Decision Time: Mac or PC for Your Church? – Part 1

mbp

Choosing the right technology platform for your church is very important, and choosing the wrong one can lead to excruciating long-term consequences (and heart ache!).

It’s safe to say that every pastor or technology volunteer in a church has been faced with the question, “Mac or PC?” at some time in their decision to purchase new computers for their church.

In some cases the decision is very easy to make but in others it can be a downright doctrinal issue that’s more divisive than the color of the church’s carpet. While we here at ChurchIT don’t have all of the answers we hope to provide you with a little guidance in make you decision a little bit easier next time.

There are many factors that go into deciding whether or not to use Macs or PCs such as personal preference, expertise of the volunteers in your congregation, TCO (total cost of ownership), current IT investment, possibility of growth and more.

This series of posts will look into the pros and cons of a PC-only or Mac-only IT infrastructure and guide the reader in choosing a plan for investing in computing equipment for their church.

What you can expect:

  1. In Part 1 we’ll discuss the pros  and cons of going with a PC-only environment.
  2. In Part 2 we’ll discuss the pros and cons of going with a Mac-only environment.
  3. In Part 3 we’ll summarize everything from the first two parts and provide with the right answer to fit every church’s needs (or at least get you to a point where you can make an informed decision!).

Ready to get started?

The PC-Only Environment

First, let’s take a look at the PC side of things.  With over 90% of the market share in the world, Windows is the most popular and most used operating system.

In fact, there are probably not many (if any) adults in the US that haven’t used a Windows OS of some kind at some point in their life.  Windows is so ubiquitous it has become synonymous with the term PC (Apple computers are PCs too).  It not only runs on desktops, laptops, and servers but also cell phones, ATMs and many other types of computing devices in various vertical markets.

So why would you want Windows running on all of your church’s computers? Let’s take a look at 3 Solid Reasons for this:

1. They’re Cheap

I know you want a quality computer.  You want something that will last you a long time; but if your church is growing and you need to get a computer on someone’s desk fast, $400 gets you everything you need.

Granted, it’s not going to distill a PDF or encode a video in H.264 in record time but for that administrative position that just needs to get on the Internet, manage email and use a office productivity suite it’s just right.

And let’s face it, church budgets are shrinking due to the economic downturn and you’re probably looking to pinch every penny twice these days.

2. They’re Everywhere

That means you can find someone to fix it or troubleshoot a problem pretty easily.

Not only that, any out of warranty repairs are going to be pretty cheap.  Most churches will be able to find a repair shop within 30 miles that can repair a PC.

That’s not always the case with an Apple computer.  And when it comes to computer repair (Mac or PC) it’s not a matter of if it’s going to happen but when.

3. Software

I know, I can hear you groaning already, “Not the old software argument!”  However, when it comes to software for churches and other vertical markets, developers tend to reach for the low hanging fruit and it’s not Apple.

Developers know that they are going to get more customers by coding for Windows than OS X.  That trend is starting to change but I’m still amazed that some large players still do not support OS X or if they do it’s not as feature-rich as the Windows version.

While those three reason aren’t the only reasons you’d want to buy Windows PCs, they are (in my opinion) the top three reasons to look at Redmond-powered computers rather than the Cupertino-powered alternative.

Now, why would you want to stay away from Windows-based computers?  Well, here’s 3 Great Reasons to avoid:

1. They’re Cheap

No, I’m not just trying to recycle my bullet points but rather trying to be fair here.  Even though I primarily use a “PC” I recognize that there are some pretty shoddy computer manufacturers out there and buying a cheap PC could actually lead to more trouble than it’s worth.

For a mission-critical machine you do not want a $400 computer you picked up at Wal-mart or Best Buy (neither Wal-mart or Best Buy are affiliated with ChurchIT).

You want something reliable and ready to do the job when it’s turned on.  That means you’ll be in the price range of an iMac; now you’ve got some serious thinking to do.

2. Creativity

If you plan on having any creative ministries, the volunteer or person you hire is probably going to be accustomed to using a Mac.

While Windows can certainly do everything OS X can do, if the person using the computer is used to CMD-clicking and not right-clicking you could end up with someone who is frustrated and unproductive.

So depending upon the experience of the person doing the job, a PC may not be the right purchase.

3. Security

I’m not going to lay it out there and say OS X is more secure than Windows because, frankly, I don’t know.

