One of the characteristics of the SMB SaaS universe that Localogy covers is breadth. When adding up all the things that SMBs need to run their operations, the list spans marketing, fintech, eCommerce and logistics. But also on that list is hardware. What are the devices SMBs use, and how are they managed?
Apple is the latest company to answer that question with its new program for SMBs. Known as Apple Business Essentials, it caters to businesses with less than 500 employees. Its main selling point is device management and IT support capabilities that are usually endemic to larger enterprises.
To be fair, others have served this segment for years. For example, Dell is widely known for its enterprise programs for SMBs to manage devices for management and staff. This includes software updates and support among other things. Apple now joins the party with its signature higher-end hardware.
Fleet of Devices
Going deeper on Apple’s program, it stems from the acquisition of Fleetsmith last year. The goal is to manage devices through the employee lifecycle including onboarding, support, and “offboarding.” It’s also built around three main components which are device management, storage, and support.
Taking those one at a time, device management lets SMBs have corporate-level IT controls for a fleet of devices. This includes setting up users and groups that have custom settings and permissions, such as allowed apps and storage. The latter can be parceled strategically from an SMB’s overall allotment.
As part of the device management system, employees can bring their own devices. After all, lots of people already own iPhones. In these cases, businesses can partition business sections of devices for backup, storage, and security. Then when they leave the company, those sections can be deleted.
Moving on to storage, this is built on iCloud, not surprisingly. Companies are free to connect to services like Google Drive and Dropbox, but only iCloud storage is included in the package. Other services need to be allowed at least, given that SMBs partners or customers may use them.
Finally, the support piece is available to business administrators as well as employees who run into issues. This is essentially offered as an extension of AppleCare+, Apple’s existing device support arm. And onsite service (think: repairs) will be deployed through Apple partners.
The timing is also right for this, given recent spikes in ransomware attacks. Though Hollywood glorifies cyberattacks as involving advanced coding hacks, it more often happens in mundane ways. For example “social hacking” can reveal passwords from employees that lazily picked insecure passwords.
In other words, the threat of cybersecurity attacks goes up as SMBs add more employees and thus more points of entry. This can create weak links in the chain that are prone to security breaches. So the bigger the company, the greater the risk… not to mention higher stakes as SMBs grow.
That combined with security holes from infrequent updates can put businesses at risk. So a more formalized system of security and software updates is a smart approach for any SMB. And all the doom & gloom over cybersecurity in news media has made them realize that, which will raise demand.
Meanwhile, the service is currently in a beta period and is free while Apple charges on a per-user, per-month basis for the device management, storage, and support components. Like most Apple products, these packages can be customized, and the program will roll out generally in Spring 2022.