The Business Essentials subscription service that Apple announced and introduced in a limited beta late last year is now available to every small business. This is Apple’s vertical integration of device management and cloud storage under the Business Manager platform that companies already use to purchase and manage their Apple hardware, which is designed for organizations with fewer than 500 employees. Now officially launched, it also includes an optional new business tier of AppleCare Plus hardware coverage with 24/7 support and the ability to call an Apple-trained tech on site within four hours.
The subscription connects traditional IT services in one portal at a rate starting at $2.99 per employee per month. Apple opens its doors with a two-month free trial, which is available to companies that were already part of the beta test.
Companies that could use this package, or a similar third-party installation, probably already have access to Apple’s Business Manager portal. This way, businesses (and schools with Apple School Manager too) can reserve and distribute Managed Apple IDs so that employees don’t accidentally create a personal Apple ID account. It can also automatically purchase devices purchased directly from Apple, acquire software licenses from the App Store, sync folders (Microsoft Azure), and more.
The biggest change for those in charge of IT management is on the implementation and management side: small business customers can use Apple’s service to push preconfigured packages directly to employees’ devices with their Wi-Fi/VPN settings, mandatory FileVault encryption and apps . Employees can then view their settings, access support, or track repairs through the Business Essentials app. Previously, getting deployment and management features on Apple devices required a different service and the expertise to use it. However, the biggest thing this setup can’t do is work with non-Apple mobile or desktop devices.
For small businesses looking for a simplified and linear approach to Mac management, or who don’t have enough IT staff, Apple’s new solution may be of interest. The starting price of $2.99 per month, per employee, covers one device and 50 GB of iCloud storage, then jumps to $6.99 for 200 GB and $12.99 for 2 TB.
AppleCare Plus for Business Essentials costs an additional $7 per month for the single device tier (covers one repair or replacement) or an additional $13 per month for the three devices and the 200 GB iCloud tier (covers two repairs or replacements). A single employee can cost up to $24.99 per month with three devices, 2 TB of iCloud storage, and AppleCare Plus for Business Essentials (a $1 per month cost savings on the AppleCare).
IT managers can sign up for the new service by going to the company’s existing Apple Business Manager site and clicking the newly added “Subscription” menu in the sidebar. Once enrolled, new menu options will appear in the sidebar, including Service & Support and Collections. Other features include the ability to let employees set up business accounts on their own computers or phones, without having to worry about business or personal data. Apple’s solution allows personal data to be “cryptographically separated” from work data.
Apple’s new service offers an alternative to established solutions like Jamf, which is used by thousands of companies and universities, works with Apple’s Business/School Manager platforms and has much more comprehensive features, including security software solutions. But for small businesses that simply need to enroll newly purchased Apple hardware, provide basic onboarding support, and distribute software only from Apple’s App Store repository, Apple’s Business Essentials can certainly — well — cover the essentials.