Hardware

Getting ready to support Mac on the corporate network

As the corporate environment becomes more diverse, user support will have to become more diverse. Thanks to a new alliance of interoperability providers, the idea of supporting Macintosh in the workplace is becoming more viable. But we need to understand what new challenges will be raised.

As the corporate environment becomes more diverse, user support will have to become more diverse. Thanks to a new alliance of interoperability providers, the idea of supporting Macintosh in the workplace is becoming more viable. But we need to understand what new challenges will be raised.

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Since the Mac became available with an Intel processor, there have been those who predicted that the Mac would be a valid corporate alternative, placing the Mac in direct competition with the likes of HP, Dell, and IBM. I personally thought that we would see a shift sooner (2003) but I may only have been five years off the mark.

Five software companies have come together to form an alliance to promote the use of the Mac in the corporate environment managed with Microsoft Windows. The allied companies include Atempo, Centrify, Group Logic, LANrev, and Parallels. The common factor between these companies is that they are all focused on interoperability technology between the Mac OS X and Windows.

As a Mac user, I can only say, "It's about time". But as with anything new, there will be impacts to the Support staff that count on us to know the technology and be able to fix what is broken within service SLAs. Therein lies the challenge.

This new alliance plans to provide education to both end users and corporations about the ease of use factor for the Mac. That will be a good thing as there are many who think of the Mac as being harder to use and harder to support. There is also a Best Practices area that is currently a vacuum. There is little education specifically addressing interoperability issues such as Active Directory integration, patch management, backups in a mixed environment, and security.

The alliance was formed in recognition that there is a growing number of Mac users, particularly Mac notebook users, placing new pressure on corporations to allow Macs on the network. Recently, Google has been allowing its employees to choose what they want to run, Windows, Mac, or Linux and IBM is experimenting with Macs. Another driver is the adoption of the iPhone by business, putting pressure on IT to incorporate them into the environment.

While basic education is going to be an issue, another consideration is going to be certification. You can certify in the Mac OS and in their server line. But what does the potential shift really mean in terms of required certification? Carrying both Windows certs and Apple certs? And will there be a tolerance for IT Support to come up to speed? Or is a better answer to have duplicate teams, one supporting the Windows environment and the other supporting the Mac? I think that these are the questions that will most directly affect those of us who provide end user support.

I have long believed that the corporate environment should be diverse and should be able to utilize the equipment that does the necessary job best. It may be that the enterprise is coming around to my way of thinking. I personally use a wide variety of hardware and software because some things are managed better. Graphics is very much at home on my Mac while I maintain databases using Windows XP and Access. The alliance makes good sense, especially as we consider the changes that the corporate environment is making. But I think that the change will come with a certain amount of growing pain as Windows support people are forced to confront the new machine in the environment.

How would you be impacted by the introduction of Macs to your workplace? Or do you support a mixed environment today?

18 comments
mawaljr
mawaljr

The ability to introduce Mac'c into the workplace is innovation at work. Although it may not be welcomed by all, once implemented to more corporations the introduction will just become a phase.

dries
dries

we have been supporting pc's and mac's on the same network now for about 6 years without to much problems.the catch is you need techies that understand windows and MacOX equally

al3x
al3x

We purchased a nice powerful MAC workstation with 10.5.2 for our Graphics department. We then configured it to the "T" so this MAC user can save things to our SAN environment. We found out this user can see the Win2k3 file server but can't write to it. We double checked her NTFS permission and it does say she has Modifity rights. She was also able to sign in to a XP machine and write to this folder. We thought it could either be a AD or NTFS incompatibility issue. Later we found out she was able to write to our Windows FTP server, so NTFS was ruled out. Next we called Apple Care and they said they don't know anything about integrating a MAC and Windows and refered me to the Apple store. The Apple store said MAC should be able to write to a Win2k3 server and don't know why it won't, then refered us to call Apple care and speak to the Networking department. We then called the Apple care Networking department and they said they don't know too much about making a MAC talk and write to a Windows. Then these folks ask us to contact a MAC Consultant company for further help (mind you, these guys will probably charge a lot of cash). Lastly 10.5.3 just came out and we upgraded it to that and it works! All this means is Apple knew about the problem on 10.5.2 so why didn't they tell me about it and instead they said nothing and made us wasted countless countless hours of work for something impossible. My main thing about the post is MAC tech support needs to be more familiar with MAC/Windows environment to make it work to really be able to bring in MACs to the Corporate level.

