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5 macOS management software options for the enterprise

While Windows desktops are still the leading OS in the enterprise, organizations have adopted macOS desktops as well, and each OS requires a different management approach.

Apple's macOS devices are becoming more prevalent in the enterprise, but IT will need special tools to manage them alongside Windows desktops.

However, numerous endpoint management platforms now support macOS management, and Windows-focused platforms such as Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) support macOS devices as well.

IT administrators should remember that platforms that can manage multiple OSes often have limited macOS management capabilities. When evaluating macOS management software, organizations should consider their own circumstances, including IT's existing platforms and tools and the available budget.

Organizations that deploy macOS desktops should consider deploying platforms that specialize in managing macOS, including the following five management platforms.

Fleetsmith

Fleetsmith is a fully hosted service that automates device setup, patching and security for Apple products, including macOS desktops, iPhones, iPads and Apple TVs. However, support for any iOS version prior to iOS 11 and tvOS is still in beta at the time this article is published. With Fleetsmith, IT professionals can manage device inventory, applications, desktop security, OS settings and system upgrades. Fleetsmith is available only as an online service -- not as an on-premises product.

Fleetsmith's macOS management software provides a centralized dashboard that automatically surfaces the most important desktop health and security issues, such as low batteries or hard drives without any more storage. From the dashboard, admins can manage OS updates, import employee directories, change password requirements, set disk encryption and manage other device configurations.

Fleetsmith is available in two versions: Intelligence and Managed. The Intelligence service is free and only includes basic capabilities, such as automatic device assignment and enrollment. The Managed service runs $8.25 per device, per month and includes all the features included with Intelligence, plus additional features such as one-click OS upgrades, app installations and disk encryption.

Fleetsmith is known for being simple to use and for its support. However, because it's limited to Apple devices only, administrators managing multiple desktop OSes must navigate yet another interface. Fleetsmith might also be a little light on features for some IT departments.

Jamf Pro

Jamf Pro is a full-featured unified endpoint management (UEM) platform that specifically targets macOS devices, iPads, iPhones and Apple TVs. Over 35,000 organizations use Jamf Pro, including SAP and Salesforce. Jamf Pro is available as a cloud service or on-premises platform, and it provides an extensible REST API for custom integrations. Jamf Pro also supports the Apple Business Manager (ABM) and Apple School Manager (ASM) programs, which are Apple's newest services for managing Apple devices. Both these services include the Apple Device Enrollment Program (DEP).

Jamf Pro targets five administrative areas: deployment, device management, app management, security and inventory. Admins can use policies and scripts to customize devices and purchase apps in bulk and make them available through a self-service catalog. In addition, Jamf Pro makes it possible for IT pros to secure Apple devices using their native security features.

Jamf Pro can fit with organizations of all sizes. Pricing starts at $3.33 per month, per iOS or tvOS device and $7.17 per month, per macOS device. Jamf also offers education and volume discounts and a free trial program. Although Jamf Pro only supports Apple devices, organizations can share inventory data with SCCM and integrate with Active Directory user authentication and group membership. In addition, Jamf Pro's REST API makes to possible to interface with other tools and services.

Parallels Mac Management for Microsoft SCCM

Parallels Mac Management is geared toward organizations that use SCCM to manage both Windows and macOS desktops. Parallels Mac Management is an SCCM plugin that customers can download from the Parallels site. The plugin adds important macOS management capabilities missing from SCCM, while enabling administrators to manage macOS desktops in the same way they control Windows desktops.

Parallels Mac Management provides full lifecycle management for macOS systems. This offering integrates with SCCM's Active Directory System Discovery feature and supports the Apple Device DEP. Parallels Mac Management can collect Apple macOS hardware and software inventory and use SCCM's configuration items and baselines to enforce compliance on macOS devices. With Parallels Mac Management, administrators can use their SCCM skills to manage macOS systems without expertise in macOS.

The biggest drawback to Parallels Mac Management is that it locks organizations into SCCM. However, this could be a good thing if an organization has already committed to this macOS management software. The vendor is a bit fuzzy on its pricing; Parallels provides very little information about costs or where to go for information on purchasing a license. A press release suggests that prices start at $45 per year, per macOS desktop, and a blog post indicates that customers can get a trial for $3.75 per macOS, per month. The best bet is to contact Parallels directly for accurate pricing details.

Ivanti Unified Endpoint Manager

Ivanti's Unified Endpoint Manager is a full-service, on-premises UEM platform for administering Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, IoT devices and more. IT professionals can also manage user profiles and policies related to users and groups. Unified Endpoint Manager automates tasks, while enabling administrators to change configurations or push packages to users.

With Unified Endpoint Manager, administrators can discover, inventory and configure all their devices, while being able to deploy to thousands of machines in minutes. Admins can roll out OS updates, distribute software or deploy patches to different user groups. Unified Endpoint Manager also provides provisioning templates for automating update processes. In addition, admins can standardize their macOS images and participate in Apple's DEP.

Because Unified Endpoint Manager encompasses so many platforms, administrators can manage all their devices from a single dashboard, which also offers reporting and alerting capabilities. For some organizations, this will eliminate the need to negotiate licenses for multiple tools. That said, some customers have found the offering to be complicated, with a steep learning curve. There is no public pricing information available, so organizations will need to contact Ivanti directly and request a quote. Ivanti also offers a free trial.

VMware Workspace One

Workspace One integrates VMware AirWatch endpoint management technology with VMware Horizon to create a digital workspace. Workspace One provides access control, application management and endpoint management across desktop, mobile and IoT devices, including iOS, Android, Windows 10, macOS and Chrome OS. Workspace One supports Apple's ABM program and is available as a cloud service or on-premises platform.

Workspace One comes with a wide assortment of features, which IT can access from a single console. For example, administrators can employ zero-touch options to onboard new devices. Workspace One also provides productivity apps for email and other tasks. In addition, the platform is fully integrated with VMware Horizon and VMware Horizon Cloud, which can help simplify virtualization operations. Some customers have reported ease of use and integration issues, but overall, Workspace One is a highly rated product.

Workspace One comes in four editions, making it suitable for a variety of types of organizations based on their user and endpoint requirements. VMware offers a perpetual license for its on-premises offering, but organizations must contact the vendor directly for pricing information. However, VMware publishes the monthly subscription rates for the cloud service. The Standard service is $3.78 per device or $6.52 per user, per month; the Advanced service $6 per device or $10.90 per user, per month; the Enterprise service is $10 per device or $15 per user, per month; and the Enterprise for VDI service is $20 per device or $25 per user, per month.

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