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Apple

Pro tip: Manage push notification certificates in OS X Server

Jesus Vigo walks through the steps of setting up push notifications in Apple's OS X Server. He also provides information about changing or renewing existing push notification certificates.

Push notifications in OS X Server

Push notifications have permeated in no small part, due to the explosive growth of the mobile device. From smartphones to tablets to wearable technologies — chances are that the average person in the US carries about three devices on (or near) him or her at any given time.

This need to be connected at all times and have updated information accessible as it changes is the drive behind push notifications. The IM from a loved one, email from a co-worker, or breaking news updates from CNN are all made possible — in real-time — by push technology on 1st and 3rd-party servers worldwide.

Here are the requirements for managing push certifications on OS X Server:

  • Apple computer running OS X Server (1.0+)
  • Broadband internet connection (Ethernet or Wi-Fi)
  • Apple ID Account

Now, let's take a closer look at how to setup push notifications:

  1. Launch Server.app and select the server you wish to manage.
  2. Login with administrative credentials.
  3. Click on the server name from the Server pane and click Settings (Figure A).
    Figure A
    Figure A
  4. Under Settings, check the Enable Apple push notifications box (Figure B).
    Figure B
    Figure B
  5. Click on the Edit... button to login with the Apple ID that the push certificate will be linked to. Once you've entered the credentials, click on Get Certificate to complete the request (Figure C).
    Figure C
    Figure C
  6. When Apple's servers have fulfilled the request, a confirmation screen will appear indicating the Apple ID linked to the certificate and the expiration date. The certificates are valid for a period of one calendar year. Click OK close the message and return to the OS X Server console (Figure D).
    Figure D
    Figure D

If necessary to change or renew an existing push notification certificate, follow the steps below:

  1. Launch Server.app and select the server you wish to manage.
  2. Login with administrative credentials.
  3. Click on the server name from the Server pane and click Settings.
  4. Next, clicking the Edit... button will bring up the current certificate status along with two choices: Change... (Step #5) and Renew... (Step #7) (Figure E).
    Figure E
    Figure E
  5. By clicking Change, a new certificate will be created to replace the one currently in use. Be forewarned, doing so will remove the previous certificate, and any devices using it to receive push notifications will need to be enrolled to accept the new certificate or else push service will be disrupted. To proceed, click Continue (Figure F).
    Figure F
    Figure F
  6. You'll be prompted to enter your new Apple ID credentials. These will be used to generate a new push certificate from Apple.
  7. By clicking Renew, the existing certificate is only renewed for another year, extending its expiration date. This must be done prior to the expire date if you wish to prevent service disruption. You'll be prompted to enter the Apple ID used to create the current certificate, and then click Renew Certificate to process the request (Figure G).
    Figure G
    Figure G
  8. The process is brief but varies, depending on the internet connection present. You'll be updated as to the status while processing (Figure H).
    Figure H
    Figure H
  9. Once completed, the expiration date should change to reflect the new date, while all services relying on this certificate remain intact and unaffected.
  10. To check on the status of all 1st and 3rd-party certificates linked to a specific Apple ID, Apple's Push Certificate Portal allows one to login with a particular Apple ID and view the status of certificates (Figure I).
    Figure I
    Figure I
  11. Along with reviewing statuses of existing certificates, you can also create a new certificate to be used with 3rd-party servers, such as those used by Mobile Device Management (MDM) or application-specific services. You'll first need a Certificate Signing Request (CSR) from the 3rd-party server or vendor. This file identifies the 3rd-party server to Apple, which in turn verifies its authenticity. Once that's complete, the resulting certificate file is linked to your Apple ID for use with any servers linked to that account (Figure J).
    Figure J
    Figure J

The task of managing push notification certificates is, like most Apple-designed products, integrated seamlessly and flows into one another. It's a small task that pays off in spades once services such as Calendar, Email, and Contacts begin to take advantage of its ability to have information — updated and synced — across all the various mobile devices.

The focus of this article is applying push notifications to enterprise-related applications and services. Yet, I'd be remiss to not mention the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) model, because the line between personal and company-owned devices continues to blur. Using your own device to perform job functions is imperative at times and almost a certainty at others. Push notifications for "other" apps and services, as highlighted by TechRepublic blogger Cory Bohon, showcase some the amazing things that can be done with push and 3rd-party applications to help focus the work-life balance.

Have you setup push notifications in your organization? Share some of the tips and/or difficulties that you experienced by joining in the discussion thread below.

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 15 years of experience and multiple certifications from seve...

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