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Enterprise resilience: Backup and management tips for iOS, Mac

Apple’s solutions are seeing increasing use across the enterprise, but do you have a business resilience strategy in place in case things go wrong?

If you’re one of the estimated 73% of SMBs that have not yet made such preparation, now might be a good time to start.

Your data is your business

It’s challenging enough when a consumer user suffers data loss as precious memories and valuable information go up in the digital smoke.

Natural disaster, technology and infrastructure problems or human-made problems such as burglary, cyberattacks or civil unrest can all impact the sanctity of your systems, whatever platform you use. It matters because in today’s connected world, your data is your business.

One way to approach business resilience improvement is to adopt a mind-set in which you think about what happens if every piece of hardware your business uses fails at once.

While this may seem extreme, fire, flood or successful cyberattacks all threaten damage to your systems, and while the iPhones in your fleet may be left untouched, your internally hosted servers and on-site Macs and other equipment could suffer.

How do you protect yourself?

One part of the response is to put together and follow a data backup policy, but even if you do so (and many do not), how robust is your protection? Do you have first line, second line, online and offline backups? Do you have a remote backup system in place? Do you use a password management system and if you do are all the relevant master passwords held securely off-site?

[Also read: Enterprise resilience: iOS, Mac tools for remote collaboration]

It’s also important to develop a backup and recovery policy both you and your employees can easily maintain, including use of cloud-based services.

It’s imperative that data stored in the normal course of business by your company be cohesively stored as you do not want to have to explore every employees private Dropbox, Box, OneDrive or iCloud Drive account as you attempt to forensically pull all your information back together after a disaster strikes.

It is also quite important to think about how your data flows.

While less of an inherent problem for Apple systems, what happens if malware gets into your deployment? To what extent are your primary data backups sequestered from your day-to-day business, and what security verification policy do you have in place in order to ensure the integrity of the information you store in your primary backups?

The reason this matters so is that in the event malware gets into your backup systems (perhaps hidden in something as seemingly innocuous as a PDF document) then once you put all your enterprise kit back together the problem could reoccur.

The three-part approach

Reading around this topic and in previous discussions with people in this field, I’ve learned that those businesses that do put good systems in place generally adopt a three-part strategy:

  • Local backups: To shared local servers or locally attached hard drives.
  • Online backups (offsite): For the very smallest SMEs, iCloud may be fine, but larger concerns will need shared online services, such as those from iDrive, Egnyte or BackBlaze.)
  • Redundant backups: If local backups fail or online systems become compromised, a redundant backup system will have all assets regularly stored to a system held securely offsite. A consumer user may store their information on a drive at a trusted friend’s house, perhaps using two drives and swapping them out every few weeks. An enterprise may use the same rotating dual backup strategy to keep offsite backups regularly updated in a safe place. If you are based in an earthquake zone you might even choose to keep these in a completely different state.

It is important to note that whatever backup system is used is robustly protected with highly secure password systems.

It is also important to ensure clear role responsibilities such that someone is responsible for ensuring backups are successful. 

The hierarchy of needs

While full backups are essential, in truth not every piece of data is as valuable as everything else. This is why organizations should prioritize their data in terms of its importance. Typically, the order goes:

  • Databases
  • Accounts/Finances
  • Business operations/HR.
  • CRM information.
  • Documents and email.
  • Everything else.

In most cases it makes sense to run daily backups of the most important information. Automated systems (and it’s best to automate the process as much as possible) can be set to run these.

The role of MDM

If you use a Mobile Device Management system to handle your fleet, you should find it a little easier to deploy and equip replacement systems in the event of disaster, so long as you maintain backups offsite for access by your device management provision system.

Combined with regular backup policy, such as arranging weekly or monthly device backups from iOS devices locally to Macs using the Finder, and subsequent Mac backups using Apple’s Time Machine system, it’s possible to ensure that data integrity is near complete.

(Independently stored information should be thoroughly security vetted before being introduced to core backup systems to avoid malware infection).

A good MDM system equipped with robust security and management tools should help with the process.

Prevention is the core defense

The first line defense is prevention and while you can’t prevent every imaginable crisis you can prevent some.

That means preemptive risk management and fostering situational and security awareness across your teams.  Your employees may be the first to notice any anomalies that may signal threat, and you need to work with them to provide a supportive culture in which they feel empowered to come forward with any concerns.

This is also why it’s important to develop a friction-free approach to your backup resilience strategy, ensuring whatever protections you do put in place are actually used. Consumer level backup services may form part of your preparedness strategy, but only if this is strategically managed, through enterprise storage systems or emerging solutions that can work with consumer options, such as Challo.

