Weighing a move from Windows 10 to macOS? An IT checklist

With the end of extended support for Windows 7 drawing ever closer, companies will soon have to decide whether to move to Windows 10 or something else. This IT checklist details why macOS is a viable option.

scale balance compare apple os versus windows 10 os
Getty Images/Microsoft/Apple, modified by IDG Comm

Although Windows 10 has been available for nearly three years, many large organizations still run Windows 7 or 8. But with the end of extended support for Windows 7 less than two years away, many IT departments are only now getting their arms around what will be a necessary upgrade.

Although major upgrades and deployments can be stressful – both for IT decision-makers as well as end users – they also offer strategic opportunities to review the software and services needed to keep your company running smoothly. That makes this an ideal time to dig deep and look at what is working well in your corporate environment, what’s only sort of working – i.e. things work, but users typically have to make an effort and/or turn to kludgey workarounds to get their jobs done – and what isn’t working at all, for either users or IT.

The time and energy put into these efforts can pay long-term dividends by forcing IT managers to re-think how a company operates, what services will be needed down the road and whether the status quo is worth keeping. Since there’s likely to be disruption whether you stick with the tried-and-true (in most cases, a Windows environment) or jump to an alternative like macOS, IT leaders can take advantage of that to talk to users, ask them what works most efficiently for them, and then re-envision success.

Because of the way Apple has positioned its desktop OS – the latest version is macOS High Sierra – as well as iOS for mobile devices, the prospect of transitioning some (or perhaps all) PC users to macOS is a viable one. This allows companies to take advantage of macOS and its security/management capabilities while also giving users computers like the ones they may already use at home.

Here are eight items IT should consider when eyeing a possible move from Windows to macOS.

User preference

Although it sounds like a small thing, user choice and preferences are a really big deal. The experience of many businesses shows that when users feel a device, platform or app does a better job than the tools IT provides, they begin using their own solutions to common problems. The result is often increased productivity and satisfaction – and a deterioration of the relationship between users and IT that can lead to hostile interactions and data moving across devices IT cannot manage or even see. Meeting users where they are – and building an enterprise ecosystem to support them – can deliver incredible value in political capital as well as efficiency and productivity.

Integration with iOS

iOS has become the de facto mobile platform for business users. The iPhone and iPad offer the security and enterprise integration options that IT needs in a mobile-first world. Whether it’s with Apple’s Continuity features that allow data and tasks to easily move among devices like Macs, iPhones/iPads and even Apple Watch, or simply the ability to use the same app in both mobile and desktop iterations, iOS and macOS are designed to work hand in hand. That has significant advantages for the user experience and can be advantageous to IT.

If you are now supporting iOS devices – and given the iPhone’s popularity, most companies already are – the same management solution(s) can be used to manage Macs as well. As you add Macs, policies based on each user’s iOS device(s) are typically applied to macOS. This makes rolling out Macs and iOS devices together extremely quick and simple. Likewise, if you are using or developing iOS apps, many offer a desktop version that can be used in tandem with a users iPhone or iPad.

Windows 10 can be used, if needed

Although it may sound weird, Macs are PCs. They can boot into Windows instead of macOS using the free Boot Camp feature included with all desktop Macs (and Apple laptops). The experience is essentially the same as if a user were logged into a PC. Macs can also run Windows apps natively using virtualization tools such as those offered by Parallels and VMWare (where they can also take advantage of other VMware enterprise technologies).

This allows users and IT to have a best-of-both-worlds scenario, where macOS serves as the best-of-breed option overall, while retaining access to legacy apps or other Windows software that may be needed by some users.

Management options – think mobile

Managing Macs is generally much simpler than managing PCs. Apple has adopted a management framework based around its EMM support, meaning that virtually any solution that can manage iOS devices can be used to manage Macs. This means that there is little additional investment needed whether you choose to work with an existing tool, aim for deeper Apple-specific options like JAMF, or rely on Apple solutions such as the company’s Device Enrollment Program or Apple Configurator – and the forthcoming Apple Business Manager.

