Penn State MacAdmins Conference 2012 videos are a goldmine for Mac IT Pros.
If you’re an IT professional charged with rolling out Macs and iOS devices to employees in your company or students in your school, the Penn State MacAdmins Group has a wealth of new resources for you.
The group puts on an excellent annual conference for Mac and iOS administrators and IT professionals each year. The sessions cover just about everything you might need to know when it comes to developing a solid strategy for deploying and managing Macs and iOS devices in schools or business. Sessions are led by IT professionals with a solid background in Mac and iOS technologies. Real world experiences with the tools and processes involved are discussed along with tips, tricks, and advice.
If you weren’t able to attend the conference, however, you can view the sessions online.
Server app is now Apple’s primary OS X Server interface
Apple’s 2007 launch of Leopard Server was the beginning of a new business strategy for the company. Leopard Server included a number of new features – shared calendaring with iCal Server, Apple’s wiki-based collaborative tools, and streamlined Podcast creation and hosting through Podcast Producer were some of the highlights. The biggest new feature, however, was the introduction of a simplified setup assistant and Server Preferences – a utility designed to look and feel similar to System Preferences that enabled easy management of key server features for smaller organizations with limited technical knowledge or resources.
Fast forward nearly five years to today and you can see the focus that Apple introduced in Leopard Server has become the core of Mountain Lion Server. You can also see that many features that used to be OS X Server staples are gone (or at least are being handed their hats and coats). What remains is a very inexpensive but still relatively powerful server OS with a focus on easy setup and management as well as collaboration.
Apple offers an early glimpse into Mountain Lion Server and Mountain Lion Mac management
Apple has quietly posted an overview guide to Mountain Lion Server. The 25 page PDF document is available from Apple’s OS X Server Resources page, which barely references Mountain Lion at all. The generically named OS X Server Product Overview link in the page’s Documentation section, however, links to the new Mountain Lion Server product brief.
The overview guide is listed as being updated for June. That implies that it was deliberately placed there in advance of next month’s Mountain Lion release (as opposed to going live early by mistake). The guide primarily focuses on introducing the various features in Mountain Lion Server. While not in-depth, it definitely provides a sense of where Apple is going with Mountain Lion Server as well as with Mac and iOS management.
Will Mountain Lion’s new security system be a hit or a miss for schools and businesses?
Following the Flashback malware scare this spring, Apple is stepping up its focus on security and malware protection in Mountain Lion. The release notes for the latest Mountain Lion developer preview include references to a “new Mountain Lion Security Updates system” that checks for security updates on a daily basis, uses a more secure connection when communicating with Apple’s update servers, and can install required updates automatically when a Mac is restarted.
Based on the release notes for the system, Apple is making the security update process automatic and has designed it to runs as a system process rather than a user task. Presumably that means it will function without a user logged in or while non-admin users are logged in. All in all, that’s similar to Microsoft’s Windows update feature and a good thing for users.
That doesn’t mean that this setup will be great fit for businesses, schools, and other organizations with large Mac populations.
Apple’s pricing for Mountain Lion Server is a great bargain for small businesses.
OS X Server has always been something of a bargain compared to the various flavors of Windows Server. Unlike Microsoft, Apple never focused on a client access licensing model in which organizations must pay for the server software itself plus additional licenses for users or devices that connect to it. Apple also doesn’t break OS X Server down into multiple variations each with its own features, licensing needs, and upgrade limitations.
When you buy OS X Server, Apple gives you everything from file sharing to Internet and collaborative services like wikis and internal messaging through Mac and iOS device management. If you start as a small business with a single basic server and eventually grow to the point where you need to support and manage dozens or hundreds of Macs, PCs, and mobile devices, there are no limits imposed on licensing or data migration.
Apple release Lion/enterprise docs on its training site
Apple has added several whitepapers to its training site. All them address enterprise technologies in Lion. While many of the whitepapers have been available from Apple in the past, two of them appear to be new additions. The first of these details the use of Configuration Profiles to manage Macs running Lion as well as iOS device while the second covers 802.1X networking.
The first new whitepaper, which isn’t dated, is definitely the more interesting of the two. It discusses Mac management as an extension of mobile device management (MDM). As we reported last week, Apple appears to be positioning Macs running Mountain Lion to be managed in the same manner as iOS devices rather than using its long-standing Managed Preferences architecture that has been built into OS X and OS X Server since their initial releases over a decade ago.
Beyond the classroom, there are some amazing Mac IT training resources
Recently, we’ve done a couple of features on the core tools and skills needed by IT professionals who support and manage Macs and iOS devices in business environments. Knowing what those tools and skills you need is a step in the direction to becoming a killer Mac tech or multi-platform sysadmin, but to really succeed, you need to acquire those skills and learn how to use the appropriate tools.
There are a range of training options available with price points ranging from free online resources to professional IT training companies and Apple-authorized training centers. Which options (or mix of options) are best for you will vary depending on your learning style, the skills and experience that you already possess, and your budget.
In this feature, we’re going to focus on some of the best low-cost (and no-cost) options out there.
Managing hundreds or thousands of Macs in big companies requires the right skills and tools
Last week I took a brief look at how managing a handful of Macs differs from managing dozens or hundreds or even thousands of Macs. Some readers asked how big companies like Apple, Google, Viacom, or IBM actually go about managing large numbers of Macs – both in terms of the tools they use and in terms of how their IT processes differ from supporting Macs in small businesses.
I can’t speak for how Apple manages the Macs of its thousands of employees, but I have worked with several large companies as a Mac IT professional – along with a number of schools and colleges, government agencies, and small businesses. Here’s a look at the tools and processes that they use to configure, deploy, and manage Macs on a grand scale.
GateKeeper is one of the big new features in Mountain Lion. It’s designed to protect against malware by limiting what kinds of software gets installed on your Mac. GateKeeper offers Mac users three levels of security: Mac App Store purchases (which have been fully vetted by Apple), Developer ID apps purchased outside the Mac App Store that are digitally signed so your Mac can verify their authenticity via Apple, and apps from all other sources.
The GateKeeper model looks great from the perspective of an individual user or family – easy to understand and use while being fairly effective at leveraging Apple’s developer program as a security solution. How it will stack up in business and enterprise environments, where mass deployment are commonplace, may be a different story.