Switching your business to a Mac? Here’s What You Need To Know

Here is my story of switching to a Mac and why switching over to a Mac could work for you or your business.

I switched my professional computers from PCs to Macs in June 2007.

If I had not switched at that time, I would have been forced to “upgrade” my computer system to new hardware from Dell and Windows Vista.

The potential hassles of significant IT support, as well as compatibility and productivity constraints that have been widely reported from consumers to businesses who have “upgraded”, could have severely curtailed my ability to schedule, evaluate and treat my patients, in turn making expenses difficult to settle, including payroll, with resultant devastating consequences. 

If I had not switched to Macs, I could have suffered significant, possibly even total, loss of my business in the “upgrade” process or thereafter.

Such loss would have been especially devastating during the current weak economic climate.

Because I have already been down this path, I will provide you with important information that you should be aware of when switching to a Mac and that will hopefully remove the anxiety associated with such a change. 

Here are a few questions that may come to mind in your decision to switch platforms and their respective answers:

1. Can I transfer all of my data and how do I do this?

You should be able to transfer all of your data from your PC to your new Mac. There are many different ways to do this.

In general, most basic files such as .pdf and .jpg should easily port over to your Mac. Some files will require additional software in order to retain their exact format. These include Microsoft Office files, .doc, .xsl and .ppt.

Physically moving the files can involve an external hard drive, ethernet cable or even a specific cable from Belkin that is designed to transfer files and preference settings from a PC to a Mac.

If you use specialized applications, such as practice management or other specialized database software, to run your practice or business, you will need to check with the developer to determine whether there are Mac native solutions available.

If there are not, you may have to explore alternative options for your specific needs.

When I moved to a Mac, I utilized a leading practice management application company that develops only for the Mac for my healthcare office needs. I currently use MacPractice and it works very well.

Transferring data from one database to another will have to be investigated as all or only certain information may be able to be ported depending on the database programs used.

However, even in those instances where none or partial data is portable to the new database, there may very well be a work around to this scenario.

2. Will I know how to use the operating system?

Mac OS X (the Mac Operating System) is not difficult to master but, like most things in life, it will take some adjustment. Microsoft based its graphical user interface on the Mac OS and so learning how to get around the new operating system should not be too demanding.

In addition, the ease of use and intuitive nature of Mac OS X will decrease or eliminate IT problems because most of the time things “just work” without having to tinker too much under the hood.

If something needs attention, for the most part, you will be able to troubleshoot such issues and solve them by taking advantage of Apple’s stellar support directly. It helps that Apple designs the hardware and the operating system software.

HINT for business users: Buy a notebook, like a MacBook for personal use to get used to it and you’ll find your groove in no time. I did this and within three weeks I was very comfortable using my MacBook Pro.

3. Will I be able to run all my programs?

Most applications on Windows have counterparts or good alternatives for the Mac. Microsoft Office is a prime example, although superb lower-budget replacements are available if needed, such as iWork and NeoOffice.

In the rare instance where there are no suitable replacements, the flexibility of the Mac can allow you to run any operating system, including Windows, through virtualization. 

This allows you to run Windows-only programs side by side with your Mac applications on the very same computer! I will go into more detail about this later.

4. How much does it cost?

This question is the one I hear most often from family, friends and colleagues.

While a superb computing experience is greatly desired by everyone, whether the price matches or outweighs its practicality is an important factor for most, if not all, of us. Whether Macs are more expensive than their PC brethren is an old debate that is not as clear cut as it once was.

If you do a side by side comparison of price between PC and Apple hardware by specification only, Apple is very competitive.

Moreover, if you take the total cost of ownership into account, including useful free software that comes included on your Mac such as iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, iWeb, iChat etc., the fact that no anti-virus software is necessary on a Mac, the fact that you will probably have lower costs associated with IT support, and that you may have fewer incidents of business interruption on a Mac, then the winner (Apple Mac), becomes clearly apparent.

Here is a bit more detail about the durability of a Mac:

Support for older Apple computers is generally longer lasting than their PC counterparts.

Mac OS X, since its release in 2000, has seen steady and regular updates with each update bringing a speedier, more stable version and a multitude of new innovative functions.

In fact, an older Mac will also benefit from a speed boost, among several other perks, when a new version of the OS is loaded onto it!

Mac OS X has historically retained better compatibility with third-party software and peripherals than Microsoft Windows has. 

Moreover, your present PC system may require you to run off of a dedicated server for your office to function properly, but because Apple Macs come with fairly powerful specifications, always providing up-to-date, state-of-the-art components, Macs may be able to function as both a server and a work station, depending on the size of your computer network, thereby eliminating the need for extra hardware and cost (This scenario occurred in my office).

It also serves to avoid rapid obsolescence and premature hardware failure.

5. Is the operating system stable, reliable and more secure than Windows?

Mac OS X is built on top of a UNIX foundation.

UNIX is an industrial grade operating system created by Bell labs in the late 1960’s with networking and security as core features.

Because of those roots, Mac OS X is inherently more secure than any Windows operating system. No significant virus threat exists for the Mac OS X platform.

Other dangers, such as trojans or phishing scams, are not prevented by operating system security, but rather by user education and discretion.

And while no operating system is 100% secure, Mac OS X is more secure than Windows based on its architecture and permissions set up which makes it much more difficult for viruses to wreak havoc.

You don’t need to run anti-virus software on your Mac, unless you will be running Windows on it and even in that case, you will need to run the anti-virus program on the Windows volume only.

You may think about getting an anti-virus program for your Mac if you constantly transfer files between your Windows environment and your Mac environment and share them with other Windows computers, not because your Mac will get infected, because it won’t, but because the virus files will pass through your Mac to the unwitting PC Windows computer any may continue propagation of the malicious code on that machine.

6. Do you want to use a computer that can run any program your situation calls for?

Apple switched from using Power PC to Intel processors in 2006. This made it possible to run any other operating systems on Apple hardware that require Intel processors to run at native speeds. This includes Windows and Linux operating systems, among others.

It is now possible to run Windows on your Mac through different methods, all of which take advantage of Apple’s superb hardware – even to the point of running Windows Vista better on a Mac than on any other PC hardware!

The different ways to run Windows and associated applications on a Mac include Boot Camp (comes standard with Mac OS X Leopard 10.5, copy of Microsoft OS required), Virtualization via Parallels Desktop for Mac ($79.99), VMware Fusion ($79.99) or VirtualBox (Free) (all virtualization applications require a copy of Microsoft or any supported operating system) and finally CodeWeavers CrossOver Mac ($69.95) which doesn’t require any additional programs, not even a copy of the Windows operating system to run only supported Windows applications.

Each approach has advantages and disadvantages that I will review in another article.

I run Mac OS X (10.4) Tiger and Windows XP virtualized through Parallels to run a program that is not supported on Mac OS X. The program acquires digital radiographs.

It works just fine on my Mac and without any noticeable decrease in Windows performance. There is no need to buy additional hardware to run this program.

For more information about me, click here.

These are but a few thoughts to ponder when contemplating the switch to an Apple Mac.

Apple Macs may be the appropriate solution for you if your goals are to move to a platform that (i) has consistently shown innovation, continuous and steady updates, (ii) has hardware that can run any operating system and, therefore, any application, and (iii) contains well-built hardware with terrific support behind it.

I chose Apple to give me the tools to successfully support my practice, now and into the future, regardless of whatever challenges may arise, and I am glad I did!

What are some of your concerns? What is preventing you from using Apple Macs? If you have already switched, what are some of your thoughts?

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