Help updating a mess of laptops

in macOS edited January 2014
I work at a school with a pile of laptops. I need to update the software, and also load Garage Band & iMovie and iTunes etc etc.


Right now they update them wirelessly via Software Update one-by-one, all competing for bandwidth, overloading the network, and often crashing. Or they could pay the IT department $12k to do it for them-yikes.


I'm looking for suggestions for better ways.


Some ideas I have are:


a) Get the download files* onto USB, copy to each machine, run. Disadvantage: the need to run each file (.pkg?). Big advantage: should run better without network-overload related problems.


b) Probably there is some way to do this from OS X Server (which is on a desktop there)?


Any other ideas are welcome. Also suggestions for updating a few dozen iPads the school has.


*I looked at various threads, and getting the files seems to have changed over time. Software Update does have a menu item Update --> Go To Apple Downloads Page, but that item is grayed out. It's also unclear to me how to know which updates a machine needs. Maybe I can run SU on one machine, then look in Library or other likely places, and copy all the stuff there???
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