How creative professionals struggle with Mac/SMB file sharing​

How creative professionals struggle with Mac/SMB file sharing​

The presence of Apple Macs in business is growing and IT administrators must take special steps to ensure that Mac users can effectively utilise basic services like network file access, searching, sharing, and printing.

These basic services become even more important when employees using Macs are highly collaborative creative professionals like designers, publishers, and video editors who perform much more frequent network-based files-related activities than the typical worker, and often on much larger files.

The unique IT requirements of creative professionals include software (e.g., design application suites like Adobe Creative Cloud), hardware (e.g., Apple desktops and tablets, and more scalable storage), high-performance search capabilities through large-scale file libraries, and the ability to easily share files with Windows servers and desktops.

Anyone who has worked in a mixed Mac/Windows shop knows that the two environments have significant compatibility issues. Creatives on Macs often suffer server performance and usability handicaps that severely and adversely affect their productivity and satisfaction with their work environment.

Problem 1: Connecting Macs to file-sharing systems

A first-response solution might be to use an Apple solution. However, the problem with this approach is that Apple servers have severe scaling limitations and they struggle to accommodate businesses with anywhere near 100 employees. A useful discussion of this topic can be found here. Worse, Apple discontinued the Xserve in 2011 and it is inevitable that Xserve product support will be discontinued eventually, too.

The only real solution to accommodate large heterogeneous Mac/Windows workloads is to use a Windows File Server, in combination with network-attached storage (NAS) or a storage-area network (SAN). This requires the use of Microsoft’s file-sharing protocol, Server Message Block (SMB), which presents significant compatibility issues in mixed Mac/Windows environments.

Apple has its own protocol for network file sharing – Apple Filing Protocol (AFP) – but most NAS devices and Windows file servers natively communicate only via SMB. The vast majority of businesses rely on SMB, SAN, and NAS for file sharing and storage.

Problem 2: Editing files directly on file servers

Creative organisations and departments share a common need to edit files directly from a server. Adobe does not support direct volume mounting. However: “Adobe Technical Support only supports using Photoshop and Adobe Bridge on a local hard disk. It’s difficult to re-create or accurately identify network and peripheral-configuration problems.”

This presents an obstacle for users of popular Adobe design applications, notably Photoshop. The alternative to pointing Photoshop at a mounted server volume (a controversial practice) is copying files directly to the Mac to edit. This turns out to be an untenable solution when dealing with many large files. Though not officially supported, many companies want Adobe’s software to point at mounted volumes, as this approach streamlines work processes and enables multiple users to work from a centralised storage location.

Problem 3: Macs searching through file shares

Creative professionals rely heavily on Apple Spotlight and its ability to provide fast, sophisticated filename and content searches through multiple servers containing thousands or even millions of files. They expect and need this network-based file search function to work the same way it does on their local hard drives.

This is a big problem, as Spotlight’s search functionality is not supported when Macs connect to NAS devices or Windows servers through SMB. As a result, content search from Macs does not work on Windows servers and most NAS devices, and ordinary file searches can take minutes or hours, instead of seconds. This greatly diminished search functionality has a hugely adverse effect on a Mac user’s productivity.

How Acronis Access Connect solves these problems

Acronis Access Connect allows Macs to connect to Windows file shares using AFP – Apple’s native file sharing protocol – by acting as an AFP file server running directly on a Windows server.

With Acronis Access Connect, organisations can quickly install a simple solution that eliminates these stubborn incompatibility problems, enabling Mac users to exist harmoniously and work productively in a Windows-based environment. Apple Spotlight search works properly. Problems with file naming, file access permissions, network printing, unreliable file transfers, and slow server performance disappear.

Consider the examples of two companies that overcame their Mac/Windows compatibility issues by using Acronis Access Connect:


Quad/Graphics’ Media division faced compatibility issues that impeded its ability to share files across the organisation. It sought to integrate a mixed Mac/Windows environment of 600 Mac desktops and 50 Windows Servers, but the systems struggled to communicate. Quad/Graphics implemented Acronis Access Connect to give its Mac users fast and immediate access to Windows file servers. Acronis offered the only Windows-based AFP server solution to support all Mac versions.

The results were extremely positive, and later, Quad/Graphics had expanded its print operations to 30 sites worldwide. Their IT infrastructure was able to develop and expand, free of any Mac/Windows compatibility restrictions.

Phoenix Printing Plates Ltd.

Phoenix Printing Plates initially opted to create a Mac/Windows environment without Acronis Access Connect. They suffered from the common misconception that Apple/Microsoft compatibility issues had dwindled over time and that Apple’s official support of Microsoft SMB had eliminated the old incompatibility problems.

