The following is a Guest Post from Lianne Gaunt, the System Administrator for Hutchinson, Cox, Coons,
DuPriest, Orr & Sherlock, P.C., a law firm in Eugene, Oregon that primarily
uses Macs. Her post explains how her firm has operated using Macs and integrating them with PCs when necessary. Thanks to Ms. Gaunt for her post.
We are an 11-attorney firm where all attorneys, legal assistants, and other staff (with the exception of our accounting department) use Macs. But sometimes even in a Mac office, you just need (or want) to use a Windows program. We have been using Macs since the early 90’s. The first emulator I ever came across was SoftPC. One of our attorneys brought it in and we played with it. It worked fairly well, as most programs back then were not too complicated, but we really did not have much use for it.
A few years later we switched our time and billing software to a Windows system that allowed for remote time entry, but only with a proprietary Windows program. Because the idea of computer time entry was so appealing, we installed VirtualPC with Windows 95 on all Macs used by timekeepers. This initially worked for us, as the time entry program was simple and Windows 95 was fairly simple as well. However, as often happens, the time entry program became more complicated and we needed to upgrade our VirtualPC operating systems to Windows 2000 or higher. Once this happened, things went from bad to worse. Load times for VirtualPC were ridiculously slow and crashes happened often, sometimes requiring a complete install which of course meant that individual would lose all their timekeeping history. Frustration increased and many wanted to go back to writing out their time and having it hand entered.
I had been looking into Windows Terminal Server for a while, but the cost was quite high as it includes not only the hardware, but Windows Server, Terminal Server and Terminal Server client access licenses for each user, and at the time the cost just did not seem to be justified. However, after a while the problems just made it almost impossible to continue on the way we were going, and we went ahead and purchased a new server and installed Microsoft Terminal Server, which was by far one of the best decisions we ever made. The Remote Desktop software is a small program that loads quickly and can be minimized to the dock when not in use. The timekeeper (with a few workarounds) works just fine on the Terminal Server, and time entry can be done at the same speed as if sitting directly in front of a PC.
The other advantage for our firm to the Terminal Server is that we had been using Outlook for Macintosh as a client to our Exchange Server. With the move to OS X, Microsoft stopped making an Outlook client, and while Entourage is a great product (and is proving quite useful in allowing our iPhone users to sync up with the Exchange server), task sharing is not an option. We use the task list for our tickle system, and legal assistants need to be able to see and create tasks on their attorney’s task lists. We used Outlook for Macintosh running in classic mode until we implemented the Terminal Sever and began using Outlook for Windows. As we have been upgrading to the Intel Macs, running classic is no longer an option, and the Terminal Server has enabled us to continue to use Outlook without having to search for an alternate solution.
Our Mac users also have access to a few additional Windows programs that were originally only used by our accounting department, including direct access to the time and billing system. Our PC users can access our Mac created documents as well, so it does not matter which computer you are sitting in front of, whether it be Mac or PC, as long as you have user permissions there is no document or application that is unavailable. People always ask me how come we continue to use Macs when everyone else uses PC’s. I always tell them it is because so far there is nothing we have wanted to do that we have not been able to do while sitting in front of a Mac. Perhaps using the Terminal Server is cheating a bit, but if it keeps those users in this office who are comfortable using a Mac continuing to use their computers, then it is well worth it.