security configurations like FileVault®. Setting up their users’ machines to ensure that those devices are secure, meet compliance requirements, and are efficient necessitates policies. These policies can include screen saver lock, disabling USB storage, updating the OS, and many more that help to enforce settings without manual intervention from IT admins themselves.

Once policies are set and the device is configured, IT admins want to ensure that it stays that way. Telemetry on the system’s health and configuration is critical to keeping the system safe and efficient.

Mac Management From the Cloud

It’s clear that IT admins are looking for these Mac automation capabilities. The challenge, of course, is can you find a solution to do all of these things from the cloud, so you don’t have to build and manage the on-prem infrastructure yourself? 

The good news is, as the world of IT shifts towards cloud-based solutions, a number of Mac-centered system management tools have entered the market. These tools almost exclusively center on system management, however, when in fact an optimal solution (as described above) would also encompass user identity management (IAM) across the entire enterprise. 

Such a solution should allow admins to 1) federate users’ Mac identities for admittance to both on-prem and web applications with single sign-on (SSO), 2) enable network access via wired and WiFi connections, and 3) allow for the implementation of cloud servers. Because in the end, automation of Mac management doesn’t just mean benefits for IT admins. It translates to a more efficient, secure single identity for end users that can be automatically leveraged to a wide range of IT resources.

Essentially, with the right Mac management tool, an IT admin should be able to automate and maintain any number of Mac (and Windows® and Linux®) systems for security, updates, and maintenance issues, all under the umbrella of one platform.

Learn More About JumpCloud

JumpCloud Directory-as-a-Service is a next-generation cloud directory services platform that securely connects users to their systems, applications, files, and networks. What sets the JumpCloud platform apart is that Directory-as-a-Service works regardless the platform, provider, protocol, or location of your IT resources.

Mac management is one of the key use cases of the JumpCloud platform. To discover additional use cases, contact JumpCloud, schedule a demo, or sign up for a free Directory-as-a-Service account today. Your first ten users are free forever to help you explore the full functionality of our platform, and we don’t even require a credit card to get started! The real question is, why wouldn’t you try the JumpCloud platform today?

Vince Lujan

Vince is a writer and video specialist at JumpCloud. Originally from the horse capital of New Mexico, Corrales, he has lived in Boulder, Colorado for three years. When Vince is not developing content for JumpCloud, he can usually be found at the Boulder Creek.

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