They quickly discovered that this was not the case. Mac to Windows Server connections were possible, but they suffered from a range of stubborn problems: long delays, the inability to rename or move files, time-consuming and inaccurate searches, and overall slow performance. Phoenix Printing Plates had looked to a new Windows server infrastructure to improve productivity and enable their team’s objectives, but it wasn’t until deploying Acronis Access Connect that they were truly able to do so. Restoration of full Spotlight search functionality and performance and fast, trouble-free file sharing with Windows servers made Phoenix Printing Plates’ Mac users productive and happy again.

If you want to try Acronis Access Connect, you can sign up for a 21 day free trial here.

To find out more, give us a call on 03332 409 306 or email For all the latest news, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter, or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

This blog originally appeared on the official Acronis blog, which you can read here

Business iPad app of the month: Slack

Business iPad app of the month: Slack

This month, we’ve turned our attention towards creative businesses and have chosen an app that has proved popular with creative types (according to our recent Apple in business survey). Our app of the month for this month is Slack, an app that is compatible with iOS and Mac, making it a great choice for businesses using multiple devices.

What is it?

A chat tool and alternate method of communication for teams within businesses to use instead of email. You can use Slack for realtime messaging, file sharing, and supporting one-to-one and group conversations.

How does it work?

Slack is essentially like a fancy Facebook Messenger, but you can pass it off as work. Once you’ve downloaded the app, created a Slack account and signed into it you’ll be greeted by Slack’s cheerful and smart opening window. From this window, you can access and set up your Channels (group conversations), Direct Messages and Private Groups (for when you’re feeling secretive). Channels can be accessed by all of your team, so you can set them up for all of your projects, and use them to gain visibility and keep tabs on your work.

Slack can be integrated with many of your other popular apps including Dropbox, Asana, Google+, Twitter and Google Drive. Unfortunately for us, Slack doesn’t integrate with our most popular day to day apps like Salesforce and Traffic, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t still enjoy using it and find it useful.

Who is it for?

Slack is for any business looking for an alternative method of communication and file sharing which is compatible across devices. We like using Slack within our copywriter team for brain storming and being able to keep visibility over shared projects.

What’s the best feature?

The cross-platform ability is great (Slack syncs between the iPad app, desktop app and browser version, so you’re never away from your projects), but the best feature has to be the joyfully whimsical Slackbot. You can use Slackbot as your own personal support, so if you need to query something or don’t understand a feature (which is rare – it’s a very simple app to use) you can put your questions to Slackbot. To use Slackbot, all you need to do is go into the Slackbot Direct Meesage and start typing “/” to see the list of Slackbot commands. You can use Slackbot to set up reminders for yourself, send feedback to Slack, invite members to join your Channels and change your preferences.

How much is it and where can I get it?

You can get Slack for free on the App Store (for both iOS and Mac). It’s free to download, create an account and use – there’s no hidden costs.

Want to know more about making the most of iPad in business? Give our team a call on 03332 409 306 or email To find out more about app development and our b7 scheme visit For all the latest news and tips, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook.



Setting up your Mac as an OS X Server – File Sharing

Setting up your Mac as an OS X Server – File Sharing

Using your Mac (whether that be iMac, Mac mini, MacBook Pro or MacBook Air) as a server is just one of the many uses Mac has within your business. We’ve been looking at the basic setup of Mac to a Server, using the Profile Manager tool, File Sharing and the benefits this can bring to your employees.

While we were sad to see Mac mini with OS X Server be discontinued earlier this year, we’re glad that you can download the Server app from the App Store here for £13.99 and run it this way. The Server app is fully compatible with OS X Yosemite and is easy to install, set up and manage within your business.

After you install the OS X Server software, the Server app walks you through the configuration process, whether you’re setting up a small business network or connecting to your companies existing networks. The Server app lets you quickly manage users and groups on the Server and, if you haven’t done so, set up all your key services.

The latest update to OS X Server brings more power, control and collaboration to your organisation, so everyone on your team can work together more effectively. Use your Server for File Sharing, Profile Manager, Caching Server, Xcode Server, Time Machine, Wiki Server, Calendar, Contacts and Mail Servers and Xsan 4. Here’s File Sharing…

File Sharing with OS X Server and Mac

Use your Mac-powered Server for File Sharing within the business. With the File Sharing tool you can share folders, exchange files and access documents on your Mac, iPad or PC. Once your devices are set up to your Server, your employees can access and share files with each other. Whether your employees are working onsite or remotely, they can safely share files without jeopardising the confidentially of the information they share. SMB3 is the new, super-fast protocol for sharing files in OS X Server. It works to protect against tampering and eavesdropping by encrypting and signing data ‘in flight’. There’s also file-sharing connection monitoring, so you can see who’s accessing your server, who’s connected and for how long.

For those of you thinking about or already running a Server for File Sharing, it’s worth noting that we offer a solution that allows integration between Macs to Windows file servers if that’s your thing. Take a look at Acronis’ “ExtremeZ-IP File and Print Server here.

Want to know more about Mac? Give our team a call on 03332 409 306 or email For all the latest news and tips, follow @WeAreJigsaw24 on Twitter or ‘Like’ us on Facebook