As the Mac OS is merely a blip on the radar screen of most professionals in the IT world, I want this column to answer the “why” questions. As in, why is it worth my time to understand this, and simply, why Mac?
First, a bit of background: I am a longtime predominantly Apple hardware user, turned software technician, turned MIS manager for Cookie Time here in sunny Christchurch. I consider myself a Mac OS specialist but I’ve had a good amount of experience supporting and playing with the various flavours of Windows, GNU/Linux and Unix. My responsibilities are typical of an IS manager in a medium-sized company. The principal task is to develop the business’s information systems but I also play a technical support and IT supplier account management role.
On the support side of the job, there is a requirement to look after about 70 staff and distributors. The staff are all located at the factory here in Christchurch, but the distributors are spread around the country from Whangarei to Winton. For that reason, when a decision was made to open up our FirstClass Intranet Server to them in order to enable more effective communications, the company opted to supply them with a complete system to minimise support issues. This requirement was crucial to the success of the project, because the technical skills of those in the Cookie Time distribution network range from proficient to never having used a mouse in their lives before becoming a distributor.
We’ve used Mac OS-based computers almost exclusively within the business since soon after the original Macintosh's introduction in 1984. The two main reasons for standardising on the Mac at the time were hardware reliability and ease of networking. Both of these kept support costs low and enabled the business to run its network of around 20 computers without on-site technical support until 1997.
Given that, the original "Bondi Blue" iMac with its simple but powerful design was the logical choice for the distributors. Their introduction was such a success that the company decided to upgrade all of the internal staff machines as well; and in the three years since, only two of the roughly 50 original machines have suffered a problem serious enough to require replacement of a piece of hardware. In both instances the problem didn't stop the user from using the machine, just from turning it off via the Shutdown command.
We’ve seen the same great reliability on the software side, with all bar about 10% of the original machines still running the same copy of the OS that was installed in early 1999.
That reliability means I can easily support a dispersed network of 70 people and still have about 90% of my time left for working on projects to improve the company's IT infrastructure. For Cookie Time, then, an Apple yesterday has definitely kept the Mac doctor away.
Chris White is MIS manager at Cookie Time in Christchurch.