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How to simplify distribution of Apple software updates

By Bradley Chambers in · End Users · May 7, 2015

OS X Caching Server is one of those products that a lot of people don’t hear about, but I think that every school should be running. This blog will answer questions to help you understand what OS X Caching Server is, and how it can help you.

What is OS X Caching Server?

Caching Server is a feature of OS X Server that allows you to serve out iOS and OS X apps (and updates) locally instead of each device having to download it separately. It stores the data locally, and the next time a device on your network requests that data, it downloads it from your caching server rather than Apple’s servers.

This cuts down on the amount of traffic on your WAN connection with clients downloading iOS and Mac apps and updates. It will work for devices you manage internally or devices that are on your guest Wi-Fi network.

How does Caching Server  work?

Caching Server runs as a feature of Yosemite server, which registers with Apple. Before Caching Server was released, Mac computers had to be bound to your open directory to control updates locally.

With Caching Server, you flip a switch in the software preferences, and any machines requesting software updates will get them from your local server (once an update has been cached). The Yosemite version of Caching Server also allows administrators to hold back certain updates until they’ve passed internal testing. It’s extremely simple to activate. You setup your desired storage quota (before cached updates are removed), and then flip a switch.

There is no work to be done on the client end. When they request updates, Apple will point them to your local server. This works for wired and Wi-Fi based clients.

Why should you use OS X Caching Server?

With the growth of free public Wi-Fi, iPhones, iPads, and laptops, users are using more bandwidth than ever. If you are serving an area that has limited bandwidth, Caching Server is a way to conserve your WAN connection (especially against guest users).

When a new version of iOS is released, it can often cause serious headaches for IT administrators. While you can certainly control when clients can access it, Caching Server will allow you to let everyone access it, but without causing a WAN bottleneck.

Caching Server doesn’t currently pre-download important updates, but another Aerohive customer, (Fraser Hess), has developed an add-on product called CacheWarmer that will allow you to specify certain iOS models for which to pre-download updates. He’s also written an ebook called Unboxing Caching Server that you will find extremely useful. 

Caching Server is extremely simple, but extremely powerful. A lot of organizations will find it useful for bandwidth savings from guest Wi-Fi users and employees who bring their iPads and iPhones to work. 

All WLAN administrators should consider Caching Server an essential service when setting up new networks.

 

Bradley Chambers (@bradleychambers )

Bradley Chambers has been the Director of Information Technology at Brainerd Baptist School since 2009. At BBS, he manages a network of Apple and Chrome OS devices. He also writes at Tools & Toys and The Sweet Setup.