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iPad and Mac distributions come in all shapes and sizes. Apple has built up its distribution tools to help small deployments be able to use management tools without breaking the bank, but also where they scale up to tens of thousands of devices and IT managers do not lose control. In this article I will discuss smart groups.
A key aspect when looking at mobile device management systems (MDM) is finding out how to organize devices to make them more manageable. If you have 10,000 iPads, they certainly do not have the same configuration or app library. See to see what options your preferred provider has in terms of organization. I have a number of "static" groups in the MDM where I have each class distributed. I use this when I'm targeting iPads for app deployment. If you are a business user, you can use static groups to divide units by department (sales, marketing, finance, etc.). The disadvantage of a static group is that they do not change.
On top of that, you'll see if your vendor supports organizing devices for things that can be changed. This may include low-storage devices, devices running an old version of iOS or macOS, devices located in a particular building, or devices that use a certain IP address. If your provider supports automated email alerts, you can sit back and wait for the information to arrive.
The provider I use at my school is Jamf Pro (schools will also check out Jamf School as an 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 more schools or a district). One of my favorite aspects of working with Jamf Pro is utilizing smart groups to learn more about the devices and software I manage.
Software Version Smart Group
With Mac and iPad, software updates are endless. Apple releases new updates and revisions every few weeks, and you'll probably stay up-to-date to ensure your organization stays ahead of all exploits and errors. An easy way to follow is to build a smart group to look for devices that aren't 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 will then click New in the upper right corner.
In the Display Name section, you can call it something that "OS version is not the latest" so you can easily track it. If you want to be notified when devices enter or leave a smart group, check this box. One thing I like to do is check the box to appear in the Jamf Pro dashboard, so I can easily see this from the main login window. When you're done, click Next.
In this next scenario, you can choose from pretty much information to be monitored. I'm sure your thoughts are competing for the opportunities from here, but for our purposes we want to look at the iOS version. On the next screen you will select “Not” under the operator and add the latest version of iOS at that time to the Value section. When Apple releases new versions, you will come in and update the value section.
Monitoring Off-Campus iPads Group
Another smart group I find useful is to monitor when an iPad goes off campus. Since we are a K-5 school, the iPad does not leave our building. We have a static IP address, so the iPad should always check in Jamf Pro from our main IP address. If they don't, I want an email to be triggered.
To create a smart group like this, return to the Smart Groups section we were on before and select the IP address for the criteria. In the operator, select "Do not" and then add the external static IP address to the value section. If an IP checks in Jamf Pro from a different IP address than yours, it enters this smart group. If you have enabled email notification, you will also receive an email. As a bonus, I have an automated management task set up to use a wallpaper that says that iPad belongs to my school and that the location of the device is logged.
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