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Affordable Apple MDM option emerges for IT on a budget

One real estate services company needed device management and found JAMF's Bushel to be a cost-effective MDM for its Apple devices.

Not every company needs a full-blown EMM platform to manage mobility, and one real estate services company found an inexpensive Apple MDM option to meet its needs.

GRS Group, a commercial real estate services provider based in Irvine, Calif., has 51 employees worldwide, many of whom work remotely. Full-time employees are issued Apple iOS devices and GRS Group's corporate network doesn't support anything else.

In recent months, GRS Group searched for a mobile device management (MDM) product to help manage its corporate-owned fleet. It considered several vendors who provide enterprise mobility management platforms (EMM), including AirWatch by VMware and Citrix's XenMobile, before settling on Bushel, an iOS-specific MDM product from JAMF Software LLC of Minneapolis.

GRS Group liked the services offered by AirWatch and ShareFile but found the cost to be prohibitive compared to Bushel, said Marc Schnitman, GRS Group's IT administrator.

Pricing for XenMobile and AirWatch's MDM tools start at $50 and $51 per device, per year, respectively. Bushel, on the other hand, offers free service for the first three users and then charges $2 per device per month.

All three products include some form of app management capability. While XenMobile and AirWatch include access to app catalogues or stores, Bushel connects with Apple's Volume Purchase and Device Enrollment Programs to provision and manage applications for users (although GRS Group does not utilize these programs).

[Two dollars] a pop is a much more appealing price point when you're trying to prove a solution is necessary.
Marc Schnitman, IT administrator, GRS Group

"In any business, the IT department budget is always squeezed first because it's the expendable budget," Schnitman said. "For that matter, $2 a pop is a much more appealing price point when you're trying to prove a solution is necessary."

GRS Group was also attracted to Bushel's software as a service-based management console, which was easy to set up and simple to follow and manage, Schnitman said.

Bushel doesn't measure up for everyone

The price made Bushel attractive to a company like GRS Group, but its limitations likely mean that it won't be the right product for every company. Bushel supports Apple's open-in management feature, which was originally introduced in iOS 7, extending the iOS MDM protocol allowing admins to choose which apps employees can use to access corporate data.

However, JAMF elected not to delve into content distribution or more extensive mobile content management features, said Charles Edge, Bushel's product manager at JAMF.

"The perfect Bushel customer is already leveraging some of those tools," Edge said.

It also may not be the best option for companies with a bring-your-own-device model, since it only works for iOS devices. JAMF isn't ruling out adding multi-platform support for Bushel at some point, but not likely in the near future, Edge said.

For GRS Group, Bushel provides enough management for its needs. Many of its employees need mobile devices for data entry and document manipulation, and the company uses Dropbox to keep files synced and shared.

Bushel helps to onboard new employees for GRS Group as well, like when a sales employee joins the company and marketing materials are needed on their iPhone, for example.

"That new device will be MDM-managed by Bushel right from the get-go and allow me to push the marketing materials through our Dropbox account to that device, and that will make that task much simpler," Schnitman said.

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