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The Macintosh platform has traditionally been touted as the superior computing system for the graphics world.  With its continuing lead in video display technology and processor speed, the Mac will retain that lead for the foreseeable near future.  However, Apple only weakly advertises the Mac as a mainstream business machine, and in their silence, the public has misinterpreted such as a lack of business utility.  We've actually heard poorly-trained IT managers publically claim that there are no programs which run on the Mac!  Applications such as Microsoft Word and Excel were born on the Mac, and remain on par with their Windows(tm)-based cousins.

This page is a resource to help educate just how applicable the Mac is for the general office.  If you are looking for a business application for the Mac and you don't see it here, email us on our Contact page. We'd be happy to help find your solution.  Thanks!

 


General Business Applications:

Most business offices require several applications for daily productivity.  Let's break them down into categories.

  1. Word Processing.  The single biggest change computers have made to the business office is to replace the typewriter on the workers desk.  Using a computer for creating paper documents, faxes or electronic copies of paper documents is the single largest use of business computers today.  We call this word processing (we used to call it typing).  The defacto standard word processing program in American business is Microsoft Word; however, there are many other programs available (please see "Handling unusual documents", too).  Some of the available Mac word processors are:

  2. Financial or Numerical Analysis.  Number crunching was the sole reason for the birth and development of the computer.  And doing repetative or large amounts of math is still their most useful feature.  To that end, spreadsheets were initially created.  A spreadsheet permits extremely flexable manipulations of data, arranged in rows and columns, for organizing and conducting nearly any math function.  Excel remains the best of breed in this category -- one of the few packages that seems to have improved as it became bigger.  For something extremely functional, but not nearly as expensive, Apple has a very competent spreadsheet built into AppleWorks. Also see our Accounting section.

  3. Databases.  Databases are difficult to describe, yet can be extremely powerful tools for the modern business.  A database is a file or collection of interrelated files which permit the storage of vast amounts of information.  Imagine having a rolodex of information about your suppliers in which you could easily sort or search by any criteria: name, address, phone number, state, keyword, etc.  That would be one file (table) in your database.  Now, imagine having another table for all of your clients, and one for purchases, billing invoices, products, inventory, contact management, procedures -- nearly any collection of information you desire.  All this in a flexable format or variety of formats for retrival or manipulation.  That would be a powerful tool -- and precisely what databases can accomplish.  There are many database tools for the Mac, but a few stand out: 4D and FileMaker Pro.  Both are excellent packages for running your business needs, and both can be used as front-ends for Oracle-based systems.  Panorama is another fine database, and much faster than FMP or 4D; however, one must have sufficient RAM installed for the data.

  4. Presentations

  5. Accounting Needs.


Networks.  Larger offices typically have more than one computer.  Designing such a work space so that all computers share resources within an office is far more cost-effective than each machine being a stand-alone workstation.  To achieve this interconnectivity, computing professionals network the machines together using a variety of techniques.  Most of these methods are becoming standardized into two categories: wired (literally, with wires connecting each machine similar to a telephone system) or wireless (radio transmitters at some or all computers when installing wired networks is impractical or environmentally impossible).

 

Standard Network Technologies:

Ethernet 10baseT (10 Mbps, Megabits/second or ~1.25 Megabytes per second max transfer) -- Pretty much the defacto standard for most business installations. Built into nearly all PowerPC models, available as plug-in cards for 68k machines, either as 10base2, 10baseT, or SCSI/10base2/T. Being replaced by 100baseT with G3 models and above.  Generally known for its type of wiring with a fat telephone-like modular plug using 4 wires as twisted pairs to transfer information.

Ethernet 100baseT (100Mbps) Built into all new Mac models since '99. (Yes, 10 times faster than 10baseT)

Ethernet 1000baseT (1000Mbps or Gigabit Ethernet) Current state-of-the-art, built into all new Mac models. (Yes, 10 times faster than 100baseT)

AirPort (11 Mbps IEEE 802.11) Wireless radio transceivers, excellent for office environments difficult or impossible to wire. Built into all of the newer systems (since 2000) or available as an upgrade card. Uses a base station for shared LAN or Internet use.

