With 20 years’ experience, we like to think we’ve played a key part in helping UK businesses to understand the benefits of cross-platform environments. As well as providing a wide range of hardware and ensuring our support and engineering teams are qualified to help our customers through Mac/PC crises, we were the first ever Enterprise Device Alliance Systems Integrator, meaning we’ve been working closely with manufacturers like Absolute Software, Centrify and GroupLogic to deliver the software that’ll bring your hardware closer together, no matter what platform it runs on.
With all this in mind, we thought it was time to get our engineer Dave to give us his top tips for getting started with mixed platform environments…
Do you go for a Mac server or PC one?
“If you have someone familiar with Mac OS X on your team, there’s no harm in going for the traditional ‘Golden Triangle’ method of integration, where a Mac OS X and a Windows server work in tandem to give your Macs access to Active Directory. However, lots of corporate tech teams don’t have an Apple geek to hand, so incorporating Mac servers can seem more daunting or time-consuming than it’s worth. One way around this is to use Centrify’s DirectControl software, which sits on your Mac devices and makes your Windows server see them as PCs, so you can manage authentication and policies on all devices as if they were the PCs you know and (sort of) love.”
Improve compatibility between the two platforms.
In any cross-platform environment, you’re going to come up against incompatibility issues – it’s inevitable – and one of the most common when it comes to accessing Windows servers on a Mac is greyed out files. ExtremeZ-IP by GroupLogic is a Windows-based tool that taps into the Mac’s native Apple Filing Protocol (AFP) and lets Mac users access Windows file and print servers as if they were PC users, without coming up against inaccessible and corrupted files. Essentially it sits on your servers, making the user experience seamless and giving you enterprise level security, all without anyone ever really knowing it’s there.
Run Windows on your Macs.
“Boot Camp, which comes built into Mac OS X, allows users to choose between an OS X environment and a Windows one at startup. While it’s a cheap way to get your users access to both platforms (all you need to buy is a Windows licence), the two environments are completely separate, and you have to reboot to move between them.
If your users are demanding access to Windows-only and OS X-only applications at the same time, grab yourself some desktop virtualisation software. Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion are the big names in this space – Fusion has excellent built in security features, Parallels has the power needed for doing things like CAD or media work via a virtual desktop – and both will let you access a Windows desktop from within your Mac one without having to log out or reboot.”
Stream Windows desktops to your Macs from a central server.
“If you need to maintain tighter control over who does what with their Windows apps, or want to conserve resources by only allowing certain users access to certain programs, take a look at Citrix XenDesktop. It lets you host Windows desktops on a central server and stream them to individual Macs on demand. From an admin point of view this is awesome – you can update apps on your server rather than client machines, so everyone’s always streaming the latest version. You can create different desktops for different user groups or roles, so people are only streaming what you need, and you can grant different permissions to, say, remote and in-office workers, so that no-one can save mission-critical information to their home computer.”
It’s time to lay down the law
As well as being accredited by VMware, Microsoft and many others, our 20 years’ industry experience means we’re well placed to help you review security, compliance and governance requirements and draw up best practices. Our consultants can make recommendations on software to ensure you meet official guidelines without robbing employees of motivation, innovation or well-earned Facebook time…