mobile device management migration best practices

When it comes to Mobile Device Management (MDM), each operating system comes with its own set of challenges and advantages. iOS, Apple's operating system, is no exception. While iOS devices bring the benefits of robust security, intuitive user experience, and a wide array of enterprise-friendly features, migrating your mobile device fleet to manage iOS devices through an MDM system comes with its own unique considerations.

Note: this article is part of our guide "How to Migrate Your Mobile Device Fleet to Mobile Device Management"

A one-size-fits-all approach to MDM migration will not suffice when you're dealing with a diverse device environment. This article will guide you through the complexities of an iOS-specific MDM migration, ensuring that you are well-equipped to make the transition as seamless as possible.

iOS-Specific Features and Tools

The Role of Apple's Automated Device Enrollment (ADE)

Apple's Automated Device Enrollment (ADE) offers a seamless and efficient solution for deploying organization-owned iPad and iPhone devices. With ADE, the initial setup of devices becomes a breeze as it automates Mobile Device Management (MDM) enrollment, saving valuable time and empowering the IT department with increased control. A significant advantage of ADE is that it ensures the MDM software remains installed on the device and locked to the organization, even after a factory reset. This feature simplifies the process of maintaining device compliance with organizational policies.

Utilizing Apple’s Volume Purchase Program (VPP)

VPP allows your organization to purchase apps in bulk for both iOS and macOS. It's highly recommended to use VPP during the MDM migration process as it makes it easier to install business apps on all managed iOS devices in one go. VPP is integrated with most MDM solutions, making it easier to manage app licenses and distribute them to devices without requiring an Apple ID from the end-users.

Apple Business Manager (ABM)

Apple Business Manager serves as the ultimate hub for managing Apple devices through any Mobile Device Management (MDM) system. This free portal, which requires registration, consolidates all aspects of the Apple ecosystem, providing a centralized platform for configuring MDM server settings, ADE, and VPP. With Apple Business Manager, organizations can efficiently oversee and control their iOS devices, making it an essential tool for seamless MDM migration.

By consolidating the management of iOS devices, MDM server settings, ADE, and VPP in one centralized platform, Apple Business Manager offers organizations a comprehensive solution for efficient iOS device management. It empowers administrators with increased control, simplifies the deployment and management of apps, and ensures device compliance with organizational policies. With Apple Business Manager, organizations can streamline their MDM migration and maximize the benefits of managing iOS devices through a mobile device management system.

Benefits and Risks in iOS MDM Migration

Advantages of a Well-Planned iOS Migration

A successful iOS MDM migration offers several benefits, including enhanced security protocols, centralized management of apps, and more straightforward device onboarding processes. Not to mention, the compatibility between Apple's suite of productivity applications and iOS makes the integration even more seamless.

Potential Pitfalls

However, the road to iOS MDM migration is fraught with potential pitfalls, including compatibility issues, data loss, and end-user resistance. Special attention should be given to Apple’s unique features and settings, like iCloud and Find My iPhone, which could interfere with MDM capabilities if not managed correctly.

Pre-Migration Checklist for iOS Devices

Compatibility Checks

Before initiating the migration, make sure that the existing iOS devices are compatible with the targeted MDM solution. Incompatibility can manifest in various ways - from minor bugs and glitches to major features of the MDM solution being unusable.

Ensure that all devices in your inventory are running the latest OS version or upgrade them to the latest OS version, if possible. This will not only help patch any security vulnerabilities but also provide a fresh start for your mobile device fleet.

Apple Services Enrollment

Before you proceed with the migration, ensure that you are enrolled in Apple's necessary enterprise services like ADE and VPP. This will not only make the migration process smoother but will also ease the management of iOS devices in the long term. They should be configured properly in Apple Business Manager in conjunction with your MDM solution.

User Data Backup

It is vital to ensure that all data on the existing iOS devices is backed up. Utilize Apple's iCloud or other enterprise-grade backup solutions for this purpose.

Network Requirements

Your network must be prepared to handle the load of multiple devices enrolling into the MDM simultaneously. This involves not just bandwidth but also considerations like firewalls and any potential rate limiting on Apple's activation servers.

Migration Execution

Initiation of MDM Enrollment Through ADE

For ADE-enrolled devices, MDM enrollment is typically initiated when the device is first set up and brand new. Make sure your DEP settings in Apple Business Manager are configured to allocate devices to your MDM server automatically.

Manual Enrollment

For non-ADE devices, enrollment has to be initiated manually. Manual MDM enrollment for iOS devices typically involves navigating to a URL or scanning a QR code. Ensure that these instructions are communicated clearly to the end-users.

Starting from iOS17, users can initiate the enrollment process by simply adding a managed Apple ID through the settings app. This will start the User Enrollment process, making it even easier to onboard users.

VPP App Distribution

After enrollment, the next step is to push necessary enterprise apps to the devices. If you are using VPP, this can be automated through your MDM solution. Set up app configurations to ensure that upon installation, the apps are configured with the necessary settings.

Post-Migration Activities

User Training

Once the migration is complete, a crucial next step is to train the users on how to use and manage their newly MDM-enrolled iOS devices. This includes basic troubleshooting steps and how to access enterprise apps.

Policy and Compliance Checks

Post-migration is an excellent time to ensure that all devices comply with the organization's security policies. Use your MDM's compliance-checking features to automatically scan all enrolled devices and identify discrepancies quickly.

Monitoring and Feedback

The first few weeks post-migration will likely be the most turbulent. Use this time to monitor for any issues actively and collect feedback from end-users. This feedback will be invaluable when tweaking device and app settings in the MDM solution.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Device Non-Compliance

One of the most common issues post-migration is devices falling out of compliance with organizational policies. This often occurs due to end-users tampering with device settings or not following compliance requirements. Make sure to set up alerts within your MDM solution for non-compliance events.

App Distribution Failures

Another common issue is enterprise apps failing to install or configure on the device post-migration. Check the device logs through your MDM solution to diagnose these types of issues.

Connectivity Issues

Connectivity issues can be a significant hindrance in a newly-migrated environment. Always ensure that your network can handle the increased load, and diagnose any connectivity issues as soon as possible.


Migrating your mobile device fleet to manage iOS devices can be a complex task that requires careful planning, a deep understanding of MDM principles, and a well-structured plan for post-migration activities. Although the process may seem challenging at first, following these best practices and tips will ensure a smooth and successful transition.

If you need personalized expert advice tailored to your organization's specific needs, don't hesitate to check our iOS MDM solution to reach out to the Appaloosa team. We are here to assist you in creating an effective migration strategy that aligns with your business objectives.

Julien Ott
October 6, 2023

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