Managers take a bite of Apple for their agencies

Tuesday - 11/15/2011, 6:53am EST

David Johnson, senior analyst, Forrester

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By Michael O'Connell
Web Editor
Federal News Radio

Employees are using Macs more than ever and even bringing them to work. But many managers are still apprehensive about putting Macs on the company network. David Johnson, a senior analyst at Forrester, has been looking at what managers need to do to integrate Apples into their agency's network.

"Obviously, the more regulated industries are struggling with security and other things a bit more," Johnson said. "However, those that have been successful at bringing them in are taking what I call a laissez faire approach. They're allowing them to come in. They're configuring them for email, helping employees get them configured on the network, in some cases deploying Windows Virtual machines to help."

Setting up virtual desktops is one way to ease the process. "The reason for that is that it takes time for companies to make major changes to backend line-of-business applications and other things so that they're compatible in new browsers and so on and new operating systems," said Johnson, in an interview with In Depth with Francis Rose.

"So in those cases, it makes more sense sometimes for a company to deploy a Windows virtual machine, either host it in the data center or residence on top of the Mac, to allow that kind of access without having to modernize infrastructure."

In the past, Mac "power users" were typically "creative types," such as graphic designers and members of the marketing department. "But what you're seeing now is executive board rooms filled with Macs, chief architects, enterprise architects using Macs, sales reps and traveling road warriors," Johnson said. "By all measures, these are high performing people, and they're showing an increasing preference for Macs and that's in the data."

In his research, Johnson found that many Windows management tools and derivative added capabilities are available for Mac management that would be adequate for agencies to use. But, in general, the customers that he and his colleagues interviewed said they had their greatest success with buying a "best of breed" Mac or iPhone or iPad-type management tool for those specific needs.

"The reason was those tools are typically designed with absolute focus on those platforms and so they're easier to use for those purposes," Johnson said.

The key to successfully integrating Macs into a workplace was picking solutions that solved specific challenges.

"There are a couple of things that in a Windows environment stand out as challenges for Macs," Johnson said. "One of them is active directory and group policy. So, being able to apply those to Macs as you do to Windows machines to enforce password policies and replicate user accounts and so on."

The other thing that works better is Windows file sharing. "Most companies and organizations have lots of documents and so forth stored on Windows file shares on the network," Johnson said. "And accessing those is not always a perfectly smooth process from Macintosh. So there are a couple of companies that make software that makes that easier."