As more businesses bring Apple Macintoshes into their regular operations, IT has to figure out how to ensure the Macs play well in the typical Windows-dominated environments. Several companies share the lessons -- good and bad -- that they have learned.
Among the main consideration: desktop management, security, and Apple's non-enterprise focus. But with some creativity and an increasing reliance on users to be more responsible for the systems they choose, the majority experience is positive.
[ Read why more businesses are adopting Macs. | Discover why the forthcoming Mac OS X Snow Leopard may be Apple's secret business weapon. ]
Citrix succeeds by putting users in charge
A perfect example is virtualization provider Citrix Systems, which has instituted Bring Your Own Computer (BYOC), a program that lets employees choose their own laptop computer, which they can use for both work and play. "We wanted to give employees the opportunity to use the device they're most comfortable with," says CIO Paul Martine. More than a third have chosen Macs. (IBM has a similar initiative.)
Martine estimates that the traditional IT procurement, imaging, and tracking process costs Citrix about $2,500 to $2,600 every three years, so under the BYOC program, Citrix IT gives each participant a $2,100 stipend to get whatever system he or she wants. And IT has no problem if users spend more than the stipend -- from the users' budget, of course -- to get their preferred systems.
But participating in BYOC does come with two requirements: The user must purchase a three-year warranty and maintenance program and must have client security software installed. Citrix's IT group provides the security software at no charge. Users so far have been responsible in managing their security: All four virus incidents that occurred this past year all started on IT-managed systems, not those under BYOC.
Given Citrix's business, it's not surprising that it handles application incompatibilities and security issues thin-client-style using Citrix's own XenApp application (provided free to employees), which serves up corporate and most client applications, including Microsoft Office, from servers in the datacenter. However, if employees want to run Mac versions of Office or other applications, such as Apple's Keynote presentation tool, they are free to do so.
Users are responsible for their own hardware maintenance and repairs. "That's what the three-year warranty is for," says Martine. "Even my kid knows how to keep his system up to date," he adds, "and we've found that the users take care of their own equipment much better than they take care of IT's."
For other issues, the help desk -- which has both Mac and PC expertise -- is available. User files are kept on the servers and backed up internally, but users are allowed to copy files to local drives, as long as they understand securing such files are their responsibility.
A survey taken both before and after the pilot of the program found that 56 percent of participants felt that using their preferred device made them more productive. Their managers weren't so sure, but they did notice a definite increase in staff job satisfaction. Meanwhile, IT is saving on acquisition costs and has fewer client PCs to manage.