What is FREE NOW?
Name: FREE NOW
While FREE NOW provides access to Europe's largest fleet of vehicles for incredibly efficient transport from Point A to Point B, the work of its small but mighty IT department is even more impressive. David Kraushuber, senior system administrator at FREE NOW, shares how the company has automated their macOS workflows and created deep integrations into other systems within their tech stack.
At FREE NOW, David was originally hired 4 years ago as a MacAdmin to manage the company's growing Apple device fleet. He quickly realized that the MDM solution they were using at the time was not working, and with no support to fix it, David set out to get a new MDM up and running. After searching for only a couple of months, FREE NOW chose SimpleMDM for its powerful API and the overall speed and responsiveness of the product.
"I’m always saying that I would rather have a proper knife than a service knife that can do 60 different things, but none of them properly. And for us that was SimpleMDM because we were literally looking for a simple MDM."
Being open to any solution, David and his team began trialing and testing a handful of mobile device management solutions, including SimpleMDM. They had a specific scenario they wanted to achieve and had success with multiple MDMs without encountering any significant issues. However, they found that SimpleMDM was the most responsive tool. SimpleMDM also offered the ability to make a change to a device parameter and have the changes reflected immediately, an impressive capability that wasn't available with other solutions at the time.
"We wanted to have a robust MDM that would just react very quickly. And that was basically the selling point for us [with SimpleMDM]."
David consistently mentioned the agility of SimpleMDM as a key feature. And his IT team could develop around the system with ease, accomplishing almost anything with just a few scripts or API calls. Together, those features were major selling points.
"Every single year we evaluate if we want to stay with SimpleMDM or not. And every single year it is basically a no brainer to continue."
To save time for their IT team, FREE NOW uses SimpleMDM to automate processes across tools like:
Apple Business Manager
As far as specific use cases and ways FREE NOW leverages the SimpleMDM API, David started with the most basic (dare I say simple) workflow: setting up new devices for employees.
When new devices are enrolled in Apple Business Manager, the SimpleMDM API triggers a webhook to create a comprehensive inventory record documenting the beginning of the device lifecycle. This inventory record is connected to another automation system that tracks the ordering process and sends automated messages via a Slack channel to confirm the device has been received. A data check is then conducted to confirm the device's presence in Apple Business Manager and collect information like the device model and whether the Munki client agent is installed. At this point, the ordering process is complete, and the device is ready for the new user without any intervention from IT. The device remains unboxed and untouched throughout the entire process.
Once the end user has the device and has completed mandatory SSO, which is configured using NoMAD and the Extensible SSO profile, another trigger is sent to add more details to the inventory record, such as Mac addresses, SIM card info, and department information. The entire system is API driven, allowing for scalability and management of everything from app installations to configuration profiles through the webhooks and connected systems.
FREE NOW’s main tool for automation is Workato, used in combination with AWS Lambda functions and in-house python APIs running in docker images. The primary system used to track all processes is Jira. In other words, every task created will come through Jira as a ticket. Aside from setting up new devices, David mentioned having even more automations for instances like these:
When an employee moves from Department A to Department B. FREE NOW’s IT team sets up a workflow using the API to update all necessary information, including naming, certificates, and device settings.
When IT sets up a new Zoom room. The entire process is automated so that a user can plug into the wall and walk away. Later they will click a button in Slack that will completely set up that Zoom room without IT ever having to touch the device.
When a shared key is removed from the VPN configuration or there is a problem with the certificate following the use of the FileVault Recovery key. An automated message in FREE NOW’s systems advises users to click a button that IT built using NoPkg in their Munki client. When the person clicks it, the parameter changes on the device in SimpleMDM and automatically reinstalls the profiles and updates the configuration. This usually resolves the issue without IT ever needing to interact with the end user to troubleshoot.
When a device is lost or stolen. The user has the ability to lock the device while reporting it as stolen to the help desk. This triggers the removal of Okta device trust and certificates.
To manage their build servers. The entire process is designed to be completely automated in the installation of all necessary software, enabling seamless building and testing of their application using a CI/CD approach with Gitlab.
To manage new profiles and profile updates. The team leverages the API and Git to establish version control, allowing for efficient management and tracking of profile changes and updates.
With all these tasks automated via the API, David estimated that FREE NOW’s IT team are saving at minimum tens of hours every month. Because they’ve eliminated so much manual work, they’ve had time to work on other important projects throughout the company, including releasing 802.1X certificate-based authentication for the entire company, testing the Zoom configurations, and developing an open-source tool that will make the lives of SimpleMDM admins easier — stay tuned for that last one!
"On just inventory records, so that small initial thing at the beginning, we are receiving like 30 devices every single month. To manually create the inventory record you will spend ten minutes per device. That's 300 minutes. That's 5 hours. And that's just a very small thing."