How many times have you heard someone say something to the effect of “I’m only a Windows guy or girl” or “I only use Macs?” When it comes to technology, people can sometimes be stubborn and set in their ways. The same can also be said for some businesses.
Think about it. The next time you look around an office—whether it is yours or another company’s—take a look at the technology they are using. See if you are able to notice any differences. Is every workstation a Windows PC or is there a mix?
While having a mixed IT environment can present some challenges, Scott Stanley, IT Support Specialist at Miles Technologies, says there are many situations in which having a mixed environment could be a performance or cost advantage for your business. Stanley notes that while some mixed environment decisions may need to be made based on user preference, there are certain back-end IT infrastructure decisions a business can make to save money without having much of an impact on the users.
According to Stanley, one of the best examples of this is the use of Linux servers in conjunction with Windows-based servers. While both will come with their hardware costs, a Linux server typically has reduced software licensing costs. “This presents an opportunity for a business to cut down on costs if the Linux solution can meet their needs,” Stanley says.
Stanley says that when considering a move to a mixed environment like in the example above, it is important to take into account your business’s unique needs. In the example with the servers, an IIS server will work well for systems designed in Windows oriented technologies like ASP.Net and a Linux server may work better for PHP-based systems. Some things, such as simple HTML webpages will work well on many platforms and Linux may present on opportunity to reduce some of the costs of the system while providing similar levels of performance and functionality. It’s often necessary to have multiple operating systems used in similar roles and there’s no reason that Linux and Windows-based servers can’t coexist in the same environment if there’s a need for both.
Changing your servers will have little impact on most of your business’s users, but there are other opportunities to move to a mixed IT environment that may affect them. One such case is user workstations. Windows workstations have long been the standard for most businesses, but that is changing. With more work being done on web-based and cloud-based solutions, just about any workstation will do for many users as long as it has internet connectivity. Some specialist users may prefer to work with certain platforms; for example, Apple computers have long been considered by many to be an advantage for certain creative endeavors such as graphical design or music. If your business has users who believe utilizing a different type of workstation would make them more productive, it may be worth the investment to move in that direction.
Stanley says that when moving to a mixed IT environment, it is important for business decision-makers to evaluate the opportunity cost of integrating new technologies. “You want to make sure you have the volume to justify a move,” Stanley says. “You should make decisions based on job functions, and make sure you have the right technology for the right processes.” It is also important to take into account factors like user standards, security and the critical applications that run your business. It’s also important to ensure that your IT team has the capability to support different platforms. A long-time Windows administrator’s knowledge doesn’t necessarily translate to advanced Linux or Mac knowledge; getting training or having expert help available is an important part of any change in your IT systems.
Moving to a mixed environment can have some serious advantages for a business in terms of cutting costs and increasing employee productivity. Before doing so; however, it is important to take the time to research your available options. Even if you decide not to change anything right away, you will at least know what possibilities are available for you down the line.
What are your thoughts on mixed environments for IT? Let us know in the comments section below.
Interested in learning more about how a mixed environment can help cut your IT budget? Contact us today to speak with an IT expert.