Apple

Pro tip: Distributing software with Apple Remote Desktop

Jesus Vigo covers how to distribute software silently and en masse to Apple computers using Apple Remote Desktop.

Distributing software with ARD

Remote desktop software is often equivalent to the right hand of a admin responsible for managing medium- to large-sized networks of systems in an enterprise. With the proliferation of the BYOD/COIT (consumerization of IT) movements, the need for remote desktop, systems management, and MDM are at an all-time high and growing.

On the Mac side, applications like OS X Server with the Profile Manager service enabled can cover the MDM needs of an organization, while Apple Remote Desktop (ARD) adds remote desktop and systems management capability. Together, these suites cost far less than most of the "all-in-one" solutions from 3rd-party developers — and being native OS X applications, they're supported by Apple and certified to work with all Mac devices.

Let's review how to deploy software using Apple Remote Desktop.

I. App-based software deployment

  1. Launch Remote Desktop.app from the Applications folder.
  2. OS X typically allows for two types of apps to be installed: Drag and drop-based, which includes all the necessary files wrapped in the ".app" container; and Installer-based, which requires executing the file and following the prompts to complete the install. Section I explains how to install the former. For the latter, please scroll down to Section II.
  3. Assuming the app(s) to be installed have already been downloaded and extracted to a centralized folder on the computer, highlight the computer(s) you wish to install the software to in ARD and click the Copy button (Figure A).
    Figure A
    Figure A
  4. The Copy Items window will open. From here, the software to be installed may be added and executed in real time or scheduled for a later time, such as a maintenance window (Figure B).
    Figure B
    Figure B
  5. Clicking the plus sign [+] prompts you to locate the software app to be installed. Highlight the desired app(s) and click the Open button (Figure C).
    Figure C
    Figure C
  6. Once the app(s) have been added, there are a few settings that may be modified to ensure a silent install operation. Select the location where the app(s) will be copied to by choosing it from the Place items in drop-down menu. By default, the Applications Folder is typically where OS X stores these files. Additionally, some apps may already exist at the selected location, such as previous versions. ARD resolves this by allowing you to select "Replace if existing item is older" from the If an item already exists drop-down menu. Once the settings are configured, click the Copy button (Figure D).
    Figure D
    Figure D
  7. The Active Tasks section will queue tasks as they are processed. You can also view the current status of a task in real time simply by highlighting it (Figure E).
    Figure E
    Figure E
  8. As tasks complete, they are moved to the History section. Highlighting a task in this section will provide details on whether the task succeeded, on which nodes, and what exactly was processed during the task's execution (Figure F).
    Figure F
    Figure F

That's it! It really is that simple to deploy software on OS X. And since .app-based software are the main application types used in OS X, the bulk of the software distribution will never be more difficult than this. Next, let's take a look at how to deploy installer-based software in ARD.

II. Installer-based software deployment

  1. Launch Remote Desktop.app from the Applications folder.
  2. OS X typically allows for two types of apps to be installed: Drag and drop-based, which includes all the necessary files wrapped in the ".app" container; and Installer-based, which requires executing the file and following through the prompts to complete the install. This section explains how to install the latter. For the former, please scroll up to Section I.
  3. Assuming the packages to be installed have already been downloaded and extracted to a centralized folder on the computer, highlight the computer(s) you wish to install the software to in ARD, and click the Install button (Figure G).
    Figure G
    Figure G
  4. The Install Packages window will open. From here, the software to be installed may be added and executed in real time or scheduled for a later time, such as a maintenance window (Figure H).
    Figure H
    Figure H
  5. Clicking the plus sign [+] prompts you to locate the installer package to be installed. Highlight the desired package(s) and click the Open button (Figure I).
    Figure I
    Figure I
  6. Once the package(s) have been added, there are a few settings that may be modified to ensure a silent install operation. Selecting the radio button for Don't Restart, which is next to the After installation section, will prevent the installation from rebooting the computer. This is a huge boon for both the admin deploying the software and the end user getting their work done while the installation takes place in the background (Figure J).
    Figure J
    Figure J
  7. The Active Tasks section will queue tasks as they are processed. You can also view the current status of a task in real time simply by highlighting it (Figure K).
    Figure K
    Figure K
  8. Installer packages will have both a copy task that transfers the package to the destination machine(s) and the installing task that actually installs the package on each node (Figure L).
    Figure L
    Figure L
  9. As tasks complete, they're moved to the History section. Highlighting a task in this section will provide details on whether the task succeeded, on which nodes, and what exactly was installed during the task's execution (Figure M).
    Figure M
    Figure M

ARD, being very much an Apple product, has the same attention to detail and easy-to-use functions that many have come to expect. The tedious task of installing software is made that much more time-consuming when multiplied by the number of devices to which the task must be repeated over and over again until completed.

The average application installs in approximately three minutes. When this is extrapolated over 1,000 devices, it equals 50 hours worth of time delegated to the deployment of one software application. That's a little over one week's worth of work for the average IT staffer!

Apple Remote Desktop is the secret weapon that allows IT admins to make the impossible possible. It allows the 50+ hour project to become a task that's easily executed and completed in a fraction of the time — while still allowing IT to multi-task and focus on other endeavors.

About

Jesus Vigo is a Network Administrator by day and owner of Mac|Jesus, LLC, specializing in Mac and Windows integration and providing solutions to small- and medium-size businesses. He brings 19 years of experience and multiple certifications from seve...

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