Mac OS X, Snow Leopard; What you should know before upgrading your business

The last month has been very exciting and worrisome all at the same time. Why, you ask? Well, because Snow Leopard was released early, some companies that issue mission-critical business software were not prepared to deliver proper compatibility of their applications with the new operating system. Some companies didn’t even acknowledge their programs’ compatibility status with Snow Leopard (I’m looking at you, Intuit) with a timely announcement on their website or an e-mail to their registered users when 10.6 was released in late August! This was the worrisome part.  As far as the exciting part goes, I’m smiling ear to ear and enjoying every minute of my experience using Mac OS X 10.6!

Like most Mac users, I am very excited to be using the very best hardware and software out there to keep my personal and professional lives manageable and fun!

When a new operating system is released by Apple, typically the user experience gets better.

Your computers generally benefit from an uptick in performance thanks to under–the-hood and end-user refinements, all which make the time you spend at your computer that much more pleasurable and efficient.

This has been my experience with Snow Leopard so far.

Having said that, when it comes to mission-critical applications that you rely on daily from which you produce your livelihood, upgrading at the moment a new OS becomes available may not be the most practical approach.

Quickbooks for Mac is one case in point, among others. Some companies rely exclusively on this one program to run their business.

In most healthcare practices, we rely on practice management software to keep our patient clinical and financial records straight. Of course, smaller programs that allow your office to function successfully in managing employees, faxes and backups should also be compatible with your operating system.

Prudence is required when changing the overall system software these applications rely on, otherwise your business’s cash flow can suffer significantly.

I would take a slow and staged approach to upgrading Mac OS X.

I use a MacBook Pro at home to access MacPractice and Quickbooks as needed to manage my office from home. As the machines at my physical office location are more critical to the function of the practice, upgrading to Snow Leopard on my home notebook first was a consideration.

This would allow me to test out compatibility of all the applications my office uses instead of blindly going on faith that the software companies “have my back” with respect to compatibility with the upgrade.

Most developers at this point have updated their applications to be compatible with Snow Leopard, including Intuit (At Last!) for Quickbooks 2009 for Mac (no other version will be supported on 10.6) . Make sure you upgrade to the R8.2 version that was released by Intuit on September 15, 2009 to ensure compatibility with Snow Leopard.

Having said that, there are still some minor issues with compatibility with other mission-critical applications for my office, including MacPractice, my practice management software. For this reason, I am holding off on performing a full office upgrade at this time.

Apple has released an official list of software that will not work on 10.6.

If, after you have done your due diligence gathering the necessary information on Snow Leopard compatibility for those “can’t work without these” applications you use daily in your business and you see no critical roadblocks to the upgrade, then read on:

First and foremost, a good backup is required prior to undertaking this potentially hazardous activity if the upgrade manages to corrupt all your files on your Mac. Although it is Apple we’re dealing with, expect the best but be prepared for the worst seems to be solid advice.

I use SuperDuper! but Carbon Copy Cloner will perform the same function.

The reason I like this solution compared to Apple’s Time Machine is that these programs will make your external hard drives bootable so you can check that your backup actually works and if a calamity occurs, you can always do a fresh Snow Leopard install and migrate your applications, files and preferences through Migration Assistant (using a FireWire connection only).

Once your backup is completed, install Snow Leopard by just double clicking on the install disk and following the onscreen prompts. Apple has made this very straightforward and simple for most users. My Macbook Pro with 300 GB of information stored on my hard drive upgraded to Snow Leopard seamlessly in 50 minutes and returned about 10 GB back to me as unused hard drive space for use as I please!

It also will automatically detect any programs that were written for the PowerPC platform and install Rosetta so that those applications will still function under the new, intel only, operating system.

After the seamless upgrade, I found that most of my applications functioned extremely well and the whole system on Snow Leopard just seemed faster and more responsive than it did on Leopard.

Overall I am very happy with Snow Leopard and for $29 it is, as they say in business, “a must have!”

How did your upgrade experiences go? Any system enhancements or performance issues worth commenting about?

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