The truth about Macs in the enterprise

Who needs a Mac

The bottom line: Executives and road warriors are the best candidates for Mac use in a company, in addition to the historic Mac enclaves of application development and creative functions such as marketing and design. Why? Because Macs are better suited to thwarting phishing and other attacks on these sensitive users’ systems and for operating outside your network.

“Regular” office workers should be given a choice as to whether to use Windows or OS X, if their job requirements are satisfied by either platform. Why? Because having a certain percentage of non-Windows users provides a fail-over capability in case of a malware or hacking meltdown, as well as lets some users work with devices they are more comfortable with.

A good metric is that about 15 to 25 percent of employees should be using a Mac, with the higher percentage aimed at companies that focus on software and creative work. For example, Cisco Systems, once adamantly an anti-Mac company, now has about 20 percent of its users on Macs (that’s 35,000 Macs), a feat that turned out to be easily accomplished and did not increase IT resource needs. (I hear similar stats from CIOs I meet at conferences, though so few companies use Macs to any scale that all I can offer are such anecdotes, rather than statistical “proof.”)

The Mac aids your security and recovery needs

It still shocks me how much time and money IT organizations spend on securing Windows PCs, such as for incessant antivirus updates and frequent infection-cleanup efforts, for managing backups and encryption, and for dealing with dozens of often problematic fixes every month in the infamous Patch Tuesday releases.

Windows has lots of security and management APIs, of course, which let IT go to town in securing and managing them using tools like System Center — at a huge cost. Gartner estimates that IT organizations spend $2,000 to $2,300 per user per year to manage and secure their Windows PCs. Yikes!

Management tools. The good news is that you can manage Macs for the same or lower cost, depending on the approach you take. The more Windows-like your management approach, the more it will cost to manage your Macs. From high to low cost:

  • Microsoft’s System Center supports Macs running OS X Yosemite if running a Microsoft configuration client. There are also System Center add-ons to extend Mac management capabilities, such as from Centrify.
  • As of OS X Lion and moreso OS X Mountain Lion, Apple made most of its iOS management and security APIs available to OS X. Using a mobile device management (MDM) server you likely already have, such as those from MobileIron and VMware’s AirWatch unit, for iPhones and iPads you can manage Macs’ security and configuration remotely, based on Active Directory groups.
  • Smaller organizations can use the $20 OS X Server to do the same, as well as manage network backups via central Time Machine servers.

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