Apple

How to create an Apple VPP account and distribute apps

Erik Eckel explains how to take advantage of the Apple Volume Purchase Program to distribute and manage iOS apps for your organization.

Numerous organizations deploy iPads and iPhones. Most iPad and iPhone planning involves debating device cost, calculating potential productivity improvements, and forecasting profitability impact. Little thought is often dedicated, however, to preparing the actual deployment, creating the corresponding corporate software purchasing account, and distributing software applications to the mobile devices. Here's what to expect when considering the often-overlooked steps of actually deploying corporate iPad and iPhone applications.

Creating a VPP account

Mobile software programs are best administered within commercial and nonprofit organizations using a centralized purchasing platform. Apple's Volume Purchase Program simplifies the process of locating, purchasing, and deploying software applications and eliminates the need to have to track numerous different iTunes accounts and reimburse employee software purchases. Leveraging a standardized Volume Purchase Program, especially when combined with a Mobile Device Management (MDM) platform, also simplifies restricting and enforcing the applications users can install on their mobile devices.

To enroll within Apple's VPP, an organization must provide the following information upon registering:

  • A Dun & Bradstreet (DUNS) number for the organization
  • Contact information including a business phone number and email address
  • The organization's business address that matches the address on file with Dun & Bradstreet
  • Tax registration information, if the organization is located within the European Union

Once Apple approves a VPP registration, the organization will be asked to create a new Apple ID. The subsequent Apple ID can only be associated with the VPP account.

Making software purchases

Once a VPP account is established, an organization's technology administrator can log in to the account on Apple's Website. Administrators can log in to the Apple account from either Windows or Apple computers. Upon logging in, the administrator can search for and locate applications, enter the purchase quantity, supply credit card or PayPal account information, and complete the purchase.

When the purchase transaction completes, Apple notifies the administrator via email. The administrator can then log in to Apple's VPP Website, where redemption code information is provided for each order. The VPP Website's redemption code information is tracked and updates regularly, meaning administrators can check the status of licensing and redemptions at any given moment.

Application distribution

Redemption URLs are also provided within the VPP console, thereby providing a simple link that can be emailed directly to users to simplify application installation. Redemption codes can also be published directly to Intranets or via an internal application portal. Alternatively, organizations may choose to leverage a third-party Mobile Device Management (MDM) platform, such as Fiberlink's MaaS 360 or Mobile Iron, to deploy and administer applications throughout the organization.

The Apple Configurator, a free Apple app download, is another tool organizations can tap to assist mass software deployments. Using the free utility, administrators can import redemption code spreadsheets generated by the VPP console, track installed applications, configure and deploy devices, and update apps as required across supervised devices.

More information

For more information, read Apple's App Store Volume Purchase Program for Business PDF. The file walks users through the process and provides additional details for working with custom business-to-business software, too.

About

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

2 comments
mmurray49
mmurray49

Agreed. It needs work and I fully expect Apple to get it right over time. We pre-registered our Apple user's ourselves with FREE (non-credit card bound) Apple ID's using their company email addresses and we assigned each account unique passwords (staff ID numbers). Once registered, all the employee had to do was send back the email confirmation they received in their inbox. Staff are prohibited, by policy, from changing their "company issued" Apple ID or password. We then pushed web-clips to our user's devices containing the VPP purchase code URLs for each user via Apple MDM (Profile Manager). Owning/defining the Apple ID schema (user ID and PW) seems to help to simplify management so far. Theory untested as of yet... We can recycle accounts by changing the email address/PW for a given Apple ID by logging into the store/Account Information/Edit Apple ID/PW - making the accounts fluid, mobile and re-usable... So unless I'm mistaken, a newbie with a "recycled" Apple ID *should*, then, be able to log into the store under that account and re-downpload previously deployed, VPP paid, Apps to a new or recycled device if needed.

joshuaburke
joshuaburke

The VPP program sounds like a good idea until you try to actually implement. From an enterprise standpoint it's a disaster. A few items: 1.) Once the code is distributed, the app purchased belongs to the individual that redeems the code, and not to the enterprise. This quite simply means that the app you gave to the employee is "disposable" and the enterprise can't get it back or redeploy the app to a different Apple ID. 2.) This is not a discount mechanism. If you want a discount you have to work with the developers directly to get one. I recently purchased 100 copies of an app for one of our mobile teams and thought that perhaps there would be some cost reduction, but sadly no. This makes sense if you think about it because they are simply passing along a single redemption code for a one-off purchase. It isn't integrated with anything. 3.) Since the enterprise doesn't own the rights to the apps that it distributes, there is no leverage. I have asked Apple on numerous occasions to simply allow the VPP account to "own" the rights to the apps, just like any apple ID only with higher volume, so that it can redeploy them, or at least recover an app from a retired device. Engineers will tell you that it's not "perfect" but that they are working on it... 4.) The best thing about VPP is integrating it into your MDM. It makes it much easier to track where your apps have gone above the spreadsheet of codes and links that you get from Apple. If you are going to use this, make sure your MDM supports it, many do, or will very soon.