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Deciding which AppleCare plan is best for the enterprise

Apple provides multiple coverage and support options to supplement basic AppleCare, and it can be difficult to determine whether one will be best suited to an organization's needs.

Organizations can choose from several coverage plans for Apple endpoints, so IT administrators might not know where to begin when deciding on the best option for their situation.

To properly manage devices and the expenses associated with them, IT must account for the hardware and software issues that can occur throughout their lifespan. Regardless of the device type, coverage and support features will affect costs and user experience. Important support variables include the following:

  • Response time. This describes how quickly the support provider responds to the incident. Response time can be measured in hours or days.
  • Repair time. This describes how quickly the support provider guarantees to have the device repaired and in service. This can also be measured in hours or days.
  • Phone support. This feature lets IT and users reach technical support by phone at certain times. This might be 24/7 or during business hours only, for example.
  • On-site support. This feature requires the support provider to show up on site to repair the device as opposed to talking the IT staff member or user through the repair.
  • Mail-in or carry-in repair. This feature enables IT to ship or bring the device to the provider for repair.
  • Device replacement. This feature provides end users with a temporary replacement device to be used until the organization's device is repaired and returned to service.
  • Per-incident support. This is a pay-as-you-go support option. Instead of paying a subscription fee, the organization is charged per incident.

When deploying and managing Apple devices, organizations must assess these variables in the context of AppleCare and its related support offerings. A short-term AppleCare agreement comes free with most Apple products, providing a one-year limited hardware warranty and up to 90 days of technical support. Beyond this standard coverage option, Apple offers a few additional plans.

No plan is one-size-fits-all, and multiple subscriptions might be more cost-effective in some scenarios.

For more comprehensive coverage and support, admins can purchase any of the following plans for eligible devices:

  • AppleCare+.
  • AppleCare Help Desk Support.
  • AppleCare OS Support.
  • AppleCare for Enterprise.
  • AppleCare+ for Business Essentials.

It's important to note that AppleCare Help Desk Support, AppleCare OS Support and AppleCare for Enterprise are all part of the AppleCare Professional Support suite. Similarly, AppleCare+ for Business Essentials is an extension of Apple Business Essentials, Apple's SMB device management platform.

With all these options, it can be challenging for IT professionals to determine which plan -- if any -- will make the most sense for their organization. No plan is one-size-fits-all, and multiple subscriptions might be more cost-effective in some scenarios. Organizations should compare, contrast and, in some cases, combine the different options to make the best investment for their needs.

What does basic AppleCare include?

AppleCare is the limited product warranty covering Apple devices upon purchase. This includes 90 days of technical support by chat or phone and a one-year warranty on hardware failure. The warranty only covers the hardware and accessories contained in the original packaging. Unless there's a defect caused by the material or manufacturing process, it doesn't apply to batteries or normal wear. It also doesn't apply to cosmetic or accidental damage.

If an applicable issue occurs under the warranty, Apple will repair, replace or refund the product. While the warranty doesn't cover software, users can contact the AppleCare technical support line for help with both hardware and software issues. Technical support covers a wide range of basic operations and issues, although it does not include data recovery.

Overall, the free plan offers decent coverage, but it doesn't last for very long. For a greater length of service and more advanced, enterprise-focused features, organizations should consider Apple's paid plans.

What is AppleCare+?

Organizations seeking a higher level of support can purchase AppleCare+ from Apple or an authorized reseller up to 60 days after the device purchase. While AppleCare+ does not include Theft and Loss protection, it can be added to iPhone coverage at an additional cost, covering up to two incidents per year. AppleCare+ features vary by product but generally include the following:

  • Hardware and software support.
  • 24/7 technical support by chat or phone.
  • Unlimited incidents of accidental damage.
  • Battery service coverage.
  • Global repair coverage.
  • On-site service for desktops.
  • Mail-in repair for mobile devices.
  • Carry-in repair.
  • Express Replacement Service for mobile devices.

AppleCare+ pricing depends on the length of coverage and device type and model. The following table gives an overview of the AppleCare+ product costs.

Device Annual cost (varies by model) Two-year cost (varies by model) Three-year cost (varies by model)
Mac $34.99-$179.99 N/A $99-$499
iPad $41.88-$95.88 $69-$149 N/A
iPhone $47.88-$119.88 $79-$199 N/A
iPhone -- AppleCare+ with Theft and Loss $89.88-$161.88 $149-$269 N/A
Apple Display $49.99-$179.99 N/A $149-$499
Apple TV N/A N/A $29

What is AppleCare Professional Support?

Apple provides a comprehensive suite of IT-focused support products called AppleCare Professional Support. Apple's website divides the suite into three categories:

  • Help Desk Support.
  • OS Support.
  • Enterprise Support.

Help Desk Support is a basic support offering tailored to internal help desks, while OS Support covers software integration support. The Enterprise Support category encompasses AppleCare for Enterprise, which is Apple's enterprise-grade service plan.

AppleCare Help Desk Support

The Help Desk Support option is designed to be a resource for internal IT support. It provides priority phone access to Apple senior support staff, 12 hours a day, seven days a week (12/7). Two employees are identified by the customer to make these support calls whenever issues with hardware or software require advanced help.

One year of Help Desk Support costs $499 and includes an unlimited number of hardware and software incidents. The service covers Mac, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and Apple TV hardware, as well as their respective OSes and certain apps.

