Mixed PCs and Macs on a network | AccountingWEB

Mixed PCs and Macs on a network


There was a discussion last year about Sage on Macs and it seems there are plenty of options for running a virtual PC on a Mac and Sage from there but what about mixed Macs and PCs on a network. I have a client with 2 PCs and 2 Macs who's just bought a new SBS server and the hardware company, who I subcontract for, have asked me to put in Sage for all 4 users. They could put Sage on a terminal server but the client will then say hang on I've just forked out for a new server here. The server could be used as an application server for Sage but it is already e-mail, print & file server and I don't want it to crash running Sage.

Someone mentioned Online 50 (and others) who host Sage 50 for you as an option with a monthly subscription. Presumably the client software runs on Macs or PCs so that would be a solution. Then there's all the web based systems but what happens with those if they go out of business and all your data's on their server? I know with Online 50 you can do your own local backup and can always switch to offline, which is reassuring. Last time I looked at Xero there isn't even a telephone number on their web site.

So with Parallels, VirtualBox, VMWare etc, how does networking work? Do you login to the server from both your Mac and your virtual PC as different users or does it all work seamlessly and the server recognises you as having both your Mac and your PC applications?

Sage would be my preferred solution although not my only one, but please all the Sage haters/competition out there don't take this as an invitation for rants or blatant advertising of your wares. Any other comments more than welcome.

Tony Bayliss

Senator System Consultants Ltd








cverrier's picture

Parallels = PC

cverrier | | Permalink

When running Parallels (or any of the alternatives) - you are effectively running TWO separate computers (a Macintosh and a virtual Windows PC) on a single bit of hardware. Both computers are largely independent of each other, and almost completely ignorant of the existence of the other.

So - the question then becomes - Do you need the virtual Windows PC to access the server, the Macintosh to access the server, or both?

A copy of Windows running inside parallels is a fully functional Windows PC - which includes all the normal Windows network functionality.  (When Parallels is operating in 'Bridged Networking' mode - Windows is granted access to the Macs network connector)

So - If you have a Windows Small Business Server already up and running, you can launch your Parallels system and the copy of Windows will be able to 'see' and interact with that server in EXACTLY the same way as if it was a 'normal' Windows computer.

Once virtual Windows is up and running, then you can load up Sage and off you go.

NOTE:  You will have to fork out the cost of a copy of Windows for each of the Macs.  Buying a copy of Parallels doesn't automatically grant you a Windows licence, although I see that you can buy a copy of Parallels which does include a Windows licence - which reduces the hassle a bit.


In this case, my instinct is that opting for a cloud solution JUST to resolve the Windows/Mac problem is overkill.    I happen to be very keen on cloud bookkeeping software (and have used FreeAgent myself for the last four years) but you should choose it for the right reasons and not feel you've been railroaded into it.

I've never had concerns about the 'what if they go out of business' issue - as all the good providers have hedges against that (including options for taking local backups of your data whenever you want).   On-premise software is not immune from supplier actions  - just talk to UK users of the MYOB bookkeeping product.


Just as a side issue....

If you want the Apple OSX operating system or applications to be able to access the Server (maybe to use a shared printer or save data) then you can do that too.


Microsoft have published a guide to the process here..


So - if you power up a copy of the Apple version of Outlook 2011 on your Mac, it should be able to talk to Microsoft Exchange on your SBS server.



cverrier's picture

Parallels = PC

cverrier | | Permalink

oops sorry - double posted for some reason

Kryton's picture

Sage on Macs

Kryton | | Permalink

Hi Tony, CVerrier,

Not sure I agree with you on this CV :( 

I think from a usability perspective - an online solution (OS independent) would make sense, otherwise you need to either have multiple OS on the same computers (difficult to implement/train/maintain) OR use a virtual offering (relatively expensive, especially given you already have a client/server setup with your SBS server)

Mixed Mac and PCs are common in many environments, such as design offices, where there is clear delegation between the mac users and the PC users, but it rarely makes sense to run multiple OS for the same user on the same computer. That's just making life difficult for the users and IT.

If your Mac users really need to use Sage, then get a cheap laptop that you can pass around with Sage on it! There probably won't be any extra licensing costs and it will be easy to understand and configure than having two operating systems running on your Mac.

If your users need to use Sage all the time, why on earth do they have Macs?

