How to leverage smart device groups for MDM efficiency

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iPad and Mac deployments come in all shapes and sizes. Apple has built up its deployment tools to help small deployments be able to use management tools without breaking the bank, but also to where they scale up to tens of thousands of devices and IT managers don’t lose control. In this article, I want to discuss smart groups.

One key aspect when looking at mobile device management systems (MDM) is figuring out how you can organize devices to make them more manageable. If you have 10,000 iPads, they all certainly won’t have the same configuration or app library. Look to see what options your preferred vendor has when it comes to device organization. I have a number of “static” groups in my MDM to where I have each grade broken down. I use this when targeting iPads for app deployment. If you are an enterprise user, you might use static groups to break up devices by department (sales, marketing, finance, etc.). The downside of a static group is that they don’t change.

On top of that, you’ll want to see if your vendor supports organizing devices by things that might change. This might includes devices that are low on storage, devices running an old version of iOS or macOS, devices located in a certain building, or devices using a certain IP address. If your vendor supports automated email notifications, you can sit back and wait on the information to arrive.

The vendor I use at my school is Jamf Pro (schools will also want to check out Jamf School as alternative depending on their needs, as Jamf School is built to simplify ed tech workflows and Jamf Pro offers powerful management for IT professionals managing multiple schools or a district). One of my favorite aspects of working with Jamf Pro is leveraging smart groups to learn more about the devices and software that I manage.

Software Version Smart Group

With Mac and iPad, software updates are endless. Apple releases new patches and revisions every few weeks, and you’ll likely want to stay on top of them to make sure your organization stays ahead of any exploits and bugs – and can take advantage of the new OS features. An easy way to keep track of this is to build a smart group to watch for devices that are not on the latest version of iOS or macOS. Creating a smart group is easy. In Jamf, go to Devices, and then to Smart Device Groups. You’ll then want to click on New in the top right corner.

In the Display Name section, calling it something like “OS Version is not the latest” will allow you to easily track it. If you want to be notified of when devices enter or leave a smart group, check that box. One thing I like is to do check the box to show in the Jamf Pro dashboard so I can easily see this from the main login window. When you are done, click Next.

On this next scenario, you’ll be able to pick from quite a bit of information to monitor. I am sure your mind is racing as to the possibilities from here, but for our purposes, we want to look at iOS Version. On the next screen, you’ll want to choose “Is Not” under the operator, and put whatever the latest version of iOS is at the time in the Value section. As Apple releases new versions, you’ll want to come in and update the value section.

Monitoring Off-Campus iPads Group

Another smart group I find handy is for monitoring when an iPad goes off campus. Since we are a K–5 school, our iPads do not leave the building. We have a static IP address, so the iPads should always be checking into Jamf Pro from our main IP address. If they do not, I want an email to be triggered.

Jamf Pro Wallpaper

To create a smart group like this, go back to the Smart Groups section we were at before, and choose IP address for the criteria. In the Operator, choose “Is Not,” and then put your external static IP address in the value section. If an IP checks into Jamf Pro from an IP address other than yours, it’ll enter this smart group. If you have email notifications enabled, you’ll also get an email. As a bonus, I have an automated management task set up to apply a wallpaper that says that the iPad belongs to my school and that the location of the device has been logged.

Jamf Apple Device ManagementThanks to Jamf for sponsoring Apple @ Work. Jamf, the standard in Apple management, is committed to enabling IT to empower end users and bring the legendary Apple experience to businesses, education institutions and government organizations via its product portfolio.

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