There isn’t enough of a user base to attract the hackers so OS X has enjoyed some security through obscurity.  However, I do know that Windows computers can be a pain in the neck to keep virus-free if you have a click happy person behind the mouse.  For now, you may want to go with the Mac if you want to keep your network easily secured.

Squared?

There you have it, three reason to go with a PC and three reasons to avoid them.

In part two I’ll take a look at Macs and why you should or shouldn’t use them for all of your computing needs in your church.

If you’ve got some more suggestions and advice let’s hear them in the comments!

Eric Dye

I am an entrepreneur and human rights advocate. I spend most of my time as writer and editor for ChurchMag and Finding Justice, but you can also find me working on Live Theme and for the International Human Rights Group. All while enjoying my family and sipping espresso in Italy.

We have 27 comments...
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  1. Kevin says

    Having administered a Windows (DNS to DHCP to AD- all Windows) environment, I think that it’s much easier to manage a bunch of PCs on a domain than Macs…Having both on the same network isn’t too bad, but it’s not perfect…I’ll also say from personal experience and a bit of opinion that Macs are more stable (they’re Unix based, c’mon!) I think it depends on the church and what their people can handle. Some people are better for PCs, some Macs…and the others…well, they still make typewriters right?

  2. says

    Good thoughts. I’m a Mac guy but still good thoughts especially in pointing out some people don’t need at the power found in a lenovo or a mac. I think a pc/mac environment is the norm. or maybe I might say the goal?

    • says

      I agree. I’m also a Mac guy, and would love to see everyone in my church using one. But would that be necessary? No. As John pointed out, the typical administration job doesn’t need the powerhouse that is a Mac.

      I’m acting IT guy at my church (many hats) and there are a few of us on Macs… but the majority of our staff use PC’s. We’re starting to use more web-based applications (Google Apps, ACS OnDemand for our database). So the cross-platform issue is less and less of an issue.

  3. says

    The country I live in has a very poor Apple presence. Partly because of the lack of any official Apple Marketing but mainly because Microsoft has embedded itself so deeply into the infrastructure.
    Due to that – Macs are charged at premiums prices – double premium prices since we get our store from the UK store.
    So there is a deeply entrenched MS mindset here.
    Inspite of that our Church at Southpoint have been migrating over to Macs – thanks to NPCC’s initial assistance with setting us up with ProPresenter. Now almost all of the Staff have macs. I have one, ok I have a G5 PowerMac from a few years back – but I use a MBP that belongs to Southpoint.
    Our initial motivation to use Mac had a lot to do with ProPresenter and the notion that Macs were better for video presentations (disclaimer: I am not a top expert to have had proof of that).
    The biggest problem with migrating over to Macs was having to adapt to a new interface and new applications. There are still staff members who struggle.
    I am glad they did it :)

  4. says

    This will be an interesting series, I’m sure! I’ll keep my comments on this post strictly related to my experience with PCs.

    I’ve been a Mac user since I started using computers. I am an Apple fanboy.

    That said, when I started working in the communications department at my current employer, I had to start using a Windows XP machine which did not bother me. If you can use the Adobe Creative Suite on a Mac, you can do it on a windows machine.

    A year later the PC was retired and I got a Mac which has been great…but has also caused headache as it was one of a handful of Macs on the network.

  5. says

    I’ll throw this out there..
    There are situations where “neither” is a better answer (Linux/BSD/etc..?) I ran a Community Youth Center for over 2 years on Linux based Sytems (Smoothwall Server, Ubuntu workstations), only one breakdown (server HD failed, swap and restore)…it was donated hardware….

  6. Tim Owens says

    I think with time the software arguments (both for and against) will begin to fade. Mediashout has already announced they will make a Mac version and recently ProPresenter announced a Windows version as well. I think people are starting to see the benefits of being cross-platform in their offerings. (or am I just hoping?)

  7. says

    Thanks for your comments everyone.

    Regarding a heterogeneous environment – I’ll get there, stick around.

    Linux- While Linux is an option, I don’t think there are many pastors out there asking themselves what flavor of Linux to install on their computer.

    Software- yes, the field is starting to level.

    Thanks everyone for your comments, keep them coming. I’ll try and keep up!

  8. says

    I have been using a G5, then a MacPro for years for video production. Had a few network issues, but with Leopard, the few remaining issues seem to be gone (in working in our primarily windows network). I now have a MacBook (unibody) that i love, including the Mac iWork software!

    Price is an issue. we replaced two receptionist PC’s and monitors for much less than my one MB. Has to be worth the cost to go Mac.

