Macintosh. Mention that word to most IT professionals, and you'll likely receive some stares and grimacing looks, as if they were 10 and their Moms just asked them to clean their rooms. They usually don’t want to hear about it at all. Why? I think that their uneasiness stems from several factors, including pride, prejudice, ignorance, and job security. Are their fears well founded? The answer is no. The fact is that, when it comes to Microsoft products, most IT departments are living in the future, often touting vaporware or buggy software. In deep contrast, they live in the past when it comes to the Macintosh; they recite facts and figures that are sometimes seven or eight years old. Let's examine the factors that make many IT professionals nervous about Macintosh.
Nowhere is pride more apparent today than with IT personnel and the initials after their names—and with good reason. There's a labor shortage of qualified employees, and technical training companies are making a killing by turning out “certified-this” and “registered-that” clients. Experienced IT techs understand this demand. They command a hefty salary, great benefits, and a great sense of job security. But when they’re faced with managing an operating system with which they're unfamiliar, their reputation of being the answer-men (or women) could be placed in jeopardy. Secretly open to the idea of learning something new, they're often overwhelmed by the high-school-clique mentality that permeates IT departments today. The result is a vicious cycle that leads to technical bigotry in the one area of a company that requires its people to be aware of absolutely anything that can simplify administration, reduce cost, add security, or otherwise enhance technology.
I'll give you an excellent example: I just installed three Macs in an all-PC company, but the IT department didn’t want any employees to manage, troubleshoot, or learn about Macs. They provided me with IP addresses, e-mail addresses, and passwords, but that's where it ended. One of the IT people confided to me that she wished to learn more but was unable to speak up because other members of her department were present. What a shame!
Prejudice often goes hand-in-hand with pride. Nothing is acceptable, except for one type of operating system. IT departments claim to have run all of the tests, looked at all of the choices, evaluated every need, and decided that there’s only one appropriate choice. If you look at some IT departments, however, no testing of other operating systems occurs. No benchmarks are performed. No software has been purchased for comparison. Yet much more money is often spent on untested solutions, and downtime is disguised as testing. Magazines often provide these people with benchmarks and comparisons that become the truth. Such articles should never be accepted in lieu of experience. In reality, no network is as optimized or as clean as benchmark tests.
When IT departments make their decisions, they never look back. To do so would jeopardize their credibility, draw scrutiny from budget-conscious CFOs and CEOs, and go against the herd mentality. It’s easier to discount and criticize something that you don’t understand than to own up to a willingness to listen, explore, and learn something new.
While Microsoft, Novell, Red Hat, Cisco, and other companies developed certification courses that were designed to teach users how to deal with their products, Apple currently has no such courses. Third-party companies offer training programs, but finding those programs is often not very easy. Since there are few training programs for Macintosh, few people know how easy a Mac is to use, maintain, network, and troubleshoot. The fact is that Macs are more versatile than PCs, and they can be maintained with a minimal amount of effort.
One serious problem is the information about Apple that’s taught in most certification classes. This information is usually outdated, exaggerated, or just plain wrong. Yet instructors go on spewing Mac misinformation to their pupils and fueling the ignorance. People who have little computer experience and who take certification classes sometimes spend thousands of dollars of their own money to earn a degree, but they remain unaware that other options exist. These instructors are in the classes for the money, and they’re unwilling to deviate from the classroom dogma.
All Macs now use TCP/IP (in some ways, better than Windows). Macs can run multiple operating systems, such as Linux, UNIX, DOS, Windows 3.1, Windows 9x, Windows NT, Windows 2000, Advanced Server, and OS/2. The Motorola chip that’s used in all Macs is often touted as being something that is designed better, runs cooler, and works with applications better than its Intel counterpart. Macs can be administered remotely, and they have great color accuracy. They also can be automated more easily than PCs. Virus writers love the PC but ignore the Mac. Can NT run on a Mac? Yes. Are you surprised? See what just a little information will do?
Do you remember this popular IT mantra: "No one ever got fired for buying Microsoft"? Now, try saying, "No one ever got promoted without saving money." The truth is that Macs can save companies money by reducing downtime, increasing employee productivity, and curtailing support costs. In a way, that's why Macs run into an IT wall. Who wants to introduce a technology that may decrease the number of employees, reduce funding, and diminish the importance of a department?
Although most IT executives enjoy an unparalleled level of job security, CEOs and CIOs are continually concerned with the amount of money that’s being pumped into IT departments. Results almost never meet expectations. When software doesn’t work, it’s usually blamed on software conflicts but never on the people who suggested that it would work and who spent the company's money on vaporware and untested solutions. I argue that introducing cost savings via better technology will result in increased positive exposure and personal marketability, rather than in a continued drain on a company's bottom line. The solution lies with education at the CEO level, not at the self-fulfilling IT level.
As I have demonstrated, pride, prejudice, ignorance, and job security fears prevent companies from examining viable solutions. In the end, these companies are overlooking alternatives that may save them time, money, frustration, and possibly even their business.
Schoun Regan is the training and media specialist for Complete Mac Services , an Apple VAR, training, and consulting facility in Louisville, KY, that specializes in PC-to-Mac integration. He teaches throughout North America on a variety of subjects and software. Schoun has been associated with Apple and the Macintosh since 1985 and has authored many Web sites. Certified in several applications and areas, he most enjoys teaching graphics applications.
Schoun's a regularly featured guest on 84Online, a technology-centric radio program heard in more than 30 states on Louisville's clear-channel station 84 WHAS, and on dot.com, a TV call-in show that’s broadcast from the Louisville area. He resides in the Ohio Valley with his very tolerant wife and children.The authors and editors have taken care in preparation of the content contained herein, but make no expressed or implied warranty of any kind and assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. No liability is assumed for any damages. Always have a verified backup before making any changes.