How to make iCloud save the day

For various different reasons and entirely due to my own incompetence, on Monday I managed to accidentally and remotely remove all of the apps from all of our teachers iPads. Not a good way to start the day!

So, after fixing the problem and setting all the apps to reinstall again, I reflected on what does happen to all that app data should any app be accidentally deleted in future. Sure, you can restore from an iCloud backup, but that’s a pretty time-consuming process and it would be better if everything lived nice and safe in the cloud.

So, how did various different apps perform?

  • iWork: fine, so long as teachers had been saving to iCloud Drive (with the free 200GB of storage with Managed Apple IDs).
  • G-Suite: absolutely fine, as the very epitome of cloud storage.
  • Office365: more of a mixed story, depending if people were saving things to ‘On my iPad’ or to OneDrive. The Office apps don’t default to the cloud, which is not great.
  • Slack: requires the user to know the name of the workspace before signing in, but once you’re in it’s good as new.
  • Explain Everything: nothing is saved to the cloud, so any projects that weren’t already exported are lost.
  • Book Creator: not a problem, mainly because I had previously turned on iCloud storage via MDM. Once you open the app and wait a few moments, all of your previous books reappear…yay!

Making Book Creator save to iCloud

Now at this point I need to interject: how exactly did I got Book Creator to save everything to iCloud? It’s not the default setting, that’s for sure!

I stumbled upon the solution a few years ago when we introduced Shared iPad in Key Stage 1. Shared iPad mode heavily relies entirely on apps using iCloud to store all their data so that when a user logs out of one iPad and into another one, all of their app data magically follows them. Some apps support this out of the box, whereas others need to have a few settings turned on via MDM.

One cool thing about MDM is that you can use it to push out certain configurations to apps when they are installed. On Jamf Pro, there is an ‘App Configuration’ tab on apps and it’s in there that you can put in the extra settings. Such as…

<dict>
<key>enableCloudSync</dict>
<true/>
</dict>

If you enter this information, even if the iPad in question isn’t in Shared iPad mode, it will automatically save the user data to iCloud. Handy!

Please see https://support.bookcreator.com/hc/en-us/articles/209212825-Configuration-for-Shared-iPads for full details from Book Creator.

Making Explain Everything save to iCloud

So, could I leverage this benefit to fix any of the other apps? The answer is yes!

Explain Everything supports Shared iPad mode, so I used the same trick to get it to save data to iCloud even if the device wasn’t in Shared iPad mode. The following configuration dictionary in the app configuration worked for me:

<dict>
<key>SharediPads</key>
<true/>
</dict>

Please see https://docs.google.com/document/d/1atOMVFtTh38dG6twc9EbCTjBrB78gsBAbmHMVXrzHUw/edit#heading=h.i0got4llqoyo for full documentation from Explain Everything.

Making it easier to sign into Slack

Now, Slack doesn’t use iCloud per say. But it would be handy if school devices knew the school Slack domain by default to make signing in much simpler. And it turns out that they can!

The following app configuration is what you need:

<dict>
<key>OrgDomain</key>
<string>yourslackteamnamehere</string>
</dict>

Please see https://storage.googleapis.com/appconfig-media/appconfig-content/uploads/2017/11/Slack-AppConfig-ISV-Capabilities-V2-.pdf for full details of what is possible with managing Slack.

Meraki and LGfL 2.0

Having a few moments at the end of the day, I thought I would give Meraki a spin. I had much more success with enroling an iPad, particularly when compared to the frankly hopeless time I had with Lion’s Profile Manager, but then couldn’t get it to actually update settings remotely or anything. Then I remembered…of course, the LGfL firewall! I’ve submitted a request for the various ports, so we shall see how that goes.

Giving up on Profile Manager

The promise of Lion’s Profile Manager seemed good: a nearly free way of managing all the macs and iPads on your network, pushing setting etc over air using Apple’s Push Notifications.

Except I can’t get it to work. The issue is that when you try and enrol an iOS device, it complains that the certificate is invalid. I’ve searched hi and low on the Interweb for solutions, and even tried out a few. However, the result has been even more of a mess, as far as I can tell!

45 iPads arrived at school today, just waiting for me to set them up ready for September. I was hoping to use Profile Manager as part of the setup process, but I think now I’ll just have to make do with Apple Configurator and iTunes. Hey ho.

Maybe more joy will be to had with Mountain Lion Server?

These guys at Amsys seem to have gotten it going, if anyone’s interested.