dondalhover
dondalhover

I attended a course from Learning Tree titled "How To Integrate MAC in a Windows Environment" (it was a beta course). It was a great class addressing the pitfalls awaiting the average IT Dept. in joining MACs into an Active Directory Domain. I highly recomend this course for all IT Departments who want to integrate MACs into the Enteprise Network. Steve Jobs made a statement that basically said that Microsoft has done a very good job with Active Directory and that Apple has no desire to improve on that market.

djmorrissey
djmorrissey

The company I'm with has it's own Design Group that were allowed to opt for Macs years ago. The cost of this was very limited support form IT. As the IT group increased security and the users increased their interaction the support requirements went up. For most of my techs the basic requirement was an hour showing them the system layout and where the settings were. For them as users the biggest change is getting used to the fact that the menu for the active progra is always at the top of the screen - not the top of the window. The networking part of this has been getting the Macs working across sub-nets and vlans. OS X removed the file naming issues on our Windows based files servers.

Tig2
Tig2

There has always been the potential that corporate would adopt the Mac to one degree or another. With the advent of the Intel powered Mac, that became probable. Now even more likely as five leading interoperability providers have formed an alliance to provide education and formulate best practices for integrating the Mac in the enterprise. But there are some additional concerns that should be considered- like training and certification. I am no fan of product specific certifications but I admit I have them. And the CompTIA certs, while not product specific, are Windows-centric. What do you think the best approach to integrating the Mac to the corporate environment is? How do we best address the education and certification questions?

helpdesk
helpdesk

Our marketing department will be getting MACs soon. As a hardware support tech, we are being told we will support these devices. Can someone tell us what type of training we should be looking for in order to support these devices? I don't think anyone on our team knows how to support MACs.

swivet
swivet

It may save you some time and $ to know that Macs can read and write to NTFS network shares since years ago -- they attach as Samba clients, so something is wrong, or somebody is steering you wrong. FAT or NFS-formatted mountpoints work fine also. It's only local NTFS volumes that can't be written to natively, and there are solutions for that, if it ever becomes an issue.

Tig2
Tig2

And just to keep things funky, Open Office launches with the active menu on the window, not the top bar. XTerm is on the top bar. But that's okay by me. A quick glance at the top bar resolves any confusion and while it is a change in the way I work, the change is minor and tolerable. In your mixed environment, do you find that you have extreme Windows lovers and extreme Mac lovers? Or are people more inclined to consider the machine based on its capability?

kellykent
kellykent

Our company is now getting ready to add Mac Laptops to the mix of Linux & Windows. I am attending Mac Support Essentials and Mac Server Essential classes this July to support this addition. I am also going for the Mac support cert. I am already MCSE times 2. It can only add to my $$ value and my ability to address issues as they come up. Be prepared if you can is my motto.

Timbo Zimbabwe
Timbo Zimbabwe

"Another driver is the adoption of the iPhone by business, putting pressure on IT to incorporate them into the environment." Fallicy. In its current form, it is a huge security hole that has no place in a corporate environment. Our company has drawn a policy against the use of these phones. As for the Mac; nice thought, don't see it happening any time soon. The overhead generated by this hardware makes it a no-brainer to stay away from it in a fiscal sense. Pricing makes the Mac little more than a toy for the spoiled, corporate child.

slewis
slewis

I have been supporting Macs in Windows Active Directory since Tiger, and it's very easy. There are plenty of FAQ's and help all over the web, and you can get help from an Apple systems engineer if you get really stuck. Best to hire someone with Mac background in IT as trying to "convert" PC IT types is usually not that successful, as they are not committed and have too many hangups about using a Mac. I gave everone in our IT department a Mac, put it in the domain and mapped their shares, and only one of them ever actually used it enough and asked enough questions to be able to offer any additional support. One of then uses it to watch the occasional movie, and one has never turned it on since I first showed him how to log in, etc. I support close to 400 Mac users by myself. It's easy because the Mac users tend to be very independant and are pretty savvy as users. They are educable, unlike some of the PC users I have come across!

