Enterprise and business users are consistently curious as to the applications other firms, and potentially competitors in particular, leverage to power their organizations. Many have come right out and asked which software programs others use.
Fortunately, supporting numerous commercial and nonprofit firms provides more than passing familiarity with the software packages, applications, and suites companies select. Over time first-hand knowledge reveals truths. For better or worse, here are several applications Mac businesses frequently independently select and employ for fulfilling critical tasks and operations.
Microsoft Office is by far the most common productivity suite encountered within Mac businesses. Even in cases where Pages, Numbers, and Keynote are present, it's rare Microsoft's competing Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps aren't also installed. Microsoft's productivity tools are simply the standard, which should come as no surprise. The applications typically provide a consistent, reliable and compatible experience.
Design and layout
Many publishing, graphic arts, media, advertising, printing and marketing firms tap Apple's Mac technologies for design, layout, web development, graphics, illustration and similar creative tasks. Adobe's collection of design and layout programs, including InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop, are almost always part of the software mix. Typically, and especially due to the common need for small and medium business' to minimize IT expenses, these applications are a release or two behind the most current offering. But rest assured, Adobe's Creative Suite tools are popular, even if releases are not regularly upgraded.
Anomalies exist everywhere. Financial software within Mac businesses is a good example. iBank and QuickBooks applications immediately come to mind, but personal experience (validated over years) suggests financial management within Mac environments is frequently fulfilled by an accounting department using a one- or two-year old version of QuickBooks Professional on a Windows-based PC. Mind you, I don't mean QuickBooks being run within a Windows virtual machine on a Mac, but QuickBooks being run on a Windows machine. QuickBooks and Windows continue to prove a popular combination within small and medium businesses, even when those businesses largely use Macs for other operations and purposes.
Contact management and CRM
I'm surprised the proven success of 37 signals' web-based Highrise application hasn't reduced the number of times clients request Act! for Mac, which isn't available. Filemaker and Bento offer two contact management options for Mac users. Daylite and Elements CRM are two other CRM tools that receive many popular reviews. But most often my office finds Mac users attempt to leverage Calendar and Address Book, or Microsoft Outlook with its Contacts and Tasks features, to manage contacts and customer relationships.
Organizations and end users continue to debate the necessity of antimalware software on OS X, but the fact remains that Apple recommends users deploy antivirus. We often encounter ESET NOD32 Antivirus Business Edition for Mac, although we've also supported Norton AntiVirus for Mac. Overall, the ESET Remote Administrator simplifies endpoint management, including for Macs and mobile operating systems.
Questions often arise regarding which browser is most popular. On Macs, Safari remains the most popular. Google's Chrome is increasingly turning up in SMB Mac offices, however. My suspicion is many clients' dependence upon Gmail, Google Apps and Google Docs is encouraging installation of Google's browser.
My recommendation to clients needing or wishing to run Windows on a Mac is to deploy Apple's Bootcamp software. Windows, when run on a Mac using Bootcamp, is for most practical purposes a Windows installation. RAM and CPU resources aren't overly stressed trying to run the OS within a virtual machine, and USB peripherals tend to run better, too.
But clients frequently request Parallels, or even vmWare Fusion, both of which place greater demands than Bootcamp on a Mac's available system resources. We've also seen many knowledgeable users, including reasonably proficient power users, become frustrated attempting to consistently and reliably print to USB printers, access network resources, and obtain acceptable performance when running larger applications, such as Outlook and QuickBooks, on the Windows virtual machine.
Which applications does your business favor?
Does your organization prefer different software programs than those mentioned here? Maybe your firm standardized on an application or programs within different categories. Join the Mac software discussion below to add your comments.
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.