Readying or updating more than one Apple device at a time can be a time-consuming and frustrating task. Apple Configurator makes the process easier and automates many tasks, allowing multiple iPads, iPhones, and iPod Touch devices to be loaded with a standard configuration with a minimum of fuss. Documents, data files, and new apps can all be pushed out to users' devices with a single configuration update.
Apple Configurator installs easily, but it does take a bit of time to learn how to use it properly. Fortunately there's a lot of information available on the Apple support site. There's a considerable number of features inside Apple Configurator. While you can create and deploy a standard software load to connected devices, you can also create custom loads for specific users, down to dictating which documents and applications get installed on which devices. You can prepare updates to apps and iOS changes and push them out quickly, too. Integration with Active Directory and Open Directory add to the power of Apple Configurator. The software does have its limitations, though, and there's a few gotchas along the way. In testing a push to 25 iPads, we had the software crash twice but at different places, for no apparent reason, then on the third time it worked flawlessly. For applications, you can't use iTunes anymore, and have to rely on the Volume Purchasing Plan to license apps on each device.
There are many mobile device management solutions on the market, and most are expensive and complex. Apple Configurator provides a simple alternative that will suit some situations without the complexity and high cost per device the commercial MDM products carry. However, the Apple Configurator does have its limitations, and for larger enterprises, it may not be suitable. For smaller businesses and schools, though, Apple Configurator can be a useful tool.