Chicharelli
Chicharelli

Apple themselves have said over and over again they are not interested in the corporate customers, now im not saying they wont sell to organisations, but bear in mind that it isnt there target aduience! e.g. people bag Apple because they dont have a "good" exchange based mail client.... why dont they? BECAUSE ITS NOT THERE TARGET AUDIENCE. Some Apple shops here in oz are more then happy to assist there customers with intergrating Mac in a Micsosoft environment but this doesnt mean Apple Corp are supporting the use in a corporate environment. if Apple's target audience was corporate organisation dont you think they would provide more support for corporates? there is currently no Apple corporation backed support for corporate use of Macs.. not agreeing or disgreeing with anyone just my 2 cents worth PS i use both in my environment.

Randy Hagan
Randy Hagan

The good news is, it's easier to move between Macs and PCs than it ever has been. Users will have their favorites -- and their least favorites -- but your life will be a lot easier if you don't choose sides in this battle. The good news is, you don't have to. Core applications are either available on both WinTel and MacTel platforms, or there are file formats that let you interchange data between dissimilar programs. MacTel systems can run Windows applications near flawlessly. If you use PDF files and Adobe OpenType fonts, you can even run the same documents on both platforms. Among other jobs, I do contract presentation work for a major graphics software publisher. When my Windows laptop was stolen, I ran Windows XP/MS Office 2003/graphics applications on one disk partition of my MacBook for PC-based demonstrations as well as Mac OSX Tiger/MS Office 2004 and the same graphics apps on the other partition. There were occasionally some file transfer issues, but six months of using my MacBook as a PC reinforced that it's the software you run that makes the difference, not what box you run it on. You'll never convince your users of that. Some minute differences may offer microscopic advantages in some rare instances, but they won't amount to much in the total scheme of things. Save some of those tidbits to share with rabid fans of each platform as you smile, nod your head and humor them.

swivet
swivet

I work in a large, distributed, somewhat mixed environment, where I support a number of Mac desktops and notebooks. People like what they know how to use -- period. In general, the Mac users are happier with their machines, and the Windows users are happier with IT services. Successfully integrating Macs into a large organization depends chiefly on two things: (1) Your own ingenuity and willingness to learn Mac OS and allied technology; (2) Your degree of commitment to the Microsoft ecosystem in its unfriendlier aspects. (2) above is really the big deal. Active Directory is the least of it -- there is no fully functional MS Exchange client for Macintosh (and the list goes on). If your back office, middleware, groupware, productivity apps all come from Redmond... you can't abandon Windows on the desktop without giving up some integration. No surprise to anyone, I hope, it was all built that way in the first place!

whatisnew
whatisnew

My experience is most of Mac users don't like Windows at all. Why! Because Windows is Windows. Most of my Mac users say Mac is much better (less bugs and faster). I don?t think my Mac users give fair assessment here. But since I rarely use Mac; I can't make the same judgment. Can any IT Pros, who is good at both Windows and Mac) give us some fair comparison of both system.

LeeBurchfield
LeeBurchfield

We've got three Mac notebooks and run both Mac OS and Windows on them. We've not had any complaints and I find both to be usable.

Tig2
Tig2

The toughest thing about working between Mac and Windows is the workflow shift. The gesture capability on the Mac track pad is a nice and very functional interface once I got used to controlling it. For precision, I have a Mighty Mouse that I really like for it's ease of use. I don't care for Vista at all and don't believe that it will add any functionality to the things that I do from a graphics standpoint. I personally feel that the Mac is a star in that area. That said, there is no Access like database tool for the Mac and I have project that require the use of a quick and dirty database. In my opinion, you can't touch Access on Windows for that functionality. I also prefer to do large spreadsheet handling in Excel and I find that the Office tools for Mac just don't give me what I want. Open Office is closer but requires XTerm to run. Not a bad thing but different than what I am used to. In terms of value for money- I think that they are comparable. My MacBook Pro was an expensive machine but came fully loaded with everything I wanted. My add-ons were significantly less expensive than comparable Windows software. Supporting my Mac is dead easy too. On the other hand, my Windows box has been a solid performer for years and continues to be solid. I think that it is important to become more agnostic in hardware and software choices. Some are natural picks for one or another application. It is good to see more diversity in the enterprise.

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