A Hong Kong company has bucked the trend towards small servers running Windows or Linux and replaced its Intel-based servers with Apple's Macintosh Xserve. Scorpion Precision Industry manufactures about 70 million badges and key chains every year. The company ran four Intel-based servers with Microsoft's Windows NT and 2000 operating systems. 'Our first server ran on FreeBSD back in 1995. It was rock solid, but in 1998 our server was hijacked by a spammer. We had to do something,' said managing director, Georges Ouang, who studied aerodynamics at university in his native Belgium and went to Taiwan 18 years ago to set up his own business. The problem with FreeBSD was the difficulty in running and configuring it, he said. Like many Hong Kong firms, Scorpion had no budget for a full-time information technology specialist. Rather than work his way through a 500-page manual to configure FreeBSD, Mr Ouang opted for a Windows solution because he had Intel-based computers, which he assumed would be easier to manage. After a few difficult years of trying to keep the servers up and running, he decided to replace them with the Apple servers. 'I was interested in looking at it because the Mac is also based on FreeBSD, especially since the interface is much easier to use,' he said. He began to look at a Macintosh solution in November and in December committed to the Mac. 'At the end of December, we had a complete system crash with our NT server in Hong Kong. I spent 11 hours online from Belgium getting it up and running. I should have been selling products and doing real work instead of playing remote system administrator,' he said. Mr Ouang had been looking at the Macintosh solution at New Vision, a Hong Kong Macintosh dealer that targets the SME market. New Vision managing director Fred Lau said a demonstration was set up at his company's eTech facility on Hennessy Road. 'He [Mr Ouang] came into our eTech centre and we showed him a demo. He bought one, tried it, liked it, and bought three more identical servers,' Mr Lau said. Mr Ouang is hardly a typical Macintosh user. In fact, he prefers the PC for most non-mission critical purposes. What bothered him about his Windows servers was the constant rebooting. Even when he felt it might run for a week, he did not trust that it would. So he would reboot every day, and that was a waste of time and effort, he said. 'I do not like having to re-start all the time. I travel nearly 500,000km every year. I don't want to get a call about the server when I am in Brazil,' he said. Because he liked FreeBSD, Mr Ouang did give Linux some thought. But he was concerned about support and ease of use. The Apple solution seemed just right for a company like his. With about 15 people in Hong Kong and 1,000 in China, his network includes 75 computers. 'We have 75 client machines, five are Macintoshes, four are for design, and one is for me to play with. All the other machines are Intel-based Windows clients.' His main use is to handle file transfers and run a FileMaker Pro database. He moved the database from Windows to Mac with ease, and it was running without a hitch, he said. The Xserve servers were all running without any serious problems, he added. 'The Xserve is a good server. I think Apple could add some functions to the interface, but I am happy I don't have to restart the server every day,' he said. Mr Lau said New Vision would be able to support Mr Ouang's company in Hong Kong and China. He expected to sell more when people realised how easy and reliable the Xserve was. 'We may be the only company to have reached double-digits in Xserve sales in Hong Kong,' Mr Lau said. 'It is a solution a lot of output centres would like because they do a lot of FTP [file transfer protocol] work. SMEs that want a reliable, easy-to-manage solution will also be happy. One should also remember cost savings. The cost is considerably lower than a Windows solution because there is not the high licence fee.'