Business manager

Should IT use Apple Business Manager without MDM?

Organizations that deploy Apple iOS or iPadOS devices should consider Apple Business Manager alongside MDM for solid deployment and enrollment options.

For example, preloading an image on Apple mobile devices is only available with Apple-specific tools such as the App Configurator. This process is difficult because it requires IT to touch every device they buy and connect it to a macOS device that supports the tool.

The alternative is to use the Apple Business Manager service to preload the iOS with a predefined mobile device management (MDM) app or agent on the device that can send all configurations to the iPad or iPhone. once the user turns it on and connects it to the Internet.

This is just one example where Apple Business Manager can take the load off mobile device administrators. IT departments that manage iPadOS, iOS, or other Apple mobile devices should know exactly how Apple Business Manager can help you, and consider adding it to their device management toolkit. But can this service really replace MDM, or is it better served as an additional management option?

What is Apple Business Manager?

Apple wants to help business customers avoid the typical issues associated with switching or deploying new Apple mobile devices. With Apple Business Manager (ABM), companies can dramatically streamline their deployment process as it eliminates several steps required to manually deploy an MDM app to the device.

The Web portal is available to pre-registered Apple customers with existing agreements and accounts. After the IT team selects the appropriate MDM platform, they log into ABM and add the MDM configuration. This will ensure that Apple preconfigures all future iOS devices purchased through the Apple sales channel or an authorized Apple reseller that supports ABM.

Does Apple Business Manager require MDM?

While stand-alone MDM offers many iOS management capabilities, preloading the MDM platform through Apple Business Manager eliminates the need for IT to sign in to the local Apple App Store and manually download the MDM app.

Overall, ABM has very limited functionality when it comes to device management and security policy enforcement.

For comparison, Apple Business Manager as a stand-alone has some basic device management functionality, but Apple did not design this service for stand-alone use. If organizations opt for the stand-alone ABM approach, they will have access to certain features such as:

  • visibility of all devices registered under Apple Business Manager;
  • the model, serial number and type of all devices;
  • purchase of applications through the Apple App Store;
  • application assignments;
  • bulk purchases of apps and books, including apps developed in-house;
  • distribute applications and content to devices;
  • manage billing payments from a central console; and
  • Apple ID management for business users.

IT administrators should not view ABM as a replacement for MDM. It has some extremely useful features as shown above. It provides valuable services, especially for Apple IDs and app purchases which are only available through Apple portal. However, ABM has very limited functionality overall when it comes to device management and security policy enforcement.