macOS & iOS IT Tool List

This list is based on questions that I have been asked by various IT admins.

It is more of a collection of tools (mainly software, but a few hardware tools too) that Enterprise IT Teams might find useful while supporting/managing Macs & iPhones in the enterprise. Some of the tools are free, while others are paid. Also, it is not necessary that all the tools will be required. Of course, some tools are not meant for troubleshooting but provide a service themselves.

The below list is not an endorsement or recommendation of any of the products mentioned. These are just some of the products I have come across. You may have to do your own research to see which tool fits your organisation’s needs. The author is not responsible for any damages or loss of data that might occur from usage of these tools.

*This list is not a complete list but an ongoing project. Feel free to share your comments on tools that you may have used & I will add them to this list.

DEPLOYMENT

DeployStudio

Munki

macOS Server – NetInstall Service. To be used along with System image Utility

PACKAGE MANAGEMENT

Iceberg

pkgbuild

Suspicious Package

REMOTE MANAGEMENT

RealVNC

TeamViewer

Apple Remote Desktop

LogMeIn

BACKUPS

macOS Server – Time Machine Service

Retrospect

Carbon Copy Cloner

Chronosync

Crash Plan

DEVICE MANAGEMENT

Centrify

JAMF Casper Suite

AirWatch

Mobile Iron

macOS Server – Profile Manager Service

Apple Configurator 2

Heat LANRev

Cisco Meraki

filewave

Absolute Software

BoxTone

Maas 360 – IBM

Tangoe

Lightspeed Systems

VIRTUALIZATION

Parallels Desktop

VMWare Fusion

Oracle VirtualBox

DISK MANAGEMENT

Tuxera

Disk Drill

APPLE APPLICATIONS FOR THIRD PARTY OS

iTunes

iCloud Control Panel

Move to iOS from Android

Migration Assistant

AUTOMATION

Workflow for iOS

Automator – Built in app for creating Workflows.

AppleScript

Command Line Script

NETWORK TROUBLESHOOTING

iNetTools

Network Diagnostics

Network Ping

Wireshark

DISPLAY

Air Squirrel

SYSTEM TROUBLESHOOTING

Install Disk – I will be talking about how to create a multi-OS install disk in a later article.

SOFTWARE MANAGEMENT

macOS Server – Caching Service

Reposado

AutoPKG

Munki

HARDWARE

Thunderbolt 1,2,3 Cables
Thunderbolt 1,2
USB-C Cable

FireWire 400/800 Cables

Portable disk with macOS installed on it. Not the same as install disk. Its an external bootable hard drive with the OS installed on it. You can plug this into any Mac & boot from the external HDD.

VGA to MiniDisplay adapter

HDMI to HDMI Cable

Thunderbolt Ethernet Bridge

USB Ethernet Bridge

Adapters for the different ports supported by Macs & iPhones

Lightning Cables

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Managing all your data on iOS devices

In todays interconnected world managing all your data is quite important. Most of us end up having more than one smart device that we use everyday. As time goes on we will buy a newer version of the device. It is not necessary that we will get a newer version of each smart computer that we own simultaneously. This means that we have to pay special attention to making sure that our data stays up to date on all the devices & that there is no accidental loss of data.

There are various solutions available to users which easily takes care of data management problems commonly faced by multiple users. One of the most common solutions is to make sure that all your data is available on the cloud. I have given a brief overview on the different cloud services available in my previous article.

However, storing information on the cloud is not enough. Some effort still needs to be done on the users end to ensure that the data is there everywhere they want it. In this article I will be talking about managing your data, migrating your data & backing up your data on your iOS devices.

The starting point for this is the iCloud service. It is a free service provided by Apple & is a must for iPhones & iPads.

Through this article I will be referring to the iOS device as iPhone, however, the steps apply to any iOS device. A few settings & options may change depending on the version of the OS on your computer & your mobile device. The steps mentioned below would be applicable for iOS 8. They may be applicable for earlier versions, but all features may not be available.


Moving your data (migrating) from your old iPhone to your new iPhone

This is a very common situation. Most people have a devices for a few years & place a lot of data on it. Once they purchase a new device getting the same data onto the new device is the challenge. This involves a few steps.