Finally, it is extremely important to put together a plan for how to reconstruct your systems after a crisis. In an ideal world, if crisis strikes your organization then your people should already know their roles and be aware of what steps they should immediately take as you prepare to rebuild your organization.

Even the most die-hard Mac user knows that putting things together after data loss can be a lengthy and frustrating task if you are unprepared. (Though iCloud Drive helps a great deal with this).

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.





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Enterprise resilience: iOS, Mac tools for remote collaboration

The cancellation of Mobile World Congress, the Geneva Motor Show and big-name withdrawals from other key industry events in response to the Coronavirus means every enterprise should put remote working and collaboration systems in place.

This is not a drill

I’m no expert, but the disease, appears to be characterized by high infection rates and a mortality rate ten times higher than standard flu. International response is not unified, some seem in denial, and the facts are becoming confused within the clamor.

While the World Health Organization hasn’t yet called for large scale events to be cancelled, it has issued detailed advice for those planning such events.

Among other things, this advice points out that as a result of exposure at short events attendees will likely fall sick on their return to where they come from, infecting many more as they travel.

Common sense suggests that avoiding international events and minimizing business pressure to travel may help limit the spread of the problem.

This is what has caused some big events and major participants at such events to cancel. The attempt at present is to slow infection rates in an attempt to increase knowledge of the virus. I have come across some hope that the illness will simply time out, as such infections sometimes do, but if wishes were stars the night would be brighter than the day.

While Apple CEO Tim Cook has said he thinks things are “getting back to normal” in China, though Apple is also thought to be considering changes in how it holds its Worldwide Developer’s Conference this year.

What can your business do?

Enterprises can help buy time by encouraging use of remote collaboration systems in order to improve business resilience if infection rates rise.

Not to mention the intense damage that may be done to every business if friends, colleagues or family succumb to the disease and die, as many thousands sadly already have.

Fortunately, there are many remote working and collaboration systems that can be put in place to help. An exhaustive list of all of them is beyond the scope of this piece. Larger enterprises likely already use tools such as Microsoft Teams or solutions from Cisco, SAP, or IBM for this task, and such use can be encouraged.

There are other tools. The recently-introduced Challo seems a promising solution because it combines both security and business to business communication tools. In addition to Challo you’ll find a multitude of video conferencing solutions from many big names, with Zoom seeing rapid adoption across many enterprises.

Beyond video conferencing

There’s more to business than video conferencing, of course. I looked at a selection of useful tools for IT services, collaborative flow chart analysis, human resources and data analytics here.

The following selection isn’t necessarily available for both iOS and Mac, but should give you a good starting point as you seek out your own set of solutions to enable remote collaboration across your business.

Getting things done means keeping things organized, which is where solutions like Harvest for time sheets, and the powerful message-based collaboration environment of Slack make so much sense. Enterprises need to find ways to nurture teamwork, sometimes across time zones, which is why non-linear solutions like Trello, Asana and iTaskX (which I’ve heard may be used at Apple) work well.

Then there are the tools for specific tasks.

SignEasy, for example, is a well thought-through solution that makes PDF signing and management a breeze, and there is an increasing industry in the development of overarching solutions that combine multiple solutions in one place. Trello, for example, integrates third-party solutions such as Dropbox. It may make sense to explore some of the voice first solutions that exist if your employees already make use of wearable devices, such as AirPods or Apple Watch.

Take a look at these sweet suites

Atlassian offers a suite of solutions that may help, including Jira. This was originally developed as an issue tracking tool for software development but has grown to become a project management tool. It combines many of the great qualities of board-based collaborative environment, Trello (which Atlassian also makes), and adds useful tools developers can use, such as code and asset sharing. The company also makes a solution for collaborative document creation called Confluence.

Another great solution, for Mac, iPhone and iPad, is the Merlin Project.

This includes tools for project planning, management, employee task management, work distribution and built in synchronization with online storage solutions such as Dropbox, iCloud Drive and more. If you want to liberate your teams this might be the package you need.

One more solutions provider I should talk about is Zoho.

This company develops a huge range of digital enterprise tools (around 40 in total) for an extensive range of tasks, which it groups in categories for customer relationship management, workplace tools, finance, IT management and human resources.

Zoho has also begun using Mac Catalyst for some of its solutions, which may be of interest if you hope to provide your employees with consistent experiences across Mac, iPhone and iPad. Some may use Jamf to remotely provision devices across the enterprise fleet with newly chosen collaboration software.

What about budgets?

I guess many enterprises considering implementation of solutions of this kind right now may not have budgeted for any major spending in this category just yet.

However, many of these solutions will provide you with limited deployments for testing and trial, and while full-scale rollout will take a great deal of planning and cost, there are tools available to you now that may be of use if you choose to encourage more remote working and collaboration among your employees at this time.

Who knows, you may even find your employees thank you for it.

Studies suggest remote working tools like these unleash positive productivity benefits and increase staff retention. The provision of access to online training, such as that provided by O’Reilly or any of these may help upskill employees in the event of unanticipated down time.

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.





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Apple may introduce an ARM-powered Mac in 2021

The rumor that would not die appears to be turning into a reality, with Apple allegedly intending to introduce some form of Mac powered by an Apple-designed ARM-based A-series processor in 2021.

Unique technology advantage

Apple’s silicon development team has pushed A-series processor development hard. Not only do the processors – used inside all Apple’s mobile products – lead the industry in terms of power, energy and performance, but they now deliver more performance than some Macs,reports claimed.

Apple’s software teams, at the same time, have been working to develop Mac Catalyst – software that enables developers to more quickly and easily export their apps from the iPad to the Mac. The first of these ports are hitting the market at this time. The capabilities of Catalyst will likely improve this year.

Apple has always denied plans to merge its Mac and iOS lines, stressing the unique differences (and platform advantages) of both its complementary platforms. Yet even Intel executives have expected the company to move to its own chips.

We’ve all wondered how to decode this information. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo now believes Apple will introduce an ARM-based Mac (using an Apple A-series processor) in 2021.

We know the company is investing in development of 5-nanometer A-series chips, with 3nm designs likely also on the map, and Apple recently recruited ARM’s lead CPU and systems architect, Mike Filippo.

“We think that iPhone 5G support, ‌iPad‌’s adoption of innovative mid-size panel technology, and Mac’s first adoption of the own-design processor are all Apple’s critical product and technology strategies,” the analyst wrote, according to MacRumors.

What happens next?

What makes this potential transition interesting is that in comparison with previous migrations (to Intel chips or even to OS X), many key applications are already available on both iOS and macOS systems.

Apple’s Catalyst now exists to ease any such transition and it seems quite probable Apple will improve that tool, perhaps (as Steve Troughton-Smith speculates) as soon as WWDC 2020 – assuming that event goes ahead, given the continuing impact of the Coronavirus.

There are lots of assumptions to consider, yet Apple is quite good at managing transitions of this kind. It has plenty of experience acquired across the years.

That experience means it is very unlikely that Apple will simply spring a transition on its Mac ecosystem without providing warning and equipping developers with the tools and resources they will need to make that change.

This is a particular issue in Apple’s professional markets, as the highly sophisticated software those markets rely on won’t necessarily run on anything other than Intel chips – and a transition will be costly and complex.

This suggests that any move will be staggered, accompanied by continued improvements in the developer ecosystem (such as Catalyst 2, etc.) and may see Apple sell both Intel and iOS Macs during any transition period.

I suspect this means we’ll see an ARM-powered Apple notebook introduced as a test system to gather feedback and give devs a chance to work on the platform.

What about price?

I’ve seen some reports that hint Apple would be able to acquire A-series processors at a lower cost than those it gets from Intel.

If true, then it seems potentially possible the company could make these Macs available for lower cost than its current configurations, though Apple’s usual strategy would be to improve its product with market leading features, such as 5G.

The strategy matches the company’s direction. Apple CEO Tim Cook said in 2009: “We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products we make, and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution.”

What’s the time frame?

I can buy the 2021 introduction/announcement of these plans, but I’m not convinced Apple will transition its entire Mac product line to the processor in anything like that time frame.

You see, while it moved to Intel processors quickly, it was under a different set of pressures when it did, and the transition delivered evident benefits.

For one thing, Apple’s existing architecture at that time desperately needed replacing as PowerPC had failed to keep up with the market; For another, most of its customers and developers (with a few notable exceptions) were keen to join it on the ride.

Things are different this time around.

Apple will need to convince its audiences that returning to an isolated processor architecture (though this time 100 percent its own) and reworking software to run on that architecture makes sense.

In order to do so it has to ensure the benefits of the transition are very obvious, and right now I don’t think the capacity to run iOS apps on Macs is a good enough reason.

It needs to solve a bigger problem than its own.

With this in mind, any such move must deliver immediate real world benefits, which may include the battery life, performance and graphics support we expect to see from the company’s upcoming 5nm processor designs.

But will those advantages be enough to convince Mac users to migrate?

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.





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Apple may introduce an ARM-powered Mac in 2021, claim

The rumor that would not die appears to be turning into a reality with Apple allegedly intending the introduction of some form of Mac powered by an Apple-designed ARM-based A-series processor in 2021.

Unique technology advantage

Apple’s silicon development team has pushed A-series processor development hard.

Not only do the processors – used inside all Apple’s mobile products – lead the industry in terms of power, energy and performance, but they now deliver more performance than some Macs, reports have claimed.

Apple’s software teams at the same time have been working to develop Mac Catalyst, software that enables developers to more quickly and easily export their apps from the iPad to the Mac. The first of these ports are hitting the market at this time. The capabilities of Catalyst will likely improve this year.

Apple has always denied plans to merge its Mac and iOS lines, stressing the unique differences (and platform advantages) of both its complementary platforms. Yet even Intel executives have expected the company to move to its own chips.

We’ve all wondered how to decode all this information.

Apple analyst, Ming-Chi Kuo, now believes Apple will introduce an ARM-based Mac (using an Apple A-series processor) in 2021.

We know the company is investing in development of 5-nanometer A-series chips, with 3nm designs likely also on the map, and recently recruited ARM’s lead CPU and systems architect, Mike Filippo.

“We think that iPhone 5G support, ‌iPad‌’s adoption of innovative mid-size panel technology, and Mac’s first adoption of the own-design processor are all Apple’s critical product and technology strategies,” the analyst wrote, as reported by MacRumors.

What happens next?

What makes this speculated upon transition interesting is that in comparison with previous migrations (to Intel chips or even to OS X), many key applications are already available on both iOS and macOS systems.

Apple’s Catalyst now exists to ease any such transition and it seems quite probable Apple will improve that tool, perhaps (as Steve Troughton-Smith speculates) as soon as WWDC 2020 — assuming that event goes ahead, given the continuing impact of the Coronavirus.

There are lots of assumptions to consider here, yet Apple is quite good at managing transitions of this kind – it has plenty of experience acquired across the years.

That experience means it is very unlikely that Apple will simply spring a transition on its Mac ecosystem without providing warning and equipping developers with the tools and resources they will need to make that change.

This is a particular problem in Apple’s professional markets, as the highly sophisticated software those markets rely on won’t necessarily run on anything other than Intel chips – and transition will be costly and complex.

This suggests that any transition will be staggered, accompanied by continued improvements in the developer ecosystem (such as Catalyst 2, etc) and may see Apple sell both Intel and iOS Macs during any transition period.

I suspect this means we’ll see an ARM-powered Apple notebook introduced as a test system to gather feedback and give devs a chance to work on the platform.

What about price?

I’ve seen some reports that hint Apple would be able to acquire A-series processors at a lower cost than those it gets from Intel.

If true, then it seems potentially possible the company could make these Macs available for lower cost than its current configurations, though Apple’s usual strategy would be to improve its product with market leading features, such as 5G.

The strategy matches the company’s direction. Apple CEO Tim Cook said in 2009: “We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products we make, and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution.”

What kind of time frame?

I can buy the 2021 introduction/announcement of these plans, but I’m not convinced Apple will transition its entire Mac product line to the processor in anything like that time frame.

You see, while it moved to Intel processors fast it was under a different set of pressures when it did, and the transition delivered evident benefits.

For one thing, Apple’s existing architecture at that time desperately needed replacing as PowerPC had failed to keep up with the market; For another, most of its customers and developers (with a few notable exceptions) were keen to join it on the ride.

Things are different this time around.

Apple will need to convince its audiences that returning to an isolated processor architecture (though this time 100 percent its own) and reworking software to run on that architecture makes sense.

In order to do so it has to ensure the benefits of the transition are very obvious, and right now I don’t think the capacity to run iOS apps on Macs is a good enough reason.

It needs to solve a bigger problem than its own.

With this in mind, any such move must deliver immediate real world benefits, which may include the battery life, performance and graphics support we expect to see from the company’s upcoming 5nm processor designs.

But will those advantages be enough to convince Mac users to migrate?

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.





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Apple’s Mac Catalyst is becoming very, very serious

Apple appears to be setting the table for some interesting moves with the introduction of Swift Playgrounds for Mac and recent news that it’s now possible to offer both Mac and iOS apps as the same app.

What could this mean? Soe thoughts….

