PCs, Macs and mobiles: Our guide to cross-platform integration

With Macs making their way into the workplace and students using a broader range of technology than ever at home, it’s increasingly important that schools equip students with the skills to tackle either platform. For schools which already have an existing Mac suite (it’s probably in your media department) this is just a question of expansion, but if you’re encountering Macs for the first time, it might feel a little intimidating. With that in mind, we present our top tips for smoother Mac/PC integration.

1) Add Windows to your Macs

If you already have Windows licences, or know that some staff and students will need access to platform-specific apps, you can opt to access Windows software from your Macs. The cheapest way to do this is through Boot Camp – a feature built in to OS X that lets you choose to boot in Mac or Windows mode at startup. In Windows mode, your Mac will be able to open Windows files and access programs that typically only work on PCs – fantastic news if you can only support a limited number of machines, but a bit slow as you have to reboot to switch between operating systems, and can’t access your Windows and OS X resources at the same time.

If you need to work with Mac OS X and Windows simultaneously, take a look at desktop virtualisation solutions. Simpler versions like VMware Fusion or Parallels Desktop allow you to host a Windows environment on your Mac, giving your students access to a Windows environment alongside their Mac one. More advanced virtualisation solutions even let you save different versions of the Windows desktop centrally on your school’s servers, and users can stream the appropriate one to their desktop when they need it. This means distance learners and students in a classroom see the same desktop and can’t access any apps they don’t need, while teachers and tech teams can have customised, more comprehensive Windows workspaces. There’s even an app from Parallels that means you can get access to your Windows apps from your iPad!

2) Manage everything with Windows servers

When you set up a cross-platform environment, you often use OS X and Windows servers running side by side to manage security policies and access to resources. This is known as the ‘Golden Triangle’ method and, while it’s reliable and fairly easy to manage, it can be difficult to set up if you don’t have anyone with Mac expertise on your IT team. Fortunately, there are plenty of third-party tools to help your Macs run on Windows servers alone. Centrify’s DirectControl makes your Macs look like Windows PCs to your servers, so they can be managed in the same way using the same tools, while GroupLogic’s ExtremeZ-IP makes sure that Windows and OS X users can access the same files and resources.

All of this means that your IT team don’t have to learn a new system, which in turn means fewer glitches, less downtime and a more seamless experience for students and staff, whichever platform they’re using. As an Enterprise Device Alliance Systems Integrator, we can help you get your hands on the software and hardware you’ll need, run proof of concept schemes and deploy whichever solution you choose. (Our endlessly patient tech support team are also on hand should anything go wrong.)

3) Manage Macs and mobile devices together

If staff or students are using devices like iPad or iPod touch and you’re using Mobile Device Management software like JAMF’s Casper or Absolute’s Absolute Manage, there is a version of the software available for desktop Macs too, so your team shouldn’t have to tackle too steep a learning curve. Casper can handle iOS devices and Macs, while Absolute Manage can tackle iOS, Android, PCs and Macs.

To find out more about making Macs and PCs work together, call us on 03332 409 333 or email learning@Jigsaw24.com

Simon S
Simon S
Call us: 03332 409 306