Apple’s decision to use a management framework across its devices means that Macs can essentially be treated as mobile devices. The process can be policy driven, integrated with Active Directory or similar solutions, and yet be simple and effective. The experience is an order of magnitude easier than managing PCs using Group Policies, yet it can deliver similar controls. There may be an initial learning curve in terms of implementing policies, especially if IT has to review and reconsider policies that may no longer be needed or need updating.

Such a review should be done even if you’re moving up to Windows 10 –  and it offers a chance for some virtual house cleaning that offers its own advantages, depending on the age and complexity of your current environment.

Significantly lower support costs

One of the hallmarks of Apple hardware and macOS is its reliability and Apple’s drive for simplicity in user experience. Companies of all sizes have noted that they spend less money (as well as time and other resources) supporting Macs than they do PCs. (IBM provides an excellent look at this cost savings; it noted that while Macs may be pricier out of the box, the company has been saving between $264-$535 for each Mac deployment over four years and just 3.5% of employees using a Mac will call the company help desk.

Switching to a new platform likely carries initial costs, including support for longtime Windows users during a transition. The important point here is that the need to support Windows 10 means that you’re going to face a major upgrade alongwith its associated costs and requirements, regardless. As a result, switching to macOS doesn’t have the same sticker shock as it might have a few years back.

Apps across mobile and desktop

Microsoft has tried to create an app presence that crosses between Windows on the desktop and mobile. Windows Phone/Mobile 10 is the company’s preferred strategy because an app can be written once and run on a phone, tablet, or traditional PC. The only problem is that Windows phones never developed a strong following, either in enterprise or consumer markets (despite delivering a generally positive user experience). As a result, the company has based its strategy around its apps and cloud services on other mobile platforms (the company has delivered Mac versions of its tools dating back to the earliest days of the Mac in the 1980s).

This strategy means that Microsoft is focused on feature parity for its solutions – desktop and mobile – on other platforms as opposed to restricting access to Windows.

Apple has also tackled the “universal app” concept with greater success. As I noted earlier, there are generally macOS versions of iOS apps that integrate and exchange information, tasks, and functions with little effort. Apple’s Swift programming language and development tools allow developers to create apps in tandem for both platforms (in addition to the Apple Watch and Apple TV).

That means a streamlined experience for mobile workers when they need a desktop solution as well as a mobile one. It also reduces the cost of development and the associated resources and staffing, particularly given that Apple appears to be creating a single code base for its platforms. Swift is a powerful, yet very simple, language to use for creating apps. As Apple’s newest platforms develop and find use cases in the office, this offers an easy way to expand business tools in unified ways.

Integration with existing systems

In the past, Apple’s reputation for working with non-Apple solutions was pretty grim. Over the past decade, however, Apple has gone from being an enterprise outcast (its products filled with proprietary requirements) to being a stellar enterprise citizen. Macs can join Active Directory, sync with Exchange and integrate with a host of enterprise and cloud services with very little effort or the need for specialized tools. This means that users can access the same resources and have the same level of authentication and authorization for accessing resources as they do on Windows 10.

Apple’s enterprise partners

No matter how good the solution, no vendor is an island. Apple’s push into the enterprise is far from a one-company effort. It has also established numerous relationships with other major IT vendors, including IBM, Cisco, SAP, Deloitte, GE and Accenture to offer integrated solutions at every stage of the IT stack. This illustrates that Apple is not only a best-in-class option for business, but that it has staying power. Real business solutions are not just possible, they can deliver unique and targeted solutions for a range of business types and industries.

Small business needs

Apple has long been a friend of small business, offering low-cost and cross-platform solutions that are easy to configure and maintain. Apple seems to have backed away from this market with removal of several key options from its macOS Server solution. At the same time, it appears to be pushing ahead with new, easier-to-manage tools like Apple Business Manager, a service Apple has teased that appears to provide an easy-to-use management framework in a web-based solution akin to Apple School Manager.

This cloud solution appears to provide some of the capabilities of macOS Server, with the services expected sometime late spring (an extensive PDF for the beta version is already available). This could provide an even better small business option or encourage those in the SMB space to build integrated environments with other options if Apple Business Manager itself doesn’t meet their needs.

Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.

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