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2/29/2008
03:06 AM
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Apples Achilles heel: Business-grade tech support

My business is a real mixed shop, split nearly evenly between Windows users and Mac users. A real challenge for us, and probably for you too, is finding quality contractors and support organizations that have deep Mac knowledge (or, frankly, any Mac knowledge).

My business is a real mixed shop, split nearly evenly between Windows users and Mac users. A real challenge for us, and probably for you too, is finding quality contractors and support organizations that have deep Mac knowledge (or, frankly, any Mac knowledge).The good news, of course, is that Macs generally need less ongoing maintenance and support than Wndows PCs. Thats not based on any scientific poll, but rather on my own experience. When I look at our help-desk trouble tickets, nearly all of the system-specific queries are from Windows users.

But even so, we are frustrated by the general lack of Mac expertise available to us, beyond calling Apple tech support. For example, who sets up new PCs for new employees, or replacement PCs for existing employees? If those are Windows PCs, theres no problem finding contractors and IT service companies that can help you. If theyre Macs  well, you can find help, but its hard. There are very few knowledgably experts around.

What about when a Mac has problems? Again, its easy to find IT professionals with Windows expertise, but Mac experts are rare. Microsoft  and the many companies like Dell, HP and IBM who make business-grade Windows desktops  do a great job in training and certifying their resellers and partners, and in training support people at conferences like Microsoft Tech-Ed and at Microsoft Learning. Apple doesnt bother. And third-party training companies essentially ignore the Mac, because there's not enough demand for couses and courseware.

This even spills over to other IT disciplines. If your company has an Exchange or Sharepoint server, its hard to find information from either Microsoft or Apple about how to configure, maintain and troubleshoot Mac clients. Have trouble with Macs getting onto your wireless LAN? Unsure how to integrate an Xserve? Few network admins will know what to do. Developing Web applications? Few coders know how to troubleshoot problems getting sites to work properly on Safari. And so-on.

While Apple does target business customers with its sales and marketing, the company fails when it comes to creating a community of IT service and support professionals. That, sadly, truly is the Achilles heel when it comes to the running Macs in a small-business or enterprise environment.

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