On your point about running Sage on Terminal Services - you could do this on your SBS server because it is unlikely to be heavily loaded with just 4 computers, but this requires the purchase of 4 terminal server licenses - probably more expensive than buying a laptop and requires all that extra maintenance.

Keep it simple!




Firstly, Thanks CVerrier.

tbayliss | | Permalink

Firstly, Thanks CVerrier.

The 2 Macs are already networked to the server and using at as a file server and getting e-mail via Exchange so that side's been done by the hardware supplier and is all working. I did realise about the Windows licenses. So the Virtual PCs appear as separate network clients and presumably they are logged in as separate users. A bit complicated but it's an option that should work.

Thanks, Kryton for the alternative suggestion about online solutions or the spare laptop. The customer already has the 2 Macs and have only now decided to properly computerise the accounts although they have 25 employees (Family biz, old bookkeeper finally retiring). Sage 50 I'm biased towards because I know it inside out (faults and limitations included) and as a Sage developer I know that looking forward anything they need in the way of add-ons I can write and integrate with Sage.

Online 50 (or having Sage 50 hosted by someone else) is an option I've put to the client but now I realise I'm inviting a bit of advertising here. I know there are very good web or cloud-based systems that have proper customer support (like Kasflow, unlike Xero) but are there any that seriously have the features of the likes of Sage 50, in particular:

1. Let you have multiple users where each logs on with their own passwords and user access can be restricted (eg P&L, Nominal, Bank or read-only clients).

2. Customer price lists allowing special prices by customer.

3. Stock and order processing.

4. ODBC access to the data files (I have MySQL databases sitting on web servers that let me do this)

4. is not vital and 3 is not needed at this time but if I did recommend a web or cloud-based solution I wouldn't want to be saying in a year's time: "what you now want can't be done. You need to get in Sage or something similar."

This moves the debate away from Macs a bit so hopefully something on which many of you will have ideas and opinions.

Thanks again

Tony Bayliss



I have had great success

tizza10 | | Permalink

I have had great success using Sage in a mixed Windows/Linux setup using VirtualBox,

I would recommend downloading it for free under their evaluation Licence https://www.virtualbox.org/wiki/Licensing_FAQ and a trial of windows 7 from Microsoft to see for yourself how well it works(or does not). I have always found networking to be a breeze to set up.

Tips: Understand VirtualBox Guest Additions and turn off as many services (esp Aero and desktop eye candy) in the Guest as possible. I use Server 2008R2 as a desktop as it is low resource, works well but you can achieve the same by tweaking W7/Vista/XP.


I agree with CVerrier about the cost of licences, it can soon rack up and terminal services even higher. But if you need Sage, VirtualBox was the best solution for me, there really is no right or wrong answer, just the best for you. Hopefully a better solution will appear soon.





cverrier's picture

skinning cats...

cverrier | | Permalink

As always - there are a dozen different ways to do this!

You're probably wise to stay away from adding Terminal Server onto the existing kit.   For a small number of users, it would probably be fine, but I tend to be happier when Terminal Server runs on its own dedicated server.   Hardware is cheap, and it's good to be risk-averse on this kind of thing!

FreeAgent/Openbooks does have basic user security grades (which allows you to keep employees away from the accounts while letting them do timesheets, for example) but it's not very flexible. It also does basic stock, but no order-processing or custom price lists.

ODBC access is NEVER going to be an option for a cloud system - the underlying databases of cloud systems are heavily protected (because they will contain the data of EVERY user, not just yours) so no cloud supplier will let 'outsiders' get within a mile of the thing.

Most cloud suppliers do, however, have 'APIs' which provide limited access for automated/computerised access to your data - That remains the in province of programmers rather than Excel though.


daveforbes's picture


daveforbes | | Permalink

Sorry to contradict you cverrier, but a cloud provider could write an ODBC driver if they wished. Or some 3rd party could write an ODBC driver that utilised the cloud vendors API if the API was rich enough.

There is no requirement of ODBC to give any more access than the vendor API.

I don't think any cloud vendor would bother, but that is a different matter.

Although it is relatively straight forward to knock up a "toy" ODBC driver to wrap as sufficiently powerful API - particularly if you start with an open source sample, to produce and support a "commercial grade" one would be a huge undertaking and would involve a different skill set from that of a typical cloud developer.





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