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10/24/2009

Mac vs generic PC in the mini server category

In comparison, the version of Mac OS X Snow Leopard Server bundled on the Mac mini is the same as you'd get at retail or on an Xserve. Like Microsoft's Small Business Server package, Snow Leopard Server bundles both core server features (DNS, DHCP, directory services, and file and print sharing services with support for Macs, Windows, and other Unix/Linux clients); calendar, chat and email services (with mobile push messaging and calendaring support); web and web-based wiki, blog, and calendar collaboration features; routing, firewall, RADIUS, and VPN services; and client machine backups, software update, and group policy management features. 

Mac OS X Server also supplies some unique features of its own, including Podcast Producer for automating video editing workflows from capture to delivery; Xgrid distributed processing; QuickTime Streaming Server for broadcasting media streams; and NetBoot/NetInstall for supporting diskless workstations and remote imaging client machines. The product is not restricted to a certain number of users, and any number of Mac mini servers can be set up on the same network, participate in any number of directory domains, and services can consume as much disk space as the hardware allows. Key services are also 64-bit across the board in Snow Leopard Server.

In contrast, Microsoft's lower cost appliance offering, called Windows Home Server, only offers basic file, web, backup, and media streaming services, not all the things a small office user would want to do. 

mosxs vs sbs

Mac OS X Server has the potential to leverage the iPhone's popularity among business customers because it offers companies with iPhones a variety of complementary services. Among these are wiki collaboration services that are specifically designed to work great out of the box on the iPhone (below) and a new Mobile Access service that allows iPhone users to securely obtain their email, contacts, and calendar and to access internal company websites using the same SSL protocol that banks use in their online operations. 

iPhone wiki



Additionally, Apple supports Snow Leopard Server's CalDAV calendaring, LDAP corporate directory information, and standard Internet email on the iPhone, and supports push email and calendar updates from Server to the iPhone. The iPhone can't help but sell Snow Leopard Server, and the new Mac mini offering provides an easy, low cost way for companies to evaluate these features in supporting their iPhone users. 


For the bleeding edge of power users, Server Admin might only address the majority of what they want to accomplish; users who want to install additional server packages are on their own, and must operate these with the same command line or web-based tools that experienced admins on any other *nix-based server system would use. These users have to proceed with some understanding of how Server Admin works in order to prevent conflict between it and their own custom system configurations.

Server Admin's sweet spot also happens to be Mac OS X Server's primary market: education users and small and medium sized businesses that serve Macs. However, this is not really Apple's mainstream user base. Server Admin presents nowhere near the straightforward usability of iLife and iTunes. In order to set things up using Server Admin, users will need a good grounding in moderately advanced server and networking concepts.

server admin



Server Preferences 

Starting with Leopard Server, Apple introduced a new, highly simplified server tool called Server Preferences. It's pattered after System Preferences on the Mac OS X desktop. It doesn't intend to support every service available, nor does to present more than a few basic options for each component.

During initial setup, users who opt for anything other than the advanced configuration are presented with the extremely basic Server Preferences. In very Mac-like fashion, everything is setup to "just work," although this occurs because all of the dangerous choices are simply unavailable. 

Using Server Preferences is literally a matter of clicking large buttons, very similar to turning on Time Machine on desktop Macs. Turn a service on, and it's working, configured the way Apple thinks is best. If you want to customize things, you're probably out of luck because Apple has determined that anything you might adjust probably has repercussions you wouldn't anticipate and which would result in a complex and expensive troubleshooting problems that Apple Store Geniuses will only be able to answer with apologetically blank stares. 

For users who just want a file server, email and instant messaging, shared calendars and contacts, an Intranet website with rich blogging and wiki features, along with Time Machine client backups and a VPN and basic firewall, Server Preferences does almost everything for you and works without really needing to crack a manual, the way most Mac users would expect of an Apple product.

server preferences


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