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First of all, let me introduce myself. My name is Jacob Puckett and I have had the privilege of working with some great people here at Sanders, Bruin, Coll & Worley, P.A. over the past year and a half. There are thirteen extremely talented and professional attorneys and over twenty staff members that make up an outstanding team dedicated to providing the best service possible to their clientele. The shareholders recognize a necessity to keep up with technology and use it to its full potential for the practice. Occasionally, I will be writing on IT subjects that relate to my work at SBC&W. So if you find this type of thing interesting, check back every once in a while.

Before I came into the picture, a decision was made to move all of the offices work machines to an Apple platform. Just like many other businesses and home users, this decision was made in the hopes that it would significantly decrease the downtime due to the susceptibility of the Windows platform to viruses and general malware. Switching to an Apple platform did have the intended effect. The issues with those pesky Windows bugs no longer kept work from coming to a screeching halt. Well… it almost did anyway.

Virtual Machines To The Rescue

You see, very little software in the legal realm is made to run natively on OS X, which is the current operating system for Apple personal computers. While there seems to be general push towards the more OS independent cloud platform for some legal software, the vast majority is still made to run on Windows. This of course creates some challenges. Those challenges can be overcome by a few different technologies. These technologies might include the obvious Virtual Machines, a Boot Camp setup, or running a virtual terminal system on the server side. Soon after the move, the decision was made to run Windows in a virtual machine on the Apple desktops. This works for the most part, but the solution ended up becoming another set of hurdles.

Virtual Machines don’t always have the most intuitive and/or obvious way to connect to peripherals. Printers pose the biggest problem because they are of course used constantly. I have found a little bit of instruction goes a long way and most of the users in the office can normally switch the printer from being attached to the OS X side to the Windows VM without much of a problem. There are times when the virtual machine can’t connect to the printer and this has the undesired effect of holding up business. This same issue occurs over a wide range of printers and virtual machine software such as VMWare and VirtualBox. VirtualBox is a free virtual machine software maintained by Oracle. It is actually very nice for a simple virtual machine implementation and has a fairly large user base online. VirtualBox has the added benefit of being free, which is also very nice when you have a limited budget and that Windows software license eats it.

I tried using Apple’s Bonjour software to connect to the shared Apple printer over the network. This works most of the time, and eliminates the need for manual switching of the USB interface. I have also tried sharing the other way around. It didn’t work as well when I shared from Windows to OS X. So what is my solution to make this process more reliable? I am working towards moving all the printers to a network connection rather than a direct USB connection. This way there is no manual switching involved and both the OS X side and Windows side should be able to print without any quibbles.

Do you have a law firm or other medium sized business environment that uses or would like to use Apple? Let me know your thoughts below!