  9. Jmayhak says

    I used to think that you could spend $1300 on a Dell and be just as happy getting the $1300 mb or even mbp.

    However, I’ve recently started using a 2 year old mbp and I don’t think I could be any any happier with the overall quality of this machine. I also have a 2 year old toshiba laptop and I don’t think I could care less what happens to that computer.

    Apple does one thing very right: provide you with an amazing experience.

    A friend of mine recently bought a new Dell laptop. It is a beast of a laptop and easily outperforms my mbp. I think the count as of last night is 4. 4 what? 4 bsod! He’ll figure out the problem and get it working fine soon enough….but that wasn’t a very good experience, now was it?

    Conclusion: PCs are fine. Some people think they need a mac to do certain things or it does certain things better. It’s usually just in their head.

    However, I LOVE my 2 year old mbp and would recommend it to anyone

  10. JayCaruso says

    Good post!

    I think cost is such a major factor and particularly now with giving down, budgets are being squeezed and loading up the staff with MB Pro’s is probably out of the question.

    One thing that Microsoft does is it discounts their software very heavily for non-profits. Combine that with PC prices that are lower than Apple, and it will often be a budgetary decision.

    This is one area where I fault Apple. They are a supposedly very socially conscience company, but their pricing structure for education and non-profits is still very expensive. Knocking $50 off the retail price isn’t all that much of a discount ($1149 for a base MB Pro on the education side vs. $1199 for consumers is a discount of less than 5%).

    Now I could be wrong. Apple may do some things they don’t advertise heavily that I am not aware of, but I think more ministries would be able to take advantage of Apple’s capabilities if there was better pricing for non-profits.

    • says

      Price is definitely a driving factor. It’s greater now given the economy and why I mentioned it first. If you’re in a small church and you only get $1K-$2K a year to spend on technology, you don’t wan to use it all on a single purchase unless it’s absolutely necessary.

      Of course, I haven’t even factored in the donation aspect. I’m strictly taking a budgetary route. I’ll be sure to factor that into my conclusion.

      BTW, I’d take a 3 or 4 yr old iMac for use at my church if someone wanted to donate it in a heartbeat!

  11. says

    “For a mission-critical machine you do not want a $400 computer you picked up at Wal-mart or Best Buy”

    Several $400 Dell laptops at my church require $100 of service calls a month. Even if you are PC only, short term cheap can be expensive.

  12. says

    In my personal opinion, only by virtue of less market-share are Macs more secure than Windows PCs. If Macs were more prevalent than Windows PCs, then hackers would spend more time exploiting them.

    In reality, security is only as good as it’s application.

  13. says

    Cheap is usually the deciding point with most organizations. If you can convince the powers that be to spend a few hundred dollars more now, for less headaches in the future you’ll be better off.

    Recently, I just upgraded the RAM in our church’s main office computers. Two had 512 MB and one had, get this, 256 MB. All were running Windows XP Pro. I maxed the RAM on all systems, and the users are amazed at the difference. So for about $250 more (a few years after the fact, of course) I was able to increase their performance a bit.

  14. says

    Heh – I could probably write a comment as long as the article if I don’t watch out!

    First up, I’m most definitely a Linux fan – been using for 10 years now and only see it getting better. Personally I don’t see why, for an office job, people couldn’t use Linux on a daily basis – it handles email, internet and an office suite quite nicely. And you get to save a few pennies. I’m amazed at the number of old machines people just throw out which really only need a refresh of Windows – the hardware is perfectly fine.

    Having said that, our church office runs mostly Windows, which is probably because that’s what the Pastor has always used. All the backend stuff runs Linux, because that’s my domain ;) Smoothwall firewall keeps the internet in check (including a content filter) and we have a display box and fileserver/VPN server both running Ubuntu.

    I moved jobs back in November to a company that is all Mac, which has been an interesting experience. I can’t particularly say I’m a convert, although I do appreciate why some people use them for everything – audio and video in particular. I guess it depends on your priorities – my finances have always been tight, and Macs never come cheap. Personally, for day-to-day office usage, I’m not convinced that a Mac is worth the additional money over even a mid-priced PC. You’re paying extra for the brand and the ‘shiny’, neither of which are really a consideration for a church office.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] recap what we’ve covered so far.Ready for a refresher?The PC-only Environment Pros and ConsIn part 1 of this series I talked about the pros and cons of a PC-only environment. Here’s a quick run-down of what [...]

  2. [...] can also check out this series of articles on choosing between Mac and PC in a church environment. Part 1. Part 2. Part [...]

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