Are Macs Really Cheaper To Manage Than PCs?

Does "I'm a Mac" mean "I'm less expensive to manage?" An Enterprise Desktop Alliance survey says Macs cost a lot less than PCs to manage -- yet Macs come with special challenges for enterprise IT admins.

Mon, March 08, 2010

CIO — Macs in the enterprise aren't just cheaper to manage—they're a lot cheaper, according to a new survey released today by the Enterprise Desktop Alliance.

Keep in mind that Enterprise Desktop Alliance is a group of software developers who've bandied together to deploy and manage Macs in the enterprise. The group surveyed 260 IT administrators in large U.S. companies with both Macs and PCs who are involved in some degree with IT cost calculations. Enterprise Desktop Alliance members include Centrify, Absolute Software, Group Logic, Web Help Desk, and most recently IBM.

[ Another Enterprise Desktop Alliance survey shows two out of three companies buying Macs this year, which will bring integration challenges for IT admins, reports. ]

The survey found that Macs were cheaper in six of seven computer management categories: troubleshooting, help desk calls, system configuration, user training and supporting infrastructure (servers, networks and printer). Nearly half of the respondents cited software licensing fees as roughly the same for both platforms.

A whopping 65 percent of respondents said it costs less to troubleshoot Macs than PCs, 19 percent said they spent the same on both computers, and only 16 percent said they spent less to manage PCs than Macs.

Even more impressive, a majority of the respondents citing the low cost of Macs in nearly all categories said Macs were more than 20 percent cheaper to manage than PCs.

With Macs dominating in almost every cost category, why would 16 percent claim they spent less troubleshooting PCs? "It might be an [issue] of expertise of the IT staff," says Tom Cromlin, spokesperson for the Enterprise Desktop Alliance. "They're probably more comfortable troubleshooting PCs."

Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Jon Oltsik has another reason. He says top execs often prefer Macs, and thus supporting those machines take on more importance. "It's not about managing [Mac] systems, which may be easier than Windows" on a machine-by-machines basis, Oltsik explains. "It's when the CEO wants IT to install software on his or her Mac, which will need immediate attention and take time away from other tasks."

The cost of management appears to be a key driver for Macs in the enterprise. Nearly half of respondents said they brought in Macs mainly because of their low total cost of ownership and ease of technical support.

In fact, many small companies with limited IT resources told that they moved to Macs after getting fed up with costly PC support issues. "Mac owners tend to do a lot of problem resolution themselves by communicating with other users," Oltsik says.

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