An all Mac office is possible.
January 29, 2015
When I started out in I.T. almost fifteen years ago, just about all corporate networks were monolithic, Windows only environments. Today, that’s no longer true. A lot of businesses are finding out that an all Mac office really is possible, and mixed computing environments work great too.
Several years ago, Macs were tolerated in corporate networks because it was the platform of choice for creatives. If a company had an in-house creative department, it was stocked with Macs. Mac users got very little support from I.T. Most I.T. guys knew very little about Macs, and they often tried to shoehorn Windows solutions into the Macs without much if any success. Windows servers were setup to offer “services for Macintosh”. If the company used Exchange, Mac users were stuck with only the most basic services. While the company’s Windows PCs were upgraded and replaced frequently, Mac hardware was left to languish because of the perceived higher cost involved. A lot of this began to change starting with the introduction of Mac OS X in early 2001, but the real change started to happen a few years later as Mac OS X gained support from major players such as Adobe, and Microsoft. The iPod helped introduce a new generation of customers to Apple. When the Mac began shipping with Intel processors in January 2006, it helped provide Windows users with a “security blanket” that allowed them run back to Windows if necessary. Most never did.
The introduction of OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard in August of 2009 was a major turning point for Macs in the workplace. Starting with Snow Leopard, the Mac gained built in native support for Exchange. Before this, Mac users had to use Microsoft Entourage, which was part of the Office 2004 and Office 2008 suites. Entourage sucked, which meant that Mac users were still left out in the cold. This changed with Snow Leopard. Apple’s own mail, calendar, and contacts clients were now able to connect to Exchange. A year earlier, the iPhone gained full Exchange support as well. Snow Leopard and the iPhone helped push Apple technology further into corporate networks much to the annoyance of the Windows loving I.T. guys.
With the exception of some very specific things, there are almost no computing tasks that cannot be performed on a Mac. After many years of lukewarm Mac support, most major software developers have produced really great Mac versions of their software. Most printers just work. Email, calendars, and contacts solutions work great too. The Mac embraces many open standards such as CalDAV for calendar synching and sharing, CardDAV for contacts synching, and the Mac supports all of the industry standard email protocols such as IMAP, and POP.
Think different… and familiar.
One perceived barrier to switching to Mac is that you will lose the ability to communicate and collaborate with Windows users who are still in the majority. That’s not true. For a lot of us, our business lives revolve around Microsoft’s Office software suite. Microsoft Office for Mac has been around for a very long time. In fact, the first versions of Excel and Word existed on the Mac before Windows was released for the first time. If you decide not to purchase the Mac version of Microsoft Office, there are a number of alternatives. Apple’s own Pages, Numbers, and Keynote can replace Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. They are actually easier to use, and they are free on every new Mac. If you need to purchase these apps, the cost is far less than licensing Microsoft Office for Mac. Each of these apps can open and save files in all of the MS Office file types. And as an added bonus, you can install Pages, Numbers, and Keynote on all of your Macs. No restrictions. Just connect them all to your company’s Apple I.D.
Do you want to ditch that expensive Exchange server in your office? The best alternative to Exchange is Kerio Connect. Kerio Connect includes all of the major features of Exchange. It’s truly cross platform. It runs on Mac servers, Windows servers, and Linux. Because Kerio Connect embraces open standards, it will work with a wide variety of email clients, contacts apps, calendar software, iPhones, iPads, and Android devices. Migrating from Exchange to Kerio Connect is easy. You can use tools like Kerio’s Exchange migration tool, or online services like Migration Wiz. These tools will move all of your Exchange data to Kerio Connect. If your business is using Google for email hosting, Migration Wiz does a great job of moving your data over to Kerio Connect. Kerio Connect allows Mac and Windows users to collaborate seamlessly whether they’re are using Outlook, or the built in apps that come with a Mac. Kerio Connect works great running on an in-house server, but you can also host Kerio Connect in the cloud. Hosting in the cloud allows you to be able to enjoy all of the great features of Kerio Connect, but free you from having to manage an in-house server. Another great feature of Kerio Connect is its low cost compared to Exchange. Hosting your email on Kerio Connect also protects you from Google’s prying eyes.
What about accounting software? For many years, Mac versions of software like Quickbooks were sorely lacking the features of the Windows versions. That’s not true anymore. But what if your accountant still wants to use the Windows version? That’s easy. Parallels Desktop, and VMware Fusion are great solutions for running Windows on the Mac without having to leave the Mac environment. You can install and run Windows applications within a virtual Windows PC. A more advanced accounting solution is to deploy a Windows server with the accounting software installed. Users can login via Microsoft Remote Desktop to access their accounting software easily, both in office and from remote locations. This is a great way to repurpose that Exchange server that you replaced with Kerio Connect.
Despite what most people believe, owning a Mac is not more expensive than owning a Windows PC. Sure, the initial cost of an Apple computer is higher, but what about the long term cost? If you’re a Windows user, think about how many times your PC (work or home) has had a slow down, a lock up, blue screen of death, or a virus. I bet it’s often. In business, the lost productivity can cost a lot of money. At home, it can be maddening. I am writing this post from a Mac that has never crashed. Ever. It has been sitting on my desk for two years. No problems, except for a random error from an application, but OS X has been rock solid. This is not to say that Macs never crash. They do. They just do it a lot less often. In most corporate settings, the I.T. guys only know Windows. They might own an iPhone or an iPad (Why not? They’re the best!), but their knowledge of Apple technology overall is very low. This presents a barrier to a business switching to Mac. But a change has been going on for a few years now. We call it Bring Your Own Device – BYOD. More and more business users are bringing their Macs to work. These users expect to be able to send and receive email, work with documents, connect to servers, and do all of the things they need to do in a business setting. Who will they turn to for help?
That’s where we come in. At Think Fixed, our mission is to help businesses do business with Macs. Not only do we offer I.T. support services, but we also offer email hosting, cloud backup service, and we have partnered with a great VOIP (voice over IP) phone service provider. We can offer complete I.T. services. We focus on the user experience. We use this focus to create easy to use and secure solutions. And if you have some Windows PCs and servers, we can support those too. We love what we do, and it shows in the quality of our work, and our commitment to great customer service.