Apple Configurator to manage apps

New Contributor II

One of our school sites currently has 15 carts of 30 iPads. Each cart has it's own MBP. Apple Configurator is not currently used to supervise iPads (which we would like to do) or deploy/manage apps. The teachers are currently using iTunes to sync the carts to distribute free apps. Casper is used to distribute paid apps with VPP codes. Each summer the iPads are cleared and different apps are installed for summer school use with a different iTunes account. Problem: each time we change (regular to summer or back), someone has to touch each iPad to reinstall the apps. We are also burning VPP codes each time we do this.

I would like to simplify app deployment by using one MBP with Apple Configurator with one AppleID / iTunes account to provision paid apps for the entire school site. I would create groups to distinguish each cart for classroom apps and a group for Summer School apps. I believe Configurator would allow us to correctly redeem and install apps and then pull apps back when needed at the start of school or summer. If moving to Configurator for app deployment, the idea of managing one backup per school site is also attractive.

Are there any pros / cons to using one "site node" vs. separate MBPs on each cart? Has anyone encountered limits to how many iPads/Carts are reasonably manageable in this scenario?


Contributor III

We have one config machine for each building. Each has anywhere from 100-400 devices in it. The machines we are using are old white macbooks with 2 gb of ram. They run a little slow at times but it's nothing to fuss or upgrade over. The one with the most apps (200+ free and paid) runs slower then the ones with the most devices.

If you are going the configurator route I think one config machine is the way to go since you can pull apps from one grade level and use at another if you find it more useful. Once the spreadsheet is loaded into configurator it is tied to that machine.

There are a lot of downside to using configurator as well. The biggest one I see is that when an app is updated a lot of times it also deletes the content from the app. Sometimes if you do an OS upgrade with config it wipes the iPad.

New Contributor III

We also have one config machine for each building. Each one has about 50-100 devices or so on average and it is running on an iMac.

Some of the advantages are that the teachers handle their own app requests (Except paid apps), all iPads are kept up to date because they auto update when they plug in, if you supervise then Find My iPad activation lock is disabled, you can have the lock screen show device names, you can get apps back and redistribute, and you don't have to deal with a million iTunes accounts.

The other Nick pointed out some of the issues such as software updates failing and wiping the device, you HAVE to keep backups each config machine, getting apps back to redistribute is a lot of work because you physically need the device to do it, every time an update comes out the teacher is stuck waiting on the iOS download (I download them all and push them out for every model now ahead of time), and such.

Valued Contributor II

Since the new DEP program is not for the shared iPads model..

I think you should stop burning VPP codes by sending them out with Casper. Either redeem a single VPP code with a school iTunes account for the cart it manages and keep track of it, or switch to Configurator.

Supervising devices gives you the added control, so we use Configurator for each building. It is strongly advised that it be a laptop with a good battery so the database is not corrupted by an accidental unplug. Also, it is super critical to have a solid backup of those Configurator machines, as each has its own database of machines and codes. I have set up network Time Machine volumes here that mount automatically on login. There are articles out there that tell you just the folders that need to be backed up if your WiFi is slow.


Valued Contributor II

We still use a combination Configurator/iTunes model. One sync station per school. Teachers can't manage their apps, but we can't afford iPads in classrooms plus a workstation per classroom.

We do all OS stuff with Configurator, and app stuff with ITunes. We have an iPad image per grade level, each sync station has a different local login where those app 'images' are stored (different iTunes libraries). Summer loading of apps takes some time, but it's not unmanagable (1000 iPads across 6 schools, we use Bretford D20 syncing to do 40 iPads at a time).

We are still evaluating if there is any way with shared device model to use DEP and have been talking to Apple about this.