I’ve gotten several questions lately about how Apple Configurator works through the sync process for supervised devices. Here’s a bit of info on the inner workings of two important components: device backups and configuration profiles.
Apple Configurator allows you to do more than just manage apps on your devices. Through the use of Backups and Configuration Profiles, you can restrict certain features as well as pre-populate some app content and web clips onto your devices.
To do these things, it’s important to understand the difference between a configuration profile and a backup as well as to understand the process a supervised device goes through when syncing in Configurator.
What does a Configuration Profile do?
Apple Configurator, as it is currently deployed in SVVSD, can be used by the device manager to:
- Set Restrictions to limit items such as:
- App purchases
- Use of the camera and FaceTime app
- Use of built-in apps such as Safari and YouTube
- available content in iTunes and the App store by its content rating
- Set up Web Clips for easy access to district websites.
- Configure web filtering for devices (this will be coming in iOS 6)
Configuration profiles can be created directly in Configurator. You can find more information about how to create and install Configuration profiles on the Apple website here.
What does Restore from backup do?
Unlike backups of a computer, Configurator-created backups don’t include every piece of data from a device. In general, Configurator backups include:
- App locations and app folders. In short, if you want apps to be placed in a particular order or in a particular folder on your devices, this location information will be kept.
- Contents of particular apps including:
- Safari pages that are loaded at time of backup
- Settings changes as made in the Settings app such as:
- Accessibility settings
- Keyboard settings
- Languages settings
- Lock screen timeout settings
Backups to be applied t0 Supervised devices must be created from a Supervised device. You can find more information about creating backups on the Apple website here.
In what order does Configurator apply changes?
When a Supervised device is plugged in, Configurator applies changes in this order:
- Any changes to the device name are applied.
- Any iOS updates are applied.
- Any changes to the iOS settings are installed
- Any newly unchecked apps are removed from the device. If these apps were purchased though VPP, their redemption codes are recaptured and available again for another device to use.
- Newly checked apps are installed on the device.
- If a backup is selected, it is applied to the device
- If a Configuration profile is selected, it is applied to the device.
If you plug in a cart of devices, each device will go through these steps in order, but you may notice that Apple Configurator staggers the start of this process across all the devices.
Why is the order important? It helps to explain some of the issues you may sometimes see when things don’t go quite as you expect. For example:
- While using a sync cart or case, if you uninstall an app from a large number of devices, and in the same step install it on other devices, you might get an error that there are not enough licenses. Uninstall the app and apply this change before trying to install the app onto new devices.
- If you’re looking to place Web clips created as part of a Configuration profile on a particular page or in a particular folder, you might notice that they don’t always end up in the correct place. This is because the backup (which determines the location of an app) is applied before the Web Clip (which is part of a profile) is installed.
- If you use a configuration profile to restrict app installations, you might receive an error that apps can’t be installed on the device, even if you’ve changed the profile. This is usually because Configurator installs apps before it checks to see if a change has been made to the restrictions set in configuration profiles. Uncheck the profile or recheck the specific option in a profile to allow installing apps and apply before adding or removing apps.
For more information on using Configurator in St. Vrain, check out the complete set of directions here.