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Mac or PC for business?

Thinking head with power on and off buttonApple’s products have soared in popularity in recent years, with the iPhone and iPad capturing people’s imaginations. While Apple only holds a small proportion of the computer market, increasing numbers of people are looking to their products. Is it time to consider a Mac for your business?

PC and Mac compatibility

Traditionally, Macs and PCs have occupied different areas of the business IT market. “The PC world was very structured, with lots of restrictions,” says Andy Nunn, director of The PC-Mac Support Company. “Macs were for more creative industries, but over the last few years there’s been a convergence.”

Jen HolmesAs a result, it’s become easy to run PCs and Macs on the same computer network and to share files. “I’ve never had any compatibility issues,” confirms Jen Holmes, who runs The Friendly Copywriting Company and has used a Mac since 2008. “Everything you need is available on both.”

The range of business software for Macs has increased enormously, too. “For years, Windows had a bigger choice of software,” explains John Baxter, systems administrator at Data HQ, which moved its sales team to Macs from PCs. “Now you can get equivalent Mac software for virtually everything.”

There are still some packages — usually specialist software — which are only available on PCs. However, even that doesn’t need to cause problems as you can use a tool like Boot Camp to run Microsoft Windows on your Mac.

Macs are more expensive

With few software differences, cost is often the decisive factor. A powerful Apple laptop — such as a MacBook Pro — costs around £1,100-£1,600. Yet a PC of similar specification from Dell can be had for £700-£900. And while entry-level PCs cost £200-£300, it’s impossible to buy any sort of Mac for that price.

Of course, you’re not just paying for the specification. Macs rank consistently well for build quality and reliability. “Even after a few years, Macs are still very good machines,” confirms John. “You’re likely to have to upgrade PCs more often.”

But although Macs may last a bit longer than PCs, you probably won’t make significant savings in other areas. “Support costs are about the same,” says Andy. “If anything, you might end up paying a little more for support from a Mac specialist.”

Nick DainesNick Daines from Lumen PR opted for PCs over Macs when buying computers for his firm: “We were looking at a pair of MacBook Airs. But compared to PCs, they’re relatively expensive. They’re well designed, so they’re arguably still good value for money, but we wanted to spend a bit less on our laptops.”

Is a PC or Mac easier to use?

Despite the cost factor pushing him towards PCs, Nick acknowledges Macs have a key strength: “The user experience is better.” Indeed, Apple has become known for making its products simple and enjoyable to use.

John Baxter agrees: “It’s my experience that people enjoy using Macs more. This makes them less likely to grumble — they’re more positive and more productive.”

Although it’s hard to quantify any productivity gains from the switch, he found people at his company required minimal training to start using Macs. “We spent about half an hour showing them the basics, then left them to it. It was a breath of fresh air for a lot of them to realise things just worked.”

PC and Mac security

Viruses and malware are much more common on Microsoft Windows-based PCs. Hackers target them because there are far more PCs out there. “There are fewer viruses for Macs, but as Macs become more popular the risks will grow,” explains John.

What’s more, Macs can pass infections on to other PCs. “Do you want to be a carrier and infect your clients?” asks Andy. “That’s why all our Macs have security software — we use the avast! package.”

He also notes that it can be trickier to manage a network of Macs, because Apple’s network software lacks some features common on PCs. “Central management and security controls are easier to implement with PCs,” he argues. “With Macs, it’s harder to structure your network to ensure you’re getting backups and that data is stored centrally.”

Is it about image?

The decision whether to buy a Mac or PC often hinges on image. “I work in advertising and marketing industries,” explains Jen. “People want someone who knows the latest technology. It’s shallow and ridiculous, but having a sleek Mac is more impressive than having a big PC.”

But it cuts both ways. Nick Daines thinks his clients prefer him to have a PC, “Our clients are technology firms — I think PCs mark us as more serious people who get the job done,” he says.

The key, as John Baxter explains, is to focus on your specific situation: “The driving factor for us was a business reason. Our sales team was getting bogged down, and that was eroding our profits.

“It wasn’t about us wanting to switch to Macs. It was about finding the solution that would make everyone’s life easier — and that just happened to be from Apple.”

Two hands with pros and consPros and cons

PCs tend to be:

  • Cheaper upfront
  • More familiar to your staff
  • Built from standard components
  • More prone to virus infection
  • A bit easier to manage on a network

Macs tend to be:

  • More expensive
  • Very easy to adjust to
  • Well designed and built
  • Safer from viruses and malware
  • Good if you want the ‘wow factor’

There’s little difference when it comes to:

  • The range of software available
  • Using the internet, email and key software like Microsoft Office
  • File types and compatibility — it’s easy to share files between systems


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