In the business world, software purchases are typically handled between the company itself and a 1st- or 3rd-party software vendor. This transaction makes it easier for the company to keep track of its multiple purchases, while also affording businesses a healthy discount over consumer purchases.
Since the explosive (and still growing) introduction of the App Store, the enterprise and education markets have had no real option but to purchase apps one at a time or reimburse employees that would purchase the apps themselves. The latter option would then link the app and its associated license to employees' personal iTunes account, resulting in loss once employees were no longer with the company or if their Apple IDs became compromised.
This nightmare situation was resolved with the introduction of Apple's Volume Purchase Program (VPP) for Business and Education. The program itself is fairly straightforward by allowing volume purchasing of apps and books by an enterprise or its delegated VPP account administrators. Content may be purchased using a corporate credit card or via purchase orders (PO) that are set to a specific dollar amount and converted into VPP Credits, redeemable at the VPP Store.
Best of all, enrollment in the VPP is open to any business entity from the smallest SOHO to the largest corporation — all free of charge, except for the content purchased, of course. Additional benefits include ease of management for purchased products, such as software licenses. There's also a centralized management hub for administrators to create redemption codes for software deployment or link the VPP account to OS X Server's Profile Manager for a seamless, secured, software deployment experience using its built-in MDM server features.
While the enrollment process isn't difficult, there are a few sticking points that can cause unexpected delays in getting up and running. In the hopes of streamlining the process, let's review the requirements for enrolling in the VPP:
- Computer with internet access
- Delegate a VPP Administrator (initial setup only)
- Email address that has never been registered with Apple ID (initial setup only)
- Corporate credit card (or VPP credits)
- D-U-N-S number *
*D-U-N-S (Data Universal Numbering System) provided by Dun & Bradstreet is a number assignment, which provides a means of identifying business entities based on a location-specific basis. It was created as a requirement for all businesses seeking US Federal Government Grants and Contracts. It's a 3rd-party service that's free of charge and a requirement for enrolling in any of Apple's VPP/DEP services. It's highly recommended to begin registering with DUNS prior to enrolling in the VPP, since it can take up to 14 business days for D&B to fulfill the registration request and provide you with your company's DUNS number in a separate email.
Once all the necessary information is available, let's begin with registration of a new Apple ID specifically for use with VPP, since Apple requires all IDs used in the initial setup of VPP to be unique.
I. Registering a new Apple ID with VPP
1. Open a browser window and navigate to Apple's Deployment Programs website. Click the Enroll Now link (Figure A).
Click the Enroll Now link.
2. To begin the registration process, click the Enroll link next to Volume Purchase Program (Figure B).
Click the Enroll link.
3. Using the information of delegated VPP Administrator, fill out the required text fields for the initial creation of the VPP account. Based on the information entered, an Apple ID will be automatically created for the individual to serve as the primary account for VPP and provide contact information used to aide the end user in completing the initial setup. Additional administrators may be assigned once the account is setup. Click Next to review and submit the information to Apple (Figure C).
Click Next to review.
4. Upon successful processing of the enrollment, the Apple ID — along with temporary password — will be emailed to the account provided during registration. The Apple ID will be used throughout the remainder of the VPP setup process, so it's recommended to keep it in a safe place (Figure D).
Enrolling your organization.
II. Enabling 2-step verification (optional, but highly recommended)
5. While section II is completely optional, it is a recommended security measure to opt-in to 2-factor authentication, as it provides an added layer of security against account compromise in the event that the credentials fall into the hands of an unauthorized party. To proceed, visit the Apple ID site and login with your new Apple ID. If not, continue to section III (step #12).
6. Verify that all pertinent information is correct. If it isn't, take a few minutes to modify the fields to reflect the correct account info. Pay special attention to the Password and Security section. It's a good idea to change the default password created by Apple and create a security question to aid in future password resets. Once the information has been saved, click the Get Started... link under Two-Step Verification (Figure E).
Verify that all pertinent information is correct.
