Setting Up iPads pt.1

Yesterday I finally had the time to start setting up the iPads at school. Yay!

The first job was to get the wifi going. We’re putting in Ubiquiti’s UNIFi wireless access points, which seem pretty good but also very reasonably priced. They have ceiling-mountable access points which can then be configured by a web-based controller you install somewhere on your network. All the points aren’t in yet, so I just had one sitting on the table in the room I was in. I couldn’t get the controller to work for a while, but thankfully our amazing technician got it working (something to do with conflicting ports).

I could then begin unboxing iPads. They came in bigger boxes of 5, so it was a case of entering the serial numbers on a spreadsheet, labelling each one and then making a big pile of the smaller, white boxes. Opening the first few is fun, but it does get a little tiresome after a while!

The next step was to use Apple Configurator to do a simple bit of setting up, mainly just to set it so that a custom wallpaper and iPad name appears on the lock screen. To do this, I had to use the ‘supervise’ mode, which means the iPad can only be connected to the one Mac which you’re running Apple Configurator on. This could be a real pain with syncing carts and iTunes, but I’m planning on running a completely ‘cloud’ setup, requiring no wired syncing, so this should be ok.

I didn’t manage to figure out how to deploy configuration profiles at this point, as I was hoping to set up wifi using a configuration setting rather than doing it manually. I didn’t finish them all though, so I might try that when I finish setting up the rest of them.

Here’s what’s left to do:

  • Create all the relevant Apple IDs (one per class)
  • Create @me.com email addresses
  • Decide on and download the apps on one iPad per class
  • Backup that iPad to iCloud and then restore it to the other iPads in the class set
  • Put on Parental Controls to stop apps being deleted
  • Set up iWork apps with an internal WebDAV server
  • Setup classroom macs so that downloads from iTunes automatically install on the class iPads
  • Put in cases and deploy!

Not too much really!

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Hypothetically Managing iPads

Here’s the scenario: say my school, instead of buying a couple of class sets of iPads, rather wanted to spread the iPad love and goodness around the school a bit more by giving class sets of 6 to certain year group and a sprinkling of iPads in the Foundation Stage.  What would be the best way of managing them?  The areas that need managing are as follows:

  • initial setup – registering devices, giving the names etc.
  • locking down certain features (app deletion, other parental controls)
  • initial purchasing and installation of apps – making sure that they are properly licensed
  • ongoing updating of apps and iOS
  • further installation of apps, as required
  • email address for each iPad –setup and creation
  • general ease and manageability of any of the above tasks that teachers would then have to do
  • backing up of documents and data
  • access to the school’s shared drives

There seems to be two main approaches out there and two pieces of technology that are helpful.  I’ll start with the technology.

Profile Manager on Lion Server

This rather natty set of server tools seems to allow you (from what I have figured out from reading the Interweb) to do the following:

  • track the devices on your network
  • restrict and manage certain settings on iPads
  • remotely setup things like email on iPads
  • install free apps over the air (apparently – not so sure about this one)

It’s all done through pushing, via Apple’s Push Notification servers, little XML files with configuration information.  See, no wires!

We have a Snow Leopard Server and are upgrading to Lion server in the next month, so this is a no-brainer to use for ongoing management of iPads.

Apple Configurator

This is a Lion-only app that lets you setup, supervise and assign to users any iOS device.  It’s a wired solution, requiring a USB connection, but lets you connect up to 30 devices at once. This looks like it will be very useful for the initial setup of an iPad as you can restore from a backup, set certain text on the lock screen, enrol a device to Lion Server and other fun things. This will definitely be useful too.

Managing the iPads

The management of the iPads then boils down to the question of Apple IDs.  Will we have one Apple ID that is shared across all the iPads through a wired syncing solution via iTunes?  Or will each iPad have its own Apple ID unique for that device?  Apple talk about this distinction as the difference between  ‘Institutional Ownership Model’ and a ‘Personal Ownership Model’. In our school, all app licences will be owned by the school, as the devices will be shared within classes, so the issue is more of whether it’s a wired or wireless solution.  Will the iPads be tethered to an iTunes account, requiring regular syncing and backing up, or will they live free, backing up and syncing data with the iCloud?

Maybe I need a table at this point…

Aspect Tethered iCloud
Licences With no volume licensing in the UK, either multiple apps aren’t licensed or lots of time has to be spent ‘gifting’ apps to spoof email accounts. Each app is fully licensed for every device. Will require lots of iTunes gift vouchers for each Apple ID!
Setup Create one ‘golden’ iPad master, back it up and then restore to every other iPad. Simples! Requires creation of every Apple ID, manual installation of apps on each device. Faffy at the start.
Maintenance Termly/half-termly syncing of all iPads to iTunes account. As the iPads will be thinly spread around the school, this would involve buying USB hubs for each classroom to sync to the teacher’s Mac Mini, buying a MacBook Air to wander around the school syncing iPads, or gathering up all the iPads into one place. Could be tiresome! iOS updates can be done with a tap. App updates just involve entering a password.
Adding new (free) apps Download apps on master iTunes account and then syncing them to the iPads. Probably couldn’t happen very often. Get kids to find the apps on the app store and then download. Simples! Would involve a bit more tapping by a teacher on each iPad in Foundation Stage.
Backups Plugging into iTunes to backup. Backing up to iCloud for each iPad whenever it’s being charged.
Additional costs Buying expensive syncing stations. Time at initial setup. Can our bandwidth cope?

At the moment I’m erring towards the ‘iCloud’ solution, mainly because, once the device has been setup, it can lead a simpler life in the classroom without cables and iTunes and faff. But we’ll see!

iTunes App Licences

Just been having a (thrilling) read through the iTunes Terms & Conditions to clarify a few things about purchasing iPad apps for multiple iPads.  Do you need one Apple ID for each iPad?  Or can you use a sync & charge device to copy your purchased apps onto 16 other iPads?

Here are some suggestions I’ve had:

  • You can have up to 5 iPads attached to one Apple ID, so you’ll only need to buy apps for a fifth of your iPads.
  • Set up one master Apple ID, load it up with iTunes gift vouchers and then gift all the apps to Gmail accounts you have made for each of your iPads.  That way you’ll be licensed, but don’t have to set up an Apple ID for each iPad.

The only problem with these is that it doesn’t reflect the iTunes Terms & Conditions!

1. With serial users on one iPad, you must have one Apple ID per iPad

It’s a bit of a pain, and I wish that Apple would hurry up with their Volume Purchase Program to make this easier.  But even with that, if you buy 45 copies of ‘Pages’, you still get 45 app codes that need to be redeemed on the 45 Apple IDs on your 45 iPads.  The process might be easier but it still assumes one Apple ID per iPad for serial users.

2. You can’t use an iTunes gift voucher balance to gift apps

In order to gift apps to a multitude of iPad email addresses, you’d need to to set up the school credit card on one of the Apple IDs (with a hefty credit limit… 45x£50=£2250).  Or just buy gift vouchers for each iPad.

Now, all of this is me talking from no experience whatsoever! I’d love to hear what other people are doing out there when it comes to managing multiple iPads.