Picture this: you’re manning the help desk, minding your own business and you get a message from a coworker whose computer has finally bitten the dust after many years of service. It’s no problem. That machine was at the end of its life, and you can order the employee a similar unit as a replacement. But then you look closer. Their email ends with, “Do you think I could get a MacBook as a replacement?” The horror.
Many companies rely on PCs as their daily office workhorses. They’re durable, customizable and, most importantly, manageable. An IT department that manages the company network and an army of PCs relies on a smooth operation to keep the office running as it should with minimal hiccups. Do Macs throw a huge wrench in this operation? And if an employee wants a MacBook, should you make an exception?
Macs In a PC World
For an IT department that manages an office full of PCs, a MacBook can be a regular and ongoing nuisance. Getting Macs to cooperate in a Windows environment compounds the work expected of an IT staff.
"When it comes to management, PCs are much more friendly. Macs do not cooperate with the domain as much. They have trouble connecting to network share drives. Especially since many servers are Linux-based, Macs are out of the server game," he says.
From the perspective of a staff that needs to manage and maintain a company server, which would be most compatible with PCs, it’s as if Macs need additional babysitting. A Linux server will not play well with the Apple outliers.
“In an established Windows domain, trying to use a Mac in that environment is not very friendly … with a Mac you have to manually bind with the IP when dealing with servers,' Thurman says.
So if you want to access company files, manage user accounts, set proxy server preferences, attach network drives et cetera, a MacBook would need extra IT attention to manually set that all up, whereas a PC setup would be painless.
MacBooks are already a pain to manage when they’re working perfectly. But what happens when you need to make repairs on that Mac? Or even do regular maintenance on office computers?
Apple infamously keeps their computer components close to the vest. In an effort to keep Apple tech from the open market, only they or an authorized party can obtain Mac parts to perform repairs. This past April, as a result of Apple’s repair policies, a YouTube channel called Linus Tech Tips (manned by Linus Sebastian and his team) began a multi-month journey into computer hell.
Because Sebastian opened an iMac Pro, which broke, he could not get it serviced by Apple and had to turn to a third-party provider, which had to obtain the parts through other means. It was expensive and took over three months. Clearly, if you're running a business, you need to be able to get service more quickly.
Computers Need Service
IT departments can easily manage the repair or maintenance of PCs for which you can actually buy parts. But you can’t even open a MacBook up to clean out dust without voiding your Apple warranty. Then, why would an IT department want to introduce Macs into a PC work environment that they continuously maintain when they can’t even do sufficient work on them? Well, apparently they can.
"Apple actually has a program for IT departments where they can get certified and get parts directly from Apple," he explains. "So a company has to say, ‘We’re bringing in more Macs to manage, so who is going to step up and learn about that?’”
So, it’s not totally impossible for IT to learn how to service Macs in the way they would PC’s if your company wants to take on that training upfront.
But if IT does have to go to Apple for repair, it’s still at least a multi-week process for Apple to source all of the parts from their one supplier (itself), fix your computer and send it back to you.
"So if you’re trying to do your job, you can’t wait months for repair; and you can’t just replace it, it’s a multi-thousand-dollar workstation,” notes Ntiva's Thurman.
However, with so much data in the cloud, it's possible that you could just give the employee another Mac (or PC) while the first one is being serviced.
Does Anyone Get an Exception?
Despite all of these reasons for PCs being the easiest choice for an office fleet, you may still be met with employees who wonder if they can have a Mac instead of a PC.
When asked if any employee should be granted a Mac that goes against a PC standard, Thurman answers: “My opinion is to not give them an exception; there’s just no reason for it. If you want to use a Mac at home as your own workstation, that’s great. But they just don’t play well in a corporate environment.”
Thurman goes on to give an example: “Let’s say there is an individual who uses the one Mac in the workplace because he likes them and he’s used them his whole life. I’d end up doing some work on his computer once a month. Whether it’s connecting to printers, file servers, anything in the Windows-based network, something always goes wrong.”
Valid points. The rise of MacBooks and iMacs as corporate workstations, however, speaks to some degree of acceptance of these obstacles. Harryman provides another viewpoint, saying IT resistance to an increase in workload (and therefore cost) could all come out in the wash.
“I work with lots of enterprise IT environments where Windows and Mac coexist on a daily basis in a productive fashion and at no real larger expense- it may be a larger expense on the IT side, but if you look at it, companies are seeing greater productivity in the areas of the business that make money as opposed to those that cost money," he says. Maybe that increase in IT management is an investment.
This raises the question of whether employees do better work when they have the computer they like to use. If that MacBook request comes in, maybe the employee could be looking to improve their work.
“I’ve worked with companies that switched certain roles to Macs, and people in those specific roles were generally happier and got work done in a much more productive fashion," Harryman says.
Additionally, in the grand scheme of things, Macs are a popular choice for design departments and employees that work in the visual realm (like photo and video editors).
“Any of the more creative trades would prefer to work on Macs and really should be allowed to because then they would be more productive,” Harryman says.
So, there’s a good argument for an exemption for those types of employees. And, of course, if any C-level executive wants a MacBook, then they should probably get one.
When your office is filled with PCs, a Mac can feel like a flat tire. It needs extra attention to keep it effectively running on the company network and can bog down IT staff. But working through these obstacles can potentially help your company run more efficiently. It’s not impossible for Mac and Windows to coexist, but introducing Macs into a PC-centric workplace can potentially increase your IT needs. When the question of a Mac exemption pops up, look at the big picture of how it could affect productivity as a whole.