TCP/IP, a protocol (collection of instructions and commands, like a language) used for the Internet and LANs.  Apple's intention was to replace AppleTalk with the TCP/IP standard beginning in 1994, and all Macs have been able to "talk" both protocols simultaneously (or either) since. Appletalk is being phased out of OS X in 2001 or 2002.

Older Technology:

TokenRing (IBM-based system, very resillant packet transfer, but not as popular as Ethernet), requires Nubus or PCI card.

LocalTalk (240 Kbps), Apple's first networking technology, built into every Mac from the Plus (1986) on up to current, being phased out with G4s.

AppleTalk, a software protocol, built into every Mac from the Plus on up. Being phased out and replaced solely by TCP/IP. Unfairly derided as "chatty", the AppleTalk protocol was significantly cleaned up in '96 and proved to be exceptionall robust for slower technology. Spanning tree protocols are the only known bain of this protocol, due to lapses in connectivity inherent in how STP works in routers.

IPX, another protocol popular with Windows-based systems, readily available for the Mac but rarely used.

IR, Infrared ports on the front of many models and most PowerBook laptops permits wireless transfer of data between Macs or Macs and other devices (Palmtops, Printers, TVs, Stereos, etc).

Ethernet 10base2 The original coax cable version of Ethernet, still widely installed in office environments. Often coupled with AAUI connectors.

What are the big differences between a switch and a hub?


A hub puts all traffic in a "pool" and distributes to the correct port for each packet of data.
A switch creates a dedicated connection between ports for each stream/packet of data.

Does a switch improve performance?

Under light loads you will see no difference.
Under heavy load, particularly with a faster (100baseT+) network, there's a huge difference.

One client went from lots of hubs, all cascading, to exclusively 10/100 switching, and grouped workstations on the switches likely to communicate with each other most, and we have seen dramatic improvements in speed, consistency, reliability, etc.

Unleash yourself.

Beyond the AirPort wireless LAN is Wireless internet.  Two services stand out: Ricochet and WISP. Wireless modems with roaming regional and national plans. Roaming and standard coverage fees can be expected at triple or higher standard landline rates.


Other office utilities (faxing, the Internet, printing needs, electronic data storage)

More things in the works:

 

Printer and paper resources

www.rippedsheets.com (paper and plastice label resource, custom label stock for your printing needs)

Electronic publications
Adobe Acrobat
- perhaps the ubiquitous standard for all platforms, built into Mac OS X, available for older Mac Systems, Windows, and Unix.

Other office concerns:

file exchange
macLink Plus

Working with mixed networks -- or educating your IT staff that Macs are excellent replacements for aging PCs

There are a number of arguments that Macs cannot be used in business. All of them are false -- many of them the result of Windows IT people without the desire or capability to learn.  We've outlined a few items of contention here:

Myth: Macs are more expensive.  Fact: Based on capabilities, Macs are on par with an equivalent PC, based on price, performance or features.

Myth: Macs don't have business software.  Fact: What do you use? Any of the above software packages?  The packages used in business generate cross-platform files that can be used by either system.

Myth: Macs can't be networked.  Fact: Macs come with built-in Ethernet, and many with wireless technology, based on TCP/IP -- the Internet and network standard. Macs can file share with Windows, they can share printers, and they can communicate across a network with less fuss or setup time than PCs.

Myth: Macs can't be used on the Internet.  Fact: Macs have been on the Internet as long as there have been Macs. Macs are also widely used as Internet servers, for file serving, mail serving, and website serving. They are more stable and not susceptable to Internet problems such as the I Love You virus, CodeRed, NIMDA and all the other problems to which Windows NT and IIS servers are prone.

For more information about Macs and PCs, visit our Think Different page or John Droz's very informative Macs/PCs site.


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