7. The following page explains how two-step verification works by using a trusted device to receive a verification code any time account information changes are requested. If the code is entered, the change is authorized and will proceed; if the code is not entered, the change is considered unauthorized and no changes are made — plus you'll receive an email from Apple indicating a change attempt was made. Click Continue to proceed (Figure F).
You'll learn how two-step verification works.
8. Add the telephone number (SMS) for the trusted device by clicking the Add a phone number... link, then click Continue. A test code will be sent to the device that must be entered to ensure the trust is made between device and Apple ID (Figure G).
You can add a telephone number.
9. Next, Apple's servers will generate a Recovery Key automatically. This key will be used as a verification factor in the event that the password or the trusted device are lost. Again, it's highly recommended that the Recovery Key is printed and kept in a safe place for future use. Click the Continue button once it's recorded (Figure H).
You'll receive a Recovery Key.
10. Confirm the Recovery Key from the previous screen by entering it in the test field and clicking the Confirm button (Figure I).
Confirm the Recovery Key.
11. The final screen will highlight certain conditions for enabling two-factor verification, which must be agreed to by checking the check box and clicking the Enable Two-Step Verification button (Figure J).
Finalizing two-step verification.
III. VPP account organization verification
12. After receiving the Apple ID from Apple via email, phase 2 of the pending VPP setup process involves checking the organization information to verify your business entity status. We begin by signing in with the Apple ID at Apple's deployment website and clicking the Additional Details Required link to proceed (Figure K).
Click the Additional Details Required link.
13. Confirm all the information fields exactly as they were presented in the separate email sent to you from Dun & Bradstreet. The information entered here should be identical to that which was submitted to D&B when applying for the DUNS number. If any character is slightly off, it may be enough to deny your VPP request temporarily. Click the Next button to review and submit your information (Figure L).
Click the Next button.
14. Pending a database check against the information submitted to both Apple and D&B, once approved, you'll receive a confirmation email from Apple indicating your organization has been approved for the VPP program (Figure M).
You'll receive a confirmation email from Apple.
IV. Adding payment information prior to account usage
15. Prior to using the VPP account to purchase books and apps, Apple requires a form of payment to be validated in the VPP account settings. Typically, a corporate credit card is used as a placeholder. To begin, once again, login to the Apple deployment website and click the Getting Started link.
16. The VPP store has two sections: Business and Education. Both have identical content, however, customers are assigned to their respective stores based on their enrollment. In this case, click the Go to the Business store link to access the store for corporate purchases (Figure N).
Click the Go to the Business store link.
17. To begin editing the payment fields, click the drop-down arrow next to the email address listed in the top right corner and select Account Summary.
18. Scroll to the bottom of the page, under the section labeled Payment Information. Click the Edit Payment Information link to be taken to the next page (Figure O).
Click the Edit Payment Information link.
19. Add the corporate credit card details (or link to a PayPal business account alternatively), and click the Done button to save the changes.
20. The VPP process is now complete, and the account is ready to make purchases from all of the App Stores (iOS/OS X/iBooks).
Managing devices is growing increasingly easier to do with a little additional support from centralized management suites, such Microsoft's System Center Configuration Manager or Apple's OS X Server Profile Manager. However, managing devices is far removed from managing software (or content) licenses. There are no management applications that assist with keeping up with the license counts, serial numbers, or what software apps reside on which devices.
Thankfully, Apple's VPP takes much of the guess work out of the tedious process, eliminating the heavy lifting of combing through various receipts, purchase orders, paperwork, and emails to sort through the exact details of a particular software package's purchase agreement. VPP streamlines this entire process by containing it to one lightweight, easy-to-use website with multiple-user access, expense, and license tracking — even tying it into OS X Server Open Directory for enhanced, zero-touch software deployment and tracking.
It can also alleviate loss of resources when paired with OS X Server's Caching Service to optimize bandwidth usage, because apps can be reassigned to provisioned devices, ensuring that content stays with the company and not with the end user.
Do you take advantage of Apple's VPP? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.
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 15 years of experience and multiple certifications from several vendors, including Apple and CompTIA.