Sharing contacts within an organization

Hello!

I work at a small nonprofit, and we are an exclusively Apple shop. For years, I have wanted the ability for each of my employees to have easy access on their phones and laptops to two address books: a company one that is maintained by our secretary, and then a personal one that they maintain themselves. Have any of you figured out how to do that?

I have never really worked in the corporate world, but it would seem to me that this is a fairly common desire. We are using Fastmail as our Email/Contacts/Calendar provider, and each Fastmail account has a “personal” and a “shared” address book built in. But the official line from Fastmail has been that Apple devices limit you as follows:

“You can only configure one address book — either the Personal or the Shared address book. Both of them wouldn’t work on the same device.”

In the past, I have also used https://fruux.com, but I stopped when I switched over to Fastmail. So, again, how do others handle this problem of shared contacts within a company setting?

Thanks!

What you’re looking for is a CardDAV server. (Like CalDAV, but for contacts instead of calendars.) You add it on your devices via the “other” Accounts setting.

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Thanks for taking the time to respond.

Yes, both Fastmail and Fruux use carddav in the backend to serve contacts. But what I’m trying to get at is whether there is a way for a user to sign in with their account on their device and to have multiple address books - a company address book and a personal address book - just work.

Is that even a thing? I have assumed it is, because it seems obvious that every organization would want employees to have contacts that are shared across the company, but also to be able to have their own personal contacts on their device.

Yes, you can add as many address book accounts as you want. I prefer to do it through the Contacts app preferences on the Mac, but you can also add additional CardDAV accounts in the Internet Accounts system preference pane. On the iPhone, go to Settings app > Contacts > Accounts.

Thanks again for taking the time to respond!

I recognize that I can log in with as many address book accounts as I want. But that means I have to do something like the following:

login with myaccount@mycompany.com, AND

login with sharedaccount@mycompany.com

Doing it that way certainly doesn’t scale well. I’m only managing a handful of users and its still quite a hassle when I have to help someone set up a new device with multiple accounts.

On top of that, it means that everyone has the ability to modify the contacts for the shared account. That’s not ideal.

And on top of that, iOS and macOS “merge” similar vCards when displaying a contact so that the user has to be paying pretty close attention when editing to know what will happen when they’re done. That has led to a variety of quirky and difficult to debug results.

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Doing it that way certainly doesn’t scale well. I’m only managing a handful of users and its still quite a hassle when I have to help someone set up a new device with multiple accounts.

You should look into Configuration Profiles so that you don’t have to manage all this manually. Even if you’re not using a lightweight MDM, you can use profiles that are installed by the user to configure things.

On top of that, it means that everyone has the ability to modify the contacts for the shared account. That’s not ideal.

You should control who has editing ability by setting privileges/access on the server side for each user. Using a single “sharedaccount@mycompany.com” probably isn’t a good strategy, think about having something like “myaccount@mycompany.com” and “myaccount@*shared.*mycompany.com” instead.

And on top of that, iOS and macOS “merge” similar vCards when displaying a contact so that the user has to be paying pretty close attention when editing to know what will happen when they’re done. That has led to a variety of quirky and difficult to debug results.

Unless this has very recently changed, this logical merging doesn’t take place automatically, and furthermore, once you have two separate accounts activated you aren’t viewing both of them at once, unless you choose to.