Once upon a time, businesses wanted to switch to Apple devices because their Windows computers were virus laden, antiquated, and falling behind the innovation curve. These days, Windows computers are much better in all of these regards; however, Apple still provides a number of value propositions that their Microsoft competitor just can't seem to catch up with. In fact, SMBs continue to adopt Apple as their platform of choice.
A recent report by Intermedia finds that iOS accounts for 68 percent of all SMB device activations, with Apple dominating every other vendor for SMB mobility. As organizations continue to switch, there are a number of lessons we've learned over the years that can help. Here are a few important steps to take when looking to switch platforms.
Step 1: Ask yourself why?
One of the most critical questions that any organization should ask when taking on a major initiative is "why?". There are always benefits to any solid project, but communicating to your team about why you're going to do that initiative really helps to solidify a project plan and some desired outcomes. There are several reasons why the switch to Apple makes sense for small and medium business owners looking to grow their business. InfoWorld recently outlined this subset of benefits to having Macs in a business environment:
- Macs are more secure out of the box than Windows PCs.
- Macs can be managed at scale.
- Macs provide an operational recovery option that an all-Windows environment doesn't.
- Macs cost the same as business-class PCs, and their total cost of ownership (TCO) is usually lower.
Whether you have five devices and are switching because your staff prefers Apple, or you have 5,000 devices and are switching to get a lower total cost of ownership, understanding the why will help frame how everything else goes.
Step 2: Understanding your Apps
More and more, computers are gateways to an application that performs a task. This includes apps like Microsoft Word for writing documents, Outlook for reading email and managing schedules, and QuickBooks for managing the general ledger.
Before you make a platform switch, make sure to validate that each app is tied to a business process and that you understand the productivity you are gaining or losing by switching to a new or alternative version of an app.
You may end up finding that there are certain users in your environment that simply cannot be wholly migrated to another platform based on the applications they need to work. There are alternatives for these users, such as running the Windows versions of a software title in a virtual machine like VMware. However, doing so is going to end up meaning that you're running two platforms at once. Also consider what files are accessed and how. This helps frame any changes in servers that you might take on.
Step 3: Consider the Cost
Of course tallying up the costs to make the transition is an important consideration. This includes how much money you'll spend, how much time you'll spend, and how much time/money you'll spend on third-party consultants. Once you understand the costs associated with a migration, you can do a pretty simple cost/benefit analysis (hopefully in your head) that will answer the question of whether or not a move makes sense for your business.
Apple, or their excellent network of consultants, is very helpful when it comes to determining the costs (for their equipment and many of the third-party apps and services required for a transition). Contact your local Apple Business rep through the Apple Store or through the online business store, and they're often more than happy to help you find resources.
Step 4: How do I make the switch?
Once you know what apps you need and what files live where, think of how you're going to move people over to the new platform. Apple provides a great tool called Migration Assistant that can move a lot of data between computers. For more on using Migration Assistant, see: https://support.apple.com/kb/PH14328?locale=en_US
You're getting close to being ready at this point. Next, think about how you'll set-up the systems. I always like to think about security during set-up. If you're going to set-up a bunch of computers at the same time, giving them the same settings and planning how you'll secure them now makes long-term support easier. Some of the questions to consider at this point:
- Will you allow users to be administrators of their computers? This is often a good idea with Apple devices, as users can't do that much to damage the operating systems they use.
- Will you set configuration options manually or using an automated system? There are tools such as Bushel and Apple's Profile Manager that make controlling large numbers of systems very simple, while automating much of the setup process.
- Do users have their own Apple ID or a shared Apple ID? Apple IDs are how Apps from the App Store are deployed. Mobile Device Management solutions such as the tools mentioned above can revoke apps from IDs and give them to other Apple IDs so users can use their own if you so choose.
Overall, switching to the Apple platform is easier than ever. You can have the Apple devices coexist with Windows devices, cloud services help to ease the transition, and the cost of ownership is lower than with any other platform. There are more resources, more tools, and more apps than ever before. And all of this leads to a less intimidating experience with devices, allowing people to focus on their job, rather than their computers.