Henderson, Tenn.-based Freed-Hardeman University began switching to Macs four years ago, as a result of student demand. What helped the process was the university's long-term plan to move to an OS-neutral infrastructure.
"We thought, by centralizing on one OS [Windows], it would make things easier," says Greg Maples, the university's director of network operations. "But it wound up costing us more in the long run."
Being a Windows shop locked the organization into the Windows ecosystem, he says, and resulted in less flexibility, nimbleness and a loss of opportunities to innovate.
"For education, it's free, so it was a no brainer for us," he says. The university switched over its faculty and students, and not only saved money on the Exchange licenses, but also on support costs.
"All the support calls went away," he says. "I get a call a week now - and it's usually because of Outlook." He explained that some users still use Outlook clients to access Gmail instead of accessing it via the web interface.
Campus members are also doing more and more work in the cloud - using Google Docs, cloud storage, and other applications.
Some university staffers still use Microsoft Office, he says. "The mail merges, the export functions, the templates - there are definitely reasons to keep Office."
However, this might be the last year for a campus-wide Windows Office license, he says. "It may be cheaper to buy it outright for just a few users."
Meanwhile, most software vendors have already begun delivering applications via the Web, he adds.
"Once we got pretty good Internet access here, we quit buying software that needed to be installed on the desktop," he says.
Today, only a couple of applications still require a Windows machine, like the school registration system. Staff who need access to these applications, or who simply prefer to work in a Windows environment, can use a virtual Windows desktop provided by Desktone, headquartered in Boston.
Desktone offers a secure cloud-based Windows desktop, accessible via any computer or mobile device, on a per-user basis - no virtual machines or dedicated servers required.
"As time goes on, we'll move more and more things over to more user-friendly and accessible ways to connect," Maples says. "But Desktone allows us not to worry about that."
The university decided on a gradual migration, moving all incoming freshmen and a quarter of staff and faculty to Macs four years ago, and repeating the same process each successive year.