At the turn of the millennium, Windows had a monopoly on the business world. Most organizations believed that PCs were machines of the global economic landscape and Macs were a specialist hardware limited to pockets of creative professions and with limited cross-over application into the world of business. In the last decade, employee demand, availability of cross-OS business applications, and more penetration of Macs in the consumer marketplace have made the question of running a dual-OS environment something CIOs and IT Directors are now starting to face.
Staff in creative job functions were the common wheel-squeakers to first clamor for their Windows machines to be replaced with Macs, wanting their Mac-based design and creative software and their accustomed user interfaces. Today, a growing proportion of organizations accept such requests from anywhere in the company, be it from a developer, sales rep, project manager, executive, or road warrior.
Flexibility is important for the growth of any organization, and going from a Windows-only network to a Windows-Mac hybrid brings its challenges, but many companies believe that it can make a company more malleable. Obviously, introducing Macs to your Windows environment should be done with care, or else you risk exposing your network to a litany of vulnerabilities. Make sure that your network and your IT department prepare accordingly to accommodate PCs and Macs working together in the same sandbox.
Microsoft Outlook is the primary mail client of Windows Machines, while Apple Mail is standard on Macs. You can opt to use both, but choosing a side is advisable for obvious reasons. Most businesses stick with Outlook, as it is available for both Windows and OS X operating systems, and facilitates use of MS Exchange Server. Others sometimes turn to Gmail, Google’s web-based email client. Web-based email clients are hosted in the cloud, opening up accessibility to the staff by easily accepting connections from any online device, regardless of OS. Many companies choose Gmail for the integration with Google Docs, for low-price real-time collaboration which many small businesses and staff already have some comfort in using. More robust options under the Microsoft umbrella or selective applications offering deeper functionality are the common path for mid-sized to larger companies.
The biggest issue likely to arise from integrating Macs into a Windows network is the fact that many business applications are designed only for use on a Windows OS. Though more and more app developers are releasing OS X variants of their apps, it is estimated that around 50% of the most commonly used business apps are still not available to Mac machines. Critical applications for your employees or job functions should be evaluated to be sure a Mac equivalent is available. If you have the resources, it might be more practical to invest in upgrading your IT infrastructure and slowly move towards cloud-based programs with integration platforms that are OS neutral.
With web-based applications, old OS compatibility issues have been fading. Web-based programs shoot for offering full functionality regardless of operating system, which has quickly become a standard expectation of online software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings, with exceptions for your Mac-based staff. Be aware of what functionality and file compatibility is provided per OS-based web application offering since web-based application suites like Office 365 or Apple’s iWork are far from perfect in a bi-partisan OS organization.
Windows OS is still the standard for the business world, and Apple’s Boot Camp application made it possible to run a partition of the Mac’s hard drive with Windows OS. Boot Camp also has its limitations. It is currently incapable of running both OS X-run partitions and Windows-run partitions at the same time, which often makes this arrangement a hassle for staff members who need ready access to OS-specific programs on both, requiring a reboot when the other partition and OS is needed. Options like Parallels or VMWare Fusion 4 have gained some traction by allowing Windows to run simultaneously as a complimentary OS to OS X for Macs, but the jury is still out on whether full functionality and ease of use makes these the silver bullet to the dual OS issue.
Macs have an air of malware immunity around them. Hear us now: that is a myth. There are well-known Trojans and viruses that infiltrate OS X, in fact are designed to specifically target OS X, and can compromise a system or even the entire network. Security protocols are a necessity whether you have a Windows, Mac, or dual-OS supported infrastructure. Be sure you develop protocols, hold staff to them and customize them to both OS types. Just like with Windows machines, your IT department should lock each Mac behind an identity access software and encrypt all drives. As a standard, anti-virus and anti-malware software should also be used on both OS machines.
Plan to have a Mac-experienced tech on staff within your help desk and tech support team, or partner with an MSP with cross-OS expertise like Dynamic Quest to provide the tech support you’ll need.
If you are in interested in more options for support, Dynamic Quest has a world-class 24x7x365 Help Desk and a variety of MSP offerings to fit any need or budget. Simply fill out the form below to learn more. One of our experienced IT professionals will contact you to answer any questions you might have and help you find the solution that’s right for you.
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