FileWave launched a new free app called Lightning this week. The new app makes quick and easy work of deploying Mountain Lion (and Lion) to multiple Macs, particularly recent Macs with Thunderbolt. It can be used to roll out existing master images that a business or school has already created as well as a base OS X install that can be customized with a range of files and applications.
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Among Mountain Lion’s more than 200 new features are many that have distinct appeal for business users. AirPlay Mirroring, the ability to share items with colleagues, secure and unified messaging across Macs and iOS devices, one-step encryption of hard drives and flash drives, Reminders, Notification Center, VIP prioritization in Mail, and dictation are just handful of the Mountain Lion features that are poised to become great business and education tools.
With so many great features, IT departments big and small are likely to hear requests for Mountain Lion from employees, managers, educators, and even students. While Mountain Lion may be an easy and painless upgrade for consumers, any major OS upgrade poses challenges and concerns for technology professionals and Mountain Lion is no different. In this guide, we’ll show you how to prepare for Mountain Lion, test it for compatibility issues, and plan a successful roll out.
As more and more companies move forward with BYOD programs and/or mobile strategies centered around streamlining workflows for mobile professionals, the idea of the enterprise app store has gone from being a nice add-on feature to being seen as necessity for businesses, schools, and government agencies.
Developing a strategy around mobile apps is seen as a core need by a solid majority of companies – 66% of organization are considering or implementing internal app stores according to a Sourcebits survey of over 6,000 enterprises. That doesn’t mean that actually pursuing an enterprise app store strategy is an easy prospect.
Despite some advances in volume purchasing by Apple, many companies feel that mobile app options are still sub-par for their needs, particularly when it comes to the purchasing process and volume licensing.
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.
Deploying a large number of Macs with a full load of software can be a challenge for any organization. There are, of course, tools that help ease the process of both initial roll outs as well as software installation or updates.
If Mac users also need the ability to run Windows apps,however, there’s an extra layer of complexity. IT departments need to to get Windows onto each Mac, configured, and joined to enterprise systems in an efficient manner. Adding to the challenge Windows on Mac deployments add to the good amount of additional data that needs to be deployed – more than doubling it in some situations.
Last week, Microsoft pulled its Service Pack 2 update for Office for Mac 2011. As we reported earlier in the week, the update could result in the corruption of the Office database and issues with Office identity files could make resolving the problem difficult. After initially posting advice about the update and its potential problems, Microsoft pulled it from the company’s update servers.
Microsoft has now re-released the update. In addition to not creating the problems that plagued the original update, the new version will also correct problems for users that had downloaded the initial.
The entire situation illustrates why most tech companies, including Apple, advise business customers to wait before rolling out any new updates.
A new Forrester report on Apple in the enterprise shows that nearly half of all companies (46%) issue Macs to at least some of their employees. The report also notes that Macs make up a thin slice of the overall computing population in most of those companies – an average of just 7%.
While the report notes that Apple’s overall sales of Macs to businesses increased by more than a third (34.9%), it seems that Macs remain a distinct minority in most businesses. Given the business and enterprise dominance of the iPad and iPhone, the much slower growth of Macs in business can seem surprising by comparison. This issue has been debated time and again over the years and the more common reasons offered tend to be IT professionals having a preferences for Windows, corporate cultures favoring uniformity, and Apple’s refusal to act like most enterprise vendors.
All those are valid points, but one issue that rarely gets raised is that supporting a handful of Macs is a very different experiencing than deploying and managing a larger number of them. It takes a different set of skills on the part of IT professionals and, in most cases, it requires investing in a different set of tools.
Apple hasn’t made the Mac App Store the only source for Mac software, but the company is nudging both developers and users in the store’s direction. That’s fine for consumers, but it may create problems for businesses that need to buy software in bulk and distribute it to a large number of Macs.
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.