Touchdown PR. Seamless transition from PC to Mac

Touchdown PR is one of the leading technology public relations and marketing consultancies in Europe, with staff based in the UK, France and the Netherlands. Like most of its competitors, Touchdown initially kitted staff out with Windows PCs and laptops. Following several years of steady growth, and having attracted some of the best talent in the industry, the Touchdown directors wanted to give the company's growing number of employees the latest and best tools to do the job.

"With Windows Vista, staff were easily losing 10 to 30 minutes of every working day each just starting up and shutting down their machines", explains James Carter, Touchdown's managing director. "Even on a good day, it would take five minutes to boot up. All too frequently, either while booting up or at a random point during the day, the machine would insist on performing an update that could tie it up for anywhere from 25 to 45 minutes. When you could work, performance was poor, and if you opened more than three or four applications, the machine would get sluggish". Carter estimates the business was losing around fifty working days each year just waiting for its PCs to be useable, a potential revenue loss of more than £30,000.

The breaking point came when the business grew large enough that it needed a server to handle file sharing and regular automated backups and a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to deliver better support for remote working. "By the time you factored in the cost of the server, software licences, storage and backup, we were being quoted between £5,000 and £10,000 for a Windows-based solution, with ongoing annual support costs on top", Carter says. "When we looked at the Mac mini, it could provide everything we needed for a tenth of the price – and we could use the difference to upgrade all our client machines to Macs. For the same money, we could get a much better solution".

The key factor holding Touchdown back from moving to Apple was integration with clients, who are all Windows-based. "Our business is document-driven", Carter points out. "With so much of our work based on visual and written content, we couldn't afford to have our clients irritated by formatting glitches resulting from interoperability issues".

However, Carter noticed that one of his best freelancers was a Mac user and was collaborating seamlessly with the rest of the Touchdown team using Office for Mac. After personally testing the interoperability between the two platforms and seeing it work without a problem, Carter called his local Apple Authorised reseller to discuss Touchdown's needs.

In early 2010, Touchdown took the plunge. Each member of staff switched to a MacBook Pro loaded with Office for Mac, together with an Apple LED cinema display. To act as a file server and provide the VPN, they adopted a Mac mini running Snow Leopard Server, together with a Time Machine for automated backups and networking, an AirPort extreme for redundant wireless network access, VM Fusion to allow the company's finance director to continue running Sage.

"While the kit was more expensive than PCs, once you had factored in that we didn't need to buy separate applications to handle PDFs, scanning, backup and several other functions, the difference was negligible", Carter points out. "In fact, because we didn't have to spend any time finding, purchasing and installing those applications, the time savings probably gave the MacBook the edge in pure capital cost. Add to that the fact the Mac mini server was a fraction of the cost of the Windows servers we were quoted for and the whole package came out less than the equivalent Windows proposal".

Carter says the solution has delivered a return on investment in the first year of over 200 per cent simply by immediately eliminating the slow boot times and lockouts from upgrades that staff were experiencing with Windows Vista. "The total cost for the Apple solution was around £12,000, compared with the £30,000 we were losing each year just from downtime", he says.