STEP 1

  1. Make sure your iCloud service is turned on. By default iCloud provides sync capabilities for the information enumerated below. Note that not all services needn’t be on. But its a good idea to make sure that it is on at the very least for migration purposes.
    1. Contacts
    2. Calendar Events
    3. Reminders
    4. Photos
    5. Notes
    6. Documents for Keynote/Numbers/Pages
    7. Any documents you might have placed in the iCloud Drive (iOS 8 & later).
    8. Passbook
  2. Data provided by other services such as Google, Microsoft & any other provider will be taken care of by their respective accounts.
  3. Prepare a list of apps that don’t take advantage of the iCloud service or any other cloud based service. Note: Some apps do take advantage of iCloud but need the feature to be turned on explicitly. You may have to back this data up manually. If there are online accounts associated with the app, then make sure you are signed in & that the account offers data retrieval at a later point in time.
  4. Take a backup of your phone on your computer using iTunes.

STEP 2:

  1. Turn on your new iPhone & follow the screen steps.
  2. When asked “if you would like to setup the iPhone as a new phone or not” choose the option to restore from backup (do this only if you plan to restore from a backup taken via iTunes or from iCloud).
  3. This will prompt you to connect your iPhone to the computer where you last backed up your old iPhone.
  4. Once the restore is complete simply sign in with your Apple ID & start using your new iPhone from where you had left off.
  5. All the Apps, songs, movies, books purchased using your Apple ID will be available on your new iPhone. Apps will be available subject to OS Version compatibility.

For those who do not have a computer based backup or don’t have a computer can choose to backup their phone onto iCloud. Note that this will require sufficient free space available on the cloud. When they are prompted to restore users will have to sign in with their Apple ID & restore the backup from there.


Moving data from your computer to your new iPhone or Moving from another smartphone to iPhone

This is for first time buyers or people switching to the iPhone. No matter which is the case there is one important thing to be done. You have to move your data onto a cloud service which is compatible with iPhone.

From a computer

iCloud is available for iOS Devices, Macs & Windows. So if you are moving your data from Windows onto your iPhone you could consider running iCloud for Windows. Additionally the iCloud service is also accessible from the browser. So you can access many documents across both the platforms.

Apart from this you can also use iTunes for Windows to move your data from the computer to the iPhone.

From another smartphone

This will mean that you will have to use a third party cloud service. Good choices for something like this would be Google Drive or Dropbox. Other services such as Evernote could also be used for the same.

  1. On your current device transfer as much content as you can to the cloud service. Note that apps & media purchased on the smartphone may not necessarily be available due to compatibility reasons.
  2. On your new iPhone sign in with the same cloud service & pull in all your data.

Backing up your iPhone/iPad

Backing up data is very important. This is a step missed quite often by many users. A common mistake made is in believing that they can restore all their data from the iCloud whenever they wish. While that is true, iCloud is not meant to act as a backup. You can choose to save your backup on iCloud, but this is simply using the iCloud storage space for holding the backup & is not otherwise accessible.

There are 2 options to backing up your iPhones data. One is to back it up onto your computer using iTunes, the other is to back it up onto iCloud.

Backing up onto iCloud

Pros

  • Your backup is immediately available.
  • No need to have a separate computer just for this.
  • Backup can be restored from any location as long as internet connection is available.

Cons

  • A very good internet connection would be required.
  • The backup is restricted by the amount of space available on the cloud.
Backing up using iTunes

Pros

  • There is no storage limit. Your backup can be very large.
  • You can have multiple large backups.
  • Optional encryption capability.
  • With WiFi, based syncing the backups happen automatically.

Cons

  • You have to be physically connected to the computer using cable or WiFi to perform the backup.
  • You have to be physically connected to the computer using cable or WiFi to restore the backup.

Backing up your WhatsApp messages using iCloud

Its a safe assumption that most of us use WhatsApp for our everyday communication. In fact, it is one of the most widely used methods of communication.

People use it for all kinds of things: Staying in touch with friends, family. Collaborating with people on an office project, conducting team meetings, communicating with a client. This means that our conversations are of utmost importance to us. So one should take care & back these messages up on a regular basis. The big advantage with backup is that one can even restore past conversations from the backup when the user switches from one iOS device to the other.

Use the following steps to backup your messages to iCloud

  1. First make sure you have turned on iCloud.

  2. Open Settings > iCloud

  3. Sign in with your Apple ID

  4. Switch to Whatsapp

  5. Click on Settings

  6. Click on Chat SettingsIMG_0063

  7. Click on Chat BackupIMG_0064

  8. Here you can set the auto backup feature or manually take a backup.IMG_0071

  9. Thats it, your Whatsapp messages are now being backed up.

While restoring the process is straightforward.

  1. Make sure you are signed into iCloud.

  2. Install Whatsapp.

  3. Enter your Phone number to verify.

  4. Enter the Code sent via SMS to your phone.

  5. You will be asked whether you want to restore your previous chats from iCloud.IMG_0067

  6. Just click restore.IMG_0068 IMG_0069 IMG_0070

  7. All your previous conversations should come up now.

Managing all your data on your Mac

One of the single most important aspects of using a computer is Data Management. In this article I will be going over the various features available & steps that you can take to manage your data in a safe, secure & efficient way.

TimeMachineBACKUP

It happens ever so often that we are faced with a situation where we need a file to which we no longer have any access to. The reasons may be varied: lost computer, damaged or lost hard drive, accidental deletion. While there are applications that do retrieve lost files, they only work if the storage media is available & do not guarantee 100% recovery. The best solution to this is to backup your data.

The most common approach used is to manually copy the file onto an external storage. While this is easy, it can be tedious for the user & is error prone.

One of the easiest solutions is to use a backup tool called Time Machine. This is built right into OS X. You don’t need to install anything new. Just connect the hard drive where you would want to store all your backups. The OS will periodically backup all your data every hour as long as your backup drive is connected to the Mac. Many a times you are prompted to choose an external drive for backup, but that pops up only when you connect a new hard drive or a hard drive which isn’t used for backup.Once you have this activated you can then navigate back in time (just as you would expect from a time machine) and look for a file that you have lost.

Steps to Backup using Time Machine:

1) Connect the Hard drive you want to use as a backup destination.

2) Click on System Preferences > Time Machine to customise your backup.
TimeMachine

3) Click on Options to select the folders to exclude from Time Machine Backups.

TimeMachineOptionsThere are other third party tools which you could use if you wish. Retrospect and Carbon Copy Cloner are 2 of the many 3rd party tools available for this.

icloudDriveSYNCHRONISATION

In todays world most of us are using more than one device for our daily activities. This means that we would like to have most of the information on all the devices. This can be achieved through various applications that are available to manage our portables such as smart phones & tablets. But by far the easiest approach is to take advantage of Cloud Services.

If you have an iPhone &/or an iPad which you use along with your Mac then the best service for this is iCloud. However if you use a mix of platforms such as Android or Windows for your smart phones & tablets then using any third party service such as Google Drive, Drop Box, OneDrive will help you ensure that your information is available via the cloud across all devices.

Steps to turn on iCloud Services on your Mac:

1) Click on System Preferences > iCloud.

2) Sign in with your iCloud ID & password.

3) You should come to the iCloud panel where you can configure different iCloud Services.

iCLoud

4) Select the different content you want managed under iCloud.

SECURITY

This is one area which is increasingly gaining more importance. An important aspect of data management is keeping your data secure. While there is no such thing as a completely secure computer, one can definitely take steps to make sure that one’s information is kept as secure as possible.

ACCOUNT PASSWORDS: This is probably your first line of defence. Having a good strong password goes a long way in securing your data. There is a nice built in tool that evaluates & rates the passwords that you create, called as password assistant.

Password Assistant can be found on any screen within the Mac that prompts for a Password. Like the screen shot below when we are creating a new user for the Mac.

The key icon is to be clicked to launch Password Assistant.

The key icon is to be clicked to launch Password Assistant.

The Password Assistant itself gives you a lot of options when it comes to choosing your password type.

Use the drop down to select the password type.

Use the drop down to select the password type.

 

 

 

 

 

 

KEYCHAIN ACCESS NOTES: Keychain access is a builtin application that manages your secrets such as passwords, keys & certificates. There is also an option to save a note. Information within the note is saved in an encrypted way thereby securing it.

ENCRYPTION: This is the most secure way of saving information. There is a builtin encryption feature called FileVault which encrypts all the data on your system. There are 3rd party tools that can do this for you too: GPGAES Crypt, PGP to name a few.

Once can use a combination of the 3 or all 3 depending on the level of security required. It is also a good idea to keep your backup secure. Securing your computer but not the backup is a bad idea.

STORAGE

Yet another common issue that a lot of us face. Most computers that have come in over the past few years offer very large built in storage space & in most cases it is sufficient. But with the growing number of photographs, movies & songs we often find that space on our computers isn’t sufficient. This is not an easy problem to solve.

A simple approach is to keep only those things we require on the Mac. Also using cloud services to store information that we don’t need to access frequently is a good idea. Compressing data using zip files is also a good approach. But a better option, especially for large amounts of data, is to compress them into ReadWrite disk images. External storage can also be considered for placing extra data.

One area where storage management is not looked at but is equally important is related to the backup drive. Overtime as your backup drive fills up it starts removing older backs (in case of Time Machine). To ensure you have as long a history of backups, make sure that you only backup those things that you need. For example there isn’t a pressing need to backup all the OS files & applications, one can reduce the backup size by eliminating unnecessary items from the backup.