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Mac vs. PC – which is best for small businesses?

December 22, 2010

Information technology is always a significant financial investment for a small business or start up – getting the right system in place has a massive impact on efficiency, productivity and the day to day running of a company. However, it can be difficult to get impartial advice on the system that is right for a specific business. For those without much IT experience or know how, the assortment of choice on the market can be bewildering. One of most fiercely debated arguments revolves around the respective merits of a PC versus an Apple product for business use.

James Clark of IT business provider Symitry IT North has this provided some useul advice for small businesses looking to invest in their IT.

The pros and cons

The argument for Mac vs. PC pretty much boils down to the operating system, i.e. Mac OSX vs. Microsoft Windows. In terms of hardware, Macs and PCs are very similar. Both use the same core components – a motherboard, processor, memory and storage – but it is the way in which these components are utilised that makes the difference. Macs tend to come in three distinct flavours: basic (such as the Mac Mini or MacBook Air), mainstream (iMac or MacBook) and high end (Mac Pro or MacBook Pro); whereas Windows based PCs and notebooks come in a wide variety of specifications to suit individual needs.

Pricewise, a Mac costs around the same as a Windows based PC with a similar specification, although the wider range of PC specifications on offer may make this the better option for some. However, it is worth remembering that unlike a PC, an iMac comes with a monitor, webcam and speakers. But the problem comes when upgrading the system at a later date. Whilst it is easy to add extra components such as a more powerful graphics card or an extra hard drive to a PC, this is more difficult to do with a Mac.

Dispelling the Mac myths

1. Viruses

It is often said by Apple enthusiasts that Macs don’t get infected by viruses, but unfortunately this isn’t true. Any device which is connected to the Internet is susceptible to a virus. That said, it is true that Macs are less prone to malware (where a virus can infect a Windows PC with no input from the user at all). Most Mac viruses involve action from the user, such as downloading a file or opening an email attachment. The reason for this increased resilience to ‘drive by’ virus attacks is due to the way in which Apple software is written, but this shouldn’t mean that you don’t remain vigilant against viruses and phishing attacks, which are just as likely on a Mac as on a PC.

2. Compatibility

The Apple brand has traditionally been seen as less business oriented, despite the release of products such as the iPod, iPhone and iPad, which have done much to increase Apple’s popularity. However, Apple’s range of computers and notebooks seem to struggle against their PC counterparts, indicated by the fact that Apple’s US market share for the last quarter was 10.5%, far below the likes of HP and Dell. This is due in part to a number of misconceptions over the Apple’s ability to work in a business environment, such as business applications not being able to run on Mac; compatibility issues between Mac and PC and it not being possible to add Macs onto a PC network – none of which are true. This means that businesses often stay with PCs when Macs would be the better option.

3. Range of software

In addition, as the Apple Mac increases in popularity, more and more software developers are writing software works on both Windows and Mac OSX. Even Microsoft have released a Mac version of their Office suite of programs, which means that documents created on a Mac can be opened on a PC and vice versa. Where a Mac version of a software application is not available, there is also the option to use Boot Camp, which allows you to run Windows on your Mac and therefore makes any PC software accessible.

4. Networking

Another misconception is that Macs can’t be added to PC network. Again, this isn’t the case: Macs can be added onto a domain (a network controlled by a central server) just as easily as a PC with no loss of file sharing capability.

So, when making the important decision about which kind of computer to invest in, it pays to be able to separate fact from fiction. Whilst much of what people think they know about Macs may in fact be untrue, it may still be the case that for a small business on a tight budget that PCs are the better option, simply because an entry level PC or laptop, although far less powerful than the basic Mac, does work out as less expensive. But balanced against this is fact that a Mac can share files with a PC, it can be added onto a PC network, and it will work just as well, if not better, than its PC counterpart. So, once in possession of the facts – and not just the myths – you can make the right IT decision for your business.

Further Information

James Clark is General Manager at Symitry IT North, an IT solutions provider who work with SMEs and corporate businesses to provide a range of IT products and services. Symitry IT North is based in Leicestershire.