Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Law Firm Macintosh Upgrades - using the Cloud!

Taking a little time off from North Mahaska Schools work, here is a blog entry about working through upgrades to a long time 20 year client and their Macintosh setup.

Today I caught up on some work for a lawyer client who uses Macs. I probably visit the office 2 – 3 times a year for some software installs and updates. We have worked with this Mac using law firm for 20 years. They have moved from Mac Centris machines to PowerPC to Intel based Macintoshes. There last purchase was mid-2007 iMacs and recently a MacMini Server to replace an aged eMac as a file server.

We have been slowly working towards operating system updates after we made sure that production software would work with the latest OS X releases. Since the law firm as 4 iMacs, of which one is not in use daily, it was targeted as our test machine. Production software is updated as time, money and reality forces the process. Several years ago we moved away from Word Perfect to MS Word, but now run an Open Office variant called NeoOffice. Parallels 5 runs virtual machines with Windows XP and Child Support software. There is a Mac-based billing program as well.

One of the clinkers that prevented us in upgrading earlier was the calendar software program used in the olden days of the 1990s called DayTimer. The software company was purchased and the Mac version dropped from development. There is always a risk in picking any software product. We moved to SOHO Calendar for a few years but found they too were challenging us with their lack of development in the switch from PowerPC to Intel. SOHO Calendar used the OpenBase database engine which proved flakey at times. What is an IT consultant to do, right?

Apple had introduced MobileMe and it’s move to iCloud was known to me, so we bit the bullet and started using iCal (now Calendar in Mountain Lion) and iCloud to synch across multiple iMacs, the Mac Mini server, and added an iPad in April 2012 and this week a Samsung Galaxy SIII smart phone. The only purchase need to the Samsung was SmoothSync for Calendar at $2.65 from the Android app store. Since the iMac are still running Snow Leopard which is really MobileMe aware and not super conducive to iCloud, we are now proceeding with test Mountain Lion on a single iMac. If all goes well, the remaining iMacs will get the upgrade in the future.

iCloud also provides some cloud file storage so that the law firm does not have to use jump drives for file moves. Soon URL synching across Safari will also be possible. We are already synching the contacts in the Address Book (Contact in Mountain Lion). The lawyer takes his iPad 3G to court and on the road to see updates to his calendar and check his email. His Samsung phone also provides alerts in email and calendar events.

Lastly, the iCloud browser interface allows any office employee to check on their own PC or Mac when at home or on the road. So far the use of iCloud has been smooth and productive for the law firm’s needs. We are considering integration of DropBox for some file sharing and work away from the office as well and across PC, Mac, Android, iPad, etc… thought in Mountain Lion, I suspect iCloud will find some uses too. DropBox is still a better solution for non Apple software like NeoOffice.

Some people complain about iCloud’s expense, but things are changing and work well for the current client’s needs. I always try to encourage clients to use solutions that while not free, work painlessly for their needs and allow from growth that is painless as well. So far, iCloud has been a sound investment in that regard.

1 comment: