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How and when to set up Apple TV with a business account

While organizations can use a business Apple ID account, there are other options -- a personal Apple ID or even no Apple ID may suffice.

Apple generally designs its devices such as Apple TV with ease of setup in mind, but the challenge comes with ensuring that administrators have the right configurations based on the desired use case.

Organizations must carefully consider the type of account they will use during the device enrollment process and determine how they want to deploy and manage these Apple TV devices.

The Apple TV setup process

The process used for setting up an Apple TV varies based on the device's age. For current generation devices -- Apple TV 4K -- the process begins with plugging a power cable and an HDMI cable into the device and then connecting the other end of the HDMI cable to a TV, monitor or any compatible display. Once the Apple TV box powers up, it will take the admin into the Device Setup process.

The first step is to pair the TV remote with the device. The admin must simultaneously press and hold down the remote's volume up and back buttons.

Note: Older versions of Apple TV use the menu and volume up button for this process.

Once the remote has paired, the system will prompt you to choose your language and region and accept a data use and privacy policy.

At this point, Apple TV will move to a screen that asks if the Apple administrator wants to set the device up automatically using an iPhone or do it manually. The Set Up with iPhone option will prompt the admin to pair the TV with the selected iPhone. As soon as the two devices pair, the Apple TV will automatically match the settings and configurations of that iPhone.

As convenient as the automatic setup might be, this isn't usually the best way to set up an Apple TV device in a business environment. The TV will inherit the settings used on your phone, which could include numerous problem-causing settings that IT would have to seek out and change manually. Most organizations will be better off performing a manual setup, which involves connecting the device to a Wi-Fi network and specifying the Apple ID that the Apple TV should use.

The following are the three main options for providing an Apple ID:

  • Configure the TV to use one or more personal Apple IDs.
  • Connect the Apple TV to a managed business account.
  • Opt not to use an account at all. This option is contingent on the age of the device.

Using a personal account

While the admin can configure an Apple TV to use their personal Apple ID, this is typically a poor choice if the Apple TV device will have multiple users. Anyone who uses the device could potentially see the Apple ID owner's personal data, browsing history, applications, etc.

Just as an administrator on a Windows network can create user accounts within the organization's Active Directory domain, Apple allows organizations to create managed accounts for business purposes.

Apple TV does, however, support the use of multiple user profiles. Therefore, if only a small number of users will need to use the Apple TV, the admin could set up a separate user profile for each user. This would mean that each user has to sign in using their Apple ID rather than a shared personal credential. This does require consistent switching between profiles, but it is a viable approach with the right end-user best practices.

Using an Apple TV business account

A second option is to use an Apple TV business account. Just as an administrator on a Windows network can create user accounts within the organization's Active Directory domain, Apple allows organizations to create managed accounts for business purposes. These accounts are essentially Apple IDs associated with an organization's domain.

The primary advantage of using a business account is that it allows administrators to manage Apple TV and other Apple devices from a central location. Organizations can use Apple Configurator 2 or Apple Business Manager to configure devices based on organization-wide policies. For example, if the organization has multiple Apple TVs, the admin can ensure that they all share the same configurations.

One potential downside to using managed Apple IDs is that Apple disables certain services when users log into a device using a managed Apple ID. This is true for iPads, iOS devices and macOS devices as well. Apple's public list of services disabled with a managed Apple ID doesn't include any restrictions on Apple TV, but there may be lesser-known feature restrictions. As such, organizations will need to ensure that using a managed ID does not prevent them from accessing any services that support business goals.

Setting up without an Apple ID

Organizations can set an Apple TV device up manually without an Apple ID. The organization can then use the device in Conference Room Mode, making it possible for users to connect their devices to the TV using Apple Airplay. Newer Apple TV devices support AirPlay through the Conference Room Display options in Settings.

Sharing an Apple TV between multiple users

Apple makes it possible to centrally provision and manage Apple TV devices in a business environment. General best practices suggest that this type of centralized management should align with any other organization-wide device management policies. However, small workgroups sharing an Apple TV device may find it preferable for each user to have their profile rather than sharing a single profile tied to one managed Apple ID.

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