A Challenge: Manually pushing contacts and calendar entries to iPhones

Discussion in 'iPhone' started by webo, Jan 25, 2012.

  1. webo macrumors newbie

    Jan 25, 2012
    So I'm actually an Android guy but I have a specific need that I think an iPhone would be perfect for but I need some help from the real Apple gurus.

    I'm looking at buying around 5-10 iPhones for different people and wanted to have the ability to manually add contacts and events from my computer to their phones while the phones are on my wifi network. Essentially have remote access to their calendar and address book while within my network.

    The use case is similar to that of an administrative assistant for multiple executives needing to update their contacts and calendar when they arrive at the office (which has a wifi connection) without always having physical access to the devices.

    Some constraints that add to the complexity:
    *There will not be an actual connection to the internet (either through 3G or wifi) so services such as iCloud would not be viable.
    *The contacts and calendar events will be different for each phone

    I've been investigating the abilities of Lion Server however I'm not sure what kind of details an Iphone profile can contain.

    Any ideas?
  2. dccorona macrumors 68020


    Jun 12, 2008
    As far as how you're gonna go about restricting 3G/WiFi access...can't help you there

    but as for calendar/contacts syncing...does it have to be wireless when they enter the building? If you set up each user with an account on a PC or Mac, you can set the calendar/contacts through those accounts (Windows Contacts & Calendar or Outlook on windows, address book and iCal on mac) and manually sync over a tethered connection to the computer. You can set yourself up to be able to manage the calendars/contacts on the computer (Outlook allows this I believe), and then they can just plug in every morning when they come in, and the newest data will be transferred to the phones
  3. fins831 macrumors 6502a

    Oct 7, 2011
    Am i seeing this right, you say you won't have 3g/wifi, but they will be connected to your network/wifi?

    So your wifi is bascially just a signal that updates calender?
  4. scaredpoet, Jan 25, 2012
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2012

    scaredpoet macrumors 604


    Apr 6, 2007
    Just curious: is there a specific reason that you want WiFi (which inherently uses TCP/IP, a basic building block of internet connectivity), and yet not have internet connectivity? Not to mention, these are iPhones we're talking about. Probably 95% of what they do assumes some level of internet connectivity. you can't surf the web or check your e-mail without it, for starters.

    If iCloud is out of the question, then there are three ways to update events and contacts:

    1. Sync up a local iCal/Address book or Outlook calendar/Address book with iTunes, and then sync the iPhones wirelessly.

    2. An MS Exchange server (or equivalent server that can emulate MS Exchange ActiveSync, such as Zimbra), or

    3. Using CalDAV (for calendar) and CardDAV (for contacts). OS X Server can do CalDAV/CardDAV, and Apple has released open source versions of the same software that can run under linux.

    In your case though, you're going to have a real problems implementing these the way you appear to want to. They all inherently require TCP/IP to work, obviously, and that means assigning IP addresses. Option 1 is as manual as you're going to get in that you'll need to have iTunes open constantly, and your users might have to initiate the sync from their devices if you're moving on and off this network. Not really a push solution there.

    And, for options 2 and 3, unless the servers are accessible on the internet, then the iPhones might not display any of the calendar or contact info once they leave this walled-garden network you're setting up. My experience is that most mobile devices (even Android) run into problems when you're trying to call up your calendar or address book from an Exchange or DAV server, and they can't connect to it.

    Also note that of the three solutions, MS Exchange is the only real "push" solution. iTunes is just wireless syncing, and CalDAV/CardDAV are more of a "pull" solution, where the iPhones will have to poll the server to get new info.

    Another option for contacts only: running an LDAP server and configuring the phones to query the server for contact lookups. But again, that's more of a pull solution, and information isn't being stored locally on the phones themselves.

    Where I work, we have Zimbra acting an MS Exchange server, and it pushes e-mail, contacts and calendar info. To push new meetings or events to a user's calendar, you basically create an entry in your calendar and send invites to the other users, who get notified on their devices. The users then have the option of accepting the invite and confirming they'll attend, declining the invite (inherently indicating they can't/won't be there), or choosing "maybe" if they're unsure if they can make it or not.

    Of course in our case, restricting that server to a limited internal network is a non-starter. Our employees would hate it if they can't access the server except in the office, because that defeats the whole purpose of having a mobile device.

    We have admin assistants who do the same at our workplace, with the important difference that the updates are in real time, regardless of where the device is. As long as it has an internet connection (3G or Wifi, office, home, or even Starbucks), the phone will get contacts and calendar events pushed to it, right along with e-mail and everything else.
  5. webo thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 25, 2012
    The office would be in a location that gets sporadic internet service at best and is beyond my control.

    the wifi access will serve as an intranet solution so wireless pushing would be nice. I'll investigate the use of exchange but from what I understand, that's more for organizations that want to sync the same info across multiple devices which isn't what i'm looking for.

    The best I can really describe it would be a remote phone browser similar to Samsung Kies but client side and for multiple iphones
  6. Menel macrumors 603


    Aug 4, 2011
    No, you can't do what you want.

    Why? Because it makes no sense, and there is no support for such wonky use.

    Setup exchange, give them internet/exchange access through your wifi. Handle individual calendars that way. And if you get the ActiveSync setup right, you can push out contacts and calendar updates even when they are abroad, at home, coffee shop, around town etc.
  7. pilot1226 macrumors 6502a


    Mar 18, 2010
    I second the motion for using Exchange. The alternative would be to hardwire into your computer with the USB cable and use a utility like Microsoft Outlook, but you'd be forced to make a new identity every push. That would get old realy fast, unless you're trying to justify a job.
  8. webo thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 25, 2012
    Menal, there are plenty of reasons where that type of functionality would make sense (e.g. instances where an Exchange Server might be slightly expensive for a small business in a developing country) so "sense" is quite a relative term and often dependent on the environmental constraints of the location. The only reason I'm considering the iPhone is due to the level of "prestige" often associated with them which can extend nicely into perceptions of our business. It would be nice to have them but not a deal breaker if Samsung Kies ends up being the way to go.

    Support-wise, I wouldn't be relying on any vendors to provide support (this is outside of the US) and support from either Microsoft or Apple would be non-existent.

    I'll take a look to see how much an Exchange server would cost although whenever you have to contact Microsoft directly for quotes like their website says, it's typically not a trivial expense.
  9. sulpfiction macrumors 68030


    Aug 16, 2011
    Philadelphia Area
    I use an exchange server at my office and I don't think it was expensive at all. I know nothing about it really other then I believe it was just over 2k for everything.
  10. webo thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 25, 2012
    I also found an open-source Exchange alternative that I'll investigate further: http://www.sogo.nu/
  11. Legios macrumors regular

    Jan 19, 2012
    Google apps will act an an exchange server. In my old company it what we used so there wasnt any hardware involved. Had realtime updates and pushing so connecting to your WIFI should do the same.
  12. takeshi74 macrumors 601

    Feb 9, 2011
    Read the OP again and consider the constraints. Google Apps is not a suitable solution.

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