Apple Configurator is a program designed by Apple to make it easy to manage deployments of iPads and other iDevices. This is perfect for establishments such as schools who are heading towards a 1:1 deployment. It is worth noting here that this software is available for free but will only run on a Mac.
Apple Configurator can be downloaded from the Mac App Store here. Whatever Mac you install and use it on becomes the master computer and you will only be able to use that to sync the iPads. There are three main ways of managing devices: prepare, supervise and assign.
To prepare iPads, they need to be physically connected to the Mac. You are able to configure up to 30 devices in one go. However, most computers don’t have 30 USB ports, which is where we come into play. We can supply products such as the; iQ 10 Sync Charge Station, iQ 20 Cart, iQ 30 Cart and iQ 16 Sync Charge Box, which can quickly and easily bump up the USB port count.
Simply preparing the devices is a good option for when the device only needs to be configured the once and then deployed to the user, such as employees or students where they form part of their day to day use.
When you’ve plugged in the relevant devices, various options will come up. In this section, you are able to update the attached devices to the latest version of iOS. You are also able to name the devices with the ability to automatically name them sequentially e.g. iPad 1, iPad 2, iPad3. If you already have a backup of settings and app data, you can restore that to the other devices from this section. If you don’t, then you can schedule a backup to be taken. This can allow you to set up an iPad exactly how it is required and then easily copy it onto the others. The iOS configuration profiles can also be created and consequently installed on devices through the built-in editor. Additionally, you can import apps into Apple Configurator which can then be synced to new devices.
If you are purchasing apps for large numbers of devices, then you will need to use the Apple Volume Purchase Program (VPP). Once you have bought an app, then you input the code into Apple Configurator. If the app is no longer needed on a device, once it has been removed, it will go back to Apple Configurator and can be used on another device. This is useful because the apps are then associated with the master computer rather than having to create loads of Apple IDs to purchase enough of the app. It also allows you to transfer apps between devices rather than having to re-buy it for each consequent device.
As the name implies, this function allows you to supervise the devices. This is good for loaned devices, i.e hotels/restaurants/hospitals. Supervising the device wipes all data – this prevents any private data from being supervised.
Under the supervise section, you have the option to organise the devices into groups, such as year groups, and install different apps or load them with different documents. Every time the device is reattached to Apple Configurator, you are able to reset it to its original configuration. This can also be automated. Through resetting the device, all of the previous users data will be removed automatically.
Supervised devices can also be restricted from syncing with any other computer. This can be useful if there is sensitive data present on it.
The supervised devices can then be assigned to users which can be set up in the appropriate tab. The user profile can be personalised with documents and data specific for each individual. When the user first ‘checks out’ the device (done through Apple Configurator), the appropriate documents and apps will be on the device automatically. Upon it being checked back in, the user profile and data is backed up. This means that when they check out a different device, their files, including modifications will be added to the device and the settings will be as they were. This enables the user to have access to the appropriate data when using different devices. This is good for schools where the students are required to use the same data and documents over a prolonged period of time and will not have access to the same device over that period.
To personalise the experience, you are able to apply the users picture, custom wallpaper or text to the device’s lock screen. When adding users and groups, you can either do this manually or you can opt to auto populate it via an Open Directory or an Active Directory. You can then drag and drop users easily into other groups.
For more help, please go to the Apple Configurator help page.
Source: Cambrionix (by Kirsten Thompson)