Flexibility and security

July 27th 2020

Setting up iMacs to support learning at St Patrick’s

St Patrick’s School in Panmure had 10 iMacs coming and already had a Mac Mini server they weren’t using for anything else. That meant the equipment was sorted, but how it should be set up was a more complex question – and that’s where we came in.

The schools had no onsite Active Directory, so we came up with a few options, outlining the pros, cons and security risks for each. This gave the school the information they needed to make the best choice for them.

Exploring the options

We presented them with the first option, to create a generic local account on each iMac, which was the simplest but riskiest solution. Students would store work locally in named folders or in cloud storage. This would open the door for students to delete each other’s work (either intentionally or by accident), and also created the risk of one student posing as another if a student forgot to sign out of the online service. Option two decreased the risk, but reduced flexibility – local accounts for each student would be spread across the iMacs in their classrooms. Students would have to wait until their allocated devices were available for schoolwork.

St Patrick’s opted for our third recommendation, which delivered the best security and flexibility. The school would be able to control logins by running an Open Directory on the existing Mac Mini, but students could still store their work locally, removing the need for additional storage devices. The environment would be controlled by Profile Manager, which would give students access to only the functionality they needed to complete their schoolwork.

The set-up

The Mac Mini had been used as an iPad Profile Manager. We did a full wipe, upgraded to the latest version of Mac OS Catalina and installed the Mac OS Server v5.10. We set up Profile Manager to control the environment the students would log into, and Open Directory to set up users as Local Network Accounts.

The school provided us with a list of the iMac users, which we used to create accounts in the Mac Mini server. We enrolled the iMacs into the Profile Manager using an enrollment profile and a trust profile, then joined them to the Open Directory through a settings profile.

We tested each login and configured the environments such as Dock items, Finder Preferences, Log-in Window and System Preferences to help give the students a head start in their learning.

The implementation went off without a hitch, and we’re looking forward to seeing how the students progress. 

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