A few of the devs on my team recently got a chance to try out the free version of Meraki’s Systems Manager. In this case, I’m using MDM as an acronym for Mobile Device Management. We used the system on and off for most of 2015 to distribute some apps published using an enterprise provisioning profile for iOS.
Our usual scenario involved a series of iPads, often 10 – 30 of them. They would be sent out to an event space on a convention floor, a mall booth, an outdoor event space (like Six Flags). Sometimes the devices would be used for user registration, running on a local network inside a stadium. One project involved a bunch set up outside a traveling food truck, that drove from town to town. A few projects required sweeps registration or mailing list sign up of some sort. One large project involved multiple Elo Touch Screens that ran Windows Pro and traveled between mostly outdoor events. Since most of our events involved using Meraki with a series of iPads, I’ll use the .ipa app upload process as the example going forward.
Overall, if your app is under 30MB in file size, Meraki is a great solution. Just set up your account, go to
- Systems Manager > MDM > Apps
- select “Add New” in the upper right corner of the page and “iOS enterprise app” from the dropdown.
- Under Location, choose “Upload an ipa” from the dropdown and follow the given options, as needed. Click Save Changes and you’re set.
- Add devices (Systems manager > MDM > add devices) and use tags to automatically install your app on the appropriate device
- Once the app’s live and installed, you can update using the same App page (Systems Manager > MDM > Apps, click your app name)
Some issues we came up against
- The Meraki dashboard doesn’t seem to allow you to search “Clients” (Systems manager > Monitor > Clients, what the system calls the devices you’ve registered) by convenient terms like serial number or device name. Sometimes I have a lot of devices with a given tag and I need to make sure a specific device is in that list. Being able to search by device serial number would save me time.
- Enterprise apps larger than 30MB in size are often problematic to update. It often took multiple attempts over a few days to get the update to work, even after on-site connectivity was good for other purposes, such as playing back a streaming video off of sites like CNN.com.
- On-site firewall at YMCA branches (using YMCA WiFi) were blocking remote app updates.
- Spotty venue WiFi (read: convention floor WiFi) and sometimes spotty MiFi connections are an issue if your app requires an update or needs to send more than just text data. App updates for apps bigger than a few MB, required taking the device to another location with strong, consistent WiFi.
- When you’re stuck on an issue, such as an app just won’t install, no matter what you do, there’s not much google-able info out there. Stackoverflow is very helpful to keep you moving, past bugs and roadblocks, but not with the free version of Meraki’s System’s Manager. We haven’t yet had the need to contact Meraki support (given our previous experience with trying to reach out to support with free products, we pursued the issues on our own, so far successfully).
I’d highly recommend Meraki for smaller sized apps, especially ones that are not likely to require an app update during your short term event’s duration. For longer term installations, larger apps, be prepared to budget for and plan for on-site travel for one of your developers, technologists or IT guys to help with initial installs or especially problematic app updates.
This has less to do with MDM, and more with network connectivity, but your MDM will largely depend on how good your connection is. Seriously consider / advise your client to purchase a data plan for the device, rather than relying on WiFi alone. Find out ahead of time, which mobile service has a reputation for working best in your target location. Don’t use Verizon, if AT&T is generally known to have better service in your event’s target area. If your devices are PCs, by all means, run hard lines (Ethernet) and bypass wireless issues all together. Just keep in mind, the longer those Ethernet cables, the lower the signal tends to be.