What is provisioning?

Cameron Summerson
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What is provisioning?

Provisioning is defined as the process of setting up new IT resources, either locally or in the cloud. There are many different types of provisioning, depending on the type of system being deployed — network provisioning, server provisioning, user provisioning, and device provisioning are all common examples of provisioning. 

We’ll focus on device provisioning, but the concepts apply to provisioning systems broadly. 

Simplified provisioning with Esper

What is device provisioning? 

In the simplest terms, device provisioning is setting up a device (like a tablet, display, sensor, or handset) to work in a specific manner. That might mean replacing the entire operating system (sometimes referred to as “imaging”) with something more specialized to provide specific functionality. In other scenarios, it could simply mean disabling (or enabling) certain features, like wireless connectivity or the device’s speaker, to fit a certain need. 

In our case, device provisioning might mean installing Foundation for Android to set up a fully locked down device to run in single-app kiosk mode. But it could also mean using a template to secure a stock Android device for use as a retail point of sale system. 

Provisioning is part of the deployment process — the collection of steps required before a device is ready for use — for distributing new hardware to end users. The first step of device provisioning is enrollment. 

What is device enrollment? Is enrollment part of provisioning?

Device enrollment is how you register a device with your particular service or organization (like your enterprise IT infrastructure) and is usually the first step in the provisioning process. The exact steps here can be a bit fuzzy, as flashing a new OS image prior to enrolling a device could be considered the first step. It’s open for interpretation (and use case). 

In MDM (Mobile Device Management) terms, enrollment is how you get the device onto the MDM’s platform so you can utilize its tools (and is sometimes referred to as “onboarding”). For Android, there are a variety of enrollment methods available, including 6-tap QR, Android for Work, Google Zero-touch enrollment, and more.

For example, if you want to enroll a device onto Esper using the 6-tap QR method, you first factory reset the device. On the setup screen, tapping 6 times will open the QR code scanner. You can access a QR code for the specific provisioning template from within the Esper console, which you scan from the Android device. From there, the device will automatically enroll onto Esper. 

What's the difference between provisioning and configuration?

If you’ve been researching provisioning, you’ve probably also read about configuration. In many provisioning scenarios, the next step is configuration. In these situations, provisioning is the step that prepares the hardware to do the thing you want it to do, and configuration is the process that sets it all up to your specifications. You can think of it as building a new PC — provisioning is installing the operating system, while configuring is installing all of your apps and applying custom settings. 

In many provisioning scenarios, the last step of provisioning is to launch the configuration software. In our case, however, we make it much simpler. 

Is provisioning part of deployment? 

In many cases, provisioning and deployment go hand in hand. However, traditionally, provisioning is not part of deployment. Like with provisioning, there are many types of deployment — software deployment, hardware deployment, device deployment,  update deployment, etc. The broad definition of deployment is “the action of making something available for use.” 

With device deployment, that usually means physical deployment — getting the device to the site where it will be used. For software deployment, which includes updates, it means making the software available to the end user. So, for example, pushing an application or updated application to endpoints like computers or tablets. 

In some cases, provisioning can be a part of deployment, but given the broad meaning of deployment, it’s better to think of these as two separate processes. 

How Esper simplifies enrollment, provisioning, and configuration

To simplify what could otherwise be a needlessly complicated process, we combine enrollment (onboarding), provisioning, and configuration into one single step — once you start the onboarding process and the device is enrolled onto Esper, your provisioning template will take over and do all the heavy lifting for you, including configuration. All you have to do is build the provisioning template.

Provisioning templates are simple starter kits for device enrollment that contain your chosen configurations, settings, and business apps. Each template is auto-assigned a single QR code for the entire configuration set. Creating a template takes about five minutes on average, and when you’re done, each template can be reused as many times as you want. You don’t need to recreate configurations and settings for each device or download any apps to start onboarding. 

By streamlining the enrollment, provisioning, and configuration processes, we were able to reduce onboarding time, avoid unnecessary app downloads, reduce repetitive actions, reduce the number of required steps, and ultimately simplify the onboarding process. To see how simple it really is, give us a try today for free — no commitment necessary.


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Cameron Summerson
Cameron Summerson

Cam brings over 10 years of technology journalism experience to Esper, including nearly half-a-decade as Editor in Chief of a technology publication. He currently runs content operations and oversees the ideation, execution, and distribution plans for numerous types of content from blog posts to ebooks and beyond.