AppleCare OS Support

This support option provides an advanced level of support by phone and email for integration and migration of macOS, iOS or iPadOS. The OS Support product includes support for "enterprise-level incidents." This is useful for integration challenges related to heterogeneous environments, network configuration, and integration with other software applications and web applications. OS Support also includes Help Desk Support.

Apple offers three plans within the OS Support category: Select, Preferred and Alliance. Admins can choose the most cost-effective service based on number of incidents, response time and degree of phone support access. The following table summarizes the features of the three plans.

Plan Select Preferred Alliance
Standard support availability 12/7 12/7 12/7
Support availability for high-priority issues 12/7 12/7 24/7
Help desk-level support incidents Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
Enterprise-level support incidents 10 50 Unlimited
Incident status reports Yes Yes Yes
High-priority response time Four hours Two hours One hour
Medium-priority response time 48 hours 24 hours Four hours
Low-priority response time 72 hours 48 hours 24 hours
Supported locations allowed One Multiple Multiple
Account management No Yes Dedicated
Customer site visits by Apple No No Yes
Cost $5,995 $19,995 $49,995

AppleCare for Enterprise

Intended for enterprise organizations, AppleCare for Enterprise provides 24/7 phone support for end users and on-site service coverage for two, three or four years. Like OS Support, this option also includes Help Desk Support.

AppleCare for Enterprise includes one incident of IT department-level support per year. This type of support addresses complex deployment and integration issues. Organizations can purchase support for additional incidents.

The service also offers repairs for up to 4% of the organization's Macs or Apple Displays or up to 10% of its iPads or iPhones, for any reason and at no extra cost.

Enterprise Support pricing is based around volume-based tiers of 200, 1,000 or 5,000 devices. However, specific price ranges are not available on Apple's website. Admins should contact Apple or an authorized reseller to receive a quote or more information.

What is AppleCare+ for Business Essentials?

Apple offers a set of support options for SMBs under its device management platform, Apple Business Essentials. The platform includes tools to centrally manage Apple devices and help automate setup, security, patching and more.

Business Essentials is designed for organizations of up to 500 people and is not supported with third-party mobile device management (MDM) software. Administrators get access to a centralized dashboard to track device health and security issues. They can also install the Apple Business Essentials app on employee devices to push out updates and settings to the endpoints.

The service is available in six plans, and half of those include AppleCare+. When deciding to purchase a Business Essentials subscription, organizations should decide whether they want a plan that includes AppleCare+, and whether they want a user plan or a device plan.

User plans are based on individual users and the devices associated with those users. There is a limit of up to three devices per user, and these devices can be owned by the organization or by its employees.

Device plans are specific to individual devices, making them best suited to use cases such as kiosks and displays. These plans are limited to 200 devices, and the devices must be owned by the organization.

Otherwise, plan types mainly differ in terms of storage and repair credits. The following Apple Business Essentials plans include AppleCare+:

  • Single device with AppleCare+. This plan can be purchased as a user plan or a device plan. The user plan works for users with only one device. It includes 50 GB of storage and one repair credit per year, per user. The device plan does not include storage but includes one repair credit per device. The plan costs $9.99 per user or device, per month.
  • Multi-device with AppleCare+. This is a user plan which includes 200 GB of storage and two repair credits per year, per user. The plan costs $19.99 per user, per month.
  • Multi-device with AppleCare+ plus extra storage. This is the same as the previous plan but adds 2 TB of storage and costs $24.99 per user, per month.

All AppleCare+ for Business Essentials plans include on-site repairs with a four-hour response time and 24/7 support, along with specialized training modules for IT and end users. Plans can be mixed or matched for flexibility and changed as needed.

How to figure out the best AppleCare coverage

There are several points to consider in determining the best support product. These all depend on the service-level agreement (SLA). The SLA is an agreement in the organization that specifies when a device must be back in service based on potential loss to the business. This depends on the device's importance to the organization, such as what sort of data it contains and what its use case is.

Define the SLA by asking the following questions:

  • How long can this device or service be down before it unacceptably affects the organization?
  • Is the device running a mission-critical application or just office apps?
  • Will you need low-, medium- or high-priority support?
  • Is on-site support needed, or will phone support be sufficient?
A checklist showing key features that might be included in an SLA.
An SLA is a major factor in determining which device coverage products will suit an organization's needs.

IT staff should determine the number of supportable devices and confirm what support is needed or even available. Additionally, take stock of any vintage or obsolete devices, which do not qualify for AppleCare+. Identify any devices that will be vintage in the next year, as Apple will drop them during the subscription.

The next step is to group users and devices. Group users into power users, IT staff and administrators; group devices by use case and importance. Then, identify what support options are best, looking at factors such as phone support availability and response time. Keeping the following considerations in mind can help reduce costs:

  • If an organization only has a small number of Apple devices, purchasing a simple AppleCare+ contract per device might make the most sense.
  • AppleCare+ for Business Essentials can be a good investment for enterprise organizations because of its account management features. Weigh out the costs to determine whether the standalone MDM platform will help the organization save money in the long run.
  • Organizations should use AppleCare+ to enhance IT staff's ability, not replace it. If an organization has no IT staff, AppleCare+ can provide support without the need to hire more people.
  • Consider third-party support products as opposed to Apple support. They can provide acceptable support at a lower cost in some situations.

Organizations should review all the available options and see which ones apply to their environment. Apple support is flexible, so it's possible to mix and match plans and add, remove or change plans at any time.

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