The news in a nutshell

These are the two key items in a little more depth:

1. Swift Playgrounds is now available for Mac

Swift Playgrounds is designed to help people learn now to code through lessons that teach coding concepts and introduce people to how to write applications using Swift. This has only been available on iPad, but is now also for Mac.

What’s particularly interesting is that you can begin projects on a Mac and end them on an iPad, or start on an iPad and finish on a Mac, thanks to iCloud integration.

What’s also interesting is that Swift Playgrounds for Mac was built using Mac Catalyst. That means you get many of the iPad features, but with useful Mac version enhancements including Touch Bar shortcuts.

You can download Swift Playgrounds for Mac here.

2. Universal Mac/iOS purchases

Here’s another piece of exciting news:

“Starting in March 2020, you’ll be able to distribute iOS, iPadOS, macOS, and tvOS versions of your app as a universal purchase, allowing customers to enjoy your app and in‑app purchases across platforms by purchasing only once,” Apple explains.

This will make it possible for developers to offer apps across all the platforms for one fee. This will also enable software to be sold across all Apple’s platforms (including the Apple TV) on a subscription basis.

People who make powerful video and imaging apps for iPads may see immediate benefit, as Catalyst could let them quickly create Mac versions of their iPad apps.

It’s an important step that should also benefit customers who may resent paying twice for the same software – and should encourage more developers to think about moving their apps to the Mac. It’s set to become a reality starting in March.

What else happens in March?

Bridging the gap

Apple’s moves to close the gap between its iOS and macOS platforms have been predicted for years, and this new sequence of events means it may even be able to combine its App Stores in one place, as predicted early in 2019.

The effort isn’t trivial.

The company has put lots of weight behind it, and while it says its intention isn’t to replace Macs with iOS devices, it also says it does look to leverage logical synergies where it can.

Todd Benjamin, Apple’s macOS product marketing director in 2019, explained:

“Our vision for Mac Catalyst was always to make it easier for any iPad app developer, big or small, to bring their app to the Mac…. Not only is this great for developers, but it’s also great for Mac users, who benefit with access to a whole new selection of great app experiences from iPad’s vibrant ecosystem.”

There’s a significant benefit to enterprise developers, of course, in that it’s now more likely they will build software first for iPad and port this to iPhone and Mac. 

project catalyst mac iphone Apple

Apple’s Project Catalyst will make it easier for developers

What about ARM Macs?

We continue to hear speculation Apple may migrate Macs to ARM processors, particularly as the company begins manufacturing 5nm A14 processors this year. Macworld has even speculated that the next iPhone chip will deliver as much processing power as you get in a 15-in. MacBook Pro.

Way back in 2012, we learned: “Apple engineers have grown confident that the chip designs used for its mobile devices will one day be powerful enough to run its desktops and laptops.”

Is this likely?

Apple has already said it has no plans to replace Macs with iPads and consistently says it sees both platforms as different things.

That doesn’t necessarily sound like never, as with iPads now offering (limited) support for external mice, keyboard and external storage and with Catalyst enabling easier export of iPad apps to Macs, at least some of the differences between the platforms are less stark.  

There is the matter of who would gains the most.

There are some immediate benefits:

  • Apple makes its own A-series processors in vast quantities. Migrating Macs to them may help reduce the cost of hardware by lowering chip costs – though it is unlikely to be able to migrate all Macs, particularly at the high-end.
  • For an idea of the consequences of migrating from Intel chips to iOS processors, look at what happened when Apple dumped the Intel chip from Apple TV and began using A-series chips instead: The price of the streaming TV box fell from $300 to $99.
  • Apple’s silicon teams are storming ahead of the whole industry in terms of processor power – the current A13 chips deliver vastly better performance than the A10 chips inside an iPhone 7.
  • These processors could be even faster when optimized for large-form-factor Macs, with bigger batteries and better airflow systems.
  • Apple likes to own the primary technology. What could be more important to control than the chips that power its machines?
  • Of course, it’s important to consider the consequences of alienating a key supplier, confusing users with new limitations in terms of app support and possibly alienating developers who may suddenly find it necessary to introduce new versions of their apps. (Catalyst makes that last one a little easier.)
  • However, is this something Mac or iPad users really need? What is the benefit to them? While it might be good to find some kind of hybrid device that works as a touch-based system when required and a traditional Mac UI the rest of the time, the benefits don’t seem especially obvious.

One thing that is true is that even if Apple has no such plans, the work it has done on Catalyst and A-series processors mean it’s more possible than before.

Otheriwse, what would be its motivation?

Please follow me on Twitter, or join me in the AppleHolic’s bar & grill and Apple Discussions groups on MeWe.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.





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