Mobility

Review: Secure iPads and iPhones with JAMF Casper Suite

JAMF Casper Suite aims to make mobile device management easier for businesses and educational institutions.

JAMF Software is out to make mobile device management (MDM) easier to use with the latest release of JAMF Casper Suite targeting both education and business customers. I had the opportunity to get a demo of JAMF Casper Suite early last month, and recently spent some time checking out their MDM platform on my own.

MDM is a highly competitive sector right now. The growth of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), Choose Your Own Device (CYOD), and mobile first strategies across business, education, and government is making a must have solution.

While you can also use JAMF Casper Suite to manage Macs, this article focuses on just the features applicable to managing iOS devices.

Using Casper Focus management and provisioning tools

The Casper Focus cloud interface is quite minimalist, which I like for an MDM platform that targets non-technical and technical users. The JSS Dashboard is configurable to the needs of a particular customer.

When you select the Mobile Devices tab, the Advanced Mobile Devices Searches page appears. When you run a search on a mobile device type, results appear similar to this:

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Advanced mobile devices searches

JAMF Casper Suite makes the search results actionable by enabling administrators to delete devices, send email to the device, and issue remote commands including Clear PassCode, Lock Device, and Update Inventory.

You have the option to upload configuration profiles and provisioning profiles to JAMF Casper Suite.

Apps management features in JAMF Casper Suite have you covered with both App Store and internal-apps. The nice part of this feature is that you can enter in App Store apps manually or use your Apple Volume Purchase Plan to purchase iOS apps. Figure B shows the options search the App Store or upload a VPP Code Spreadsheet:

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Search for an App Store app

An interesting differentiator in JAMF Casper Suite is the capability to either push in-house created or store bought eBooks to managed devices. As a technical writer myself, I've pondered the eBook format for internal customer documentation and training materials so I could see this feature coming into play. When a device is off boarded from Casper Suite, internally published eBooks are removed from the device. However, current iBook licensing technologies mean the purchased book remains on the device after off boarding or being wiped from the system.

JAMF Casper Suite deftly supports group management of devices through Smart Mobile Device Groups and Static Mobile Device Groups. You can setup groups for particular departments, apps, or even for events like a conference or seminar.

While there are a few points where the minimalist-design approach may work against JAMF Casper Suite's management and provisioning tools, I could see even a non-technical HR staffer being trained to setup new hire's BYOD devices as part of employee on-boarding.

However, the one thing conspicuously missing from the JAMF Casper Suite platform is online help. Even though, JAMF does many right things to make Casper Suite easy to use, non-technical users could still benefit from documentation that outlines the needed processes and best practices to onboard and off board employee and corporate owned devices. Companies like JAMF Software have lots to contribute to BYOD and MDM training in particular and online help is a great vehicle for communicating that knowledge.

JAMF Casper Suite integrates with popular directory services including LDAP. It won't take a full-time IT administrator to configure and manage the platform's settings either.

Going self service with JAMF Casper Suite

JAMF is making a prudent move by targeting device self-service with this release. Personally, I'm an advocate of self-service provisioning but it's important for the MDM platform vendor to create a self-service provisioning experience that is easy enough for users of all ability levels.

The setup and provisioning steps are easy though I would still expect that a job aid and a bit of training would help both mobile device users and staff who are new to such mobile security concepts. Figure C shows the User-Initiated Enrollment for Mobile Devices options:

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Settings for device self provisioning

Pricing

For commercial customers (non-education), JAMF Casper Suite perpetual licensing starts at $90/user + 20% annual support and maintenance for OSX and $45/user + 20% annual support and maintenance for iOS. The company offers volume discount pricing tiers where discounts increase as license volumes rise.

For education customers (non-commercial), they discount the perpetual license 100% for both OSX and iOS. Customers pay only for maintenance and support on an annual basis. This annual support and maintenance for OSX starts at $18 for user and iOS starts at $9 for user. JAMF has volume discount pricing tiers where discounts increase as license volumes rise.

Bottom line

I've come to divide the MDM market into smaller startups, those acquired by big name companies, and Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite. JAMF is a mid-sized company based in the Midwest United States outside how I currently slice the market up. They also focus strictly on OSX and IOS. The Mac and iOS user in me likes that, though I must question if this focus might work against them in a changing market especially with the spate of recent MDM acquisitions.

From technology and usability perspectives, JAMF Casper Suite checks off all the MDM checkboxes for iOS/Mac shops in the business and education sectors. If you are an all Mac and iOS shop, JAMF Casper Suite might just be the right MDM solution for you.

About Will Kelly

Will Kelly is a freelance technical writer and analyst currently focusing on enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and the consumerization of IT. He has also written about cloud computing, Big Data, virtualization, project management ap...

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