This is a guide to OS X Lion and Mountain Lion Server. There are a few differences but they are not major. Some people will want to run a server on an older Mac, one that doesn’t qualify for Mountain Lion. You won’t be able to find Lion Server on the Apple store, but I can confirm that Apple will still sell you Lion and Lion Server if you call Apple sales. So let’s get started.
OS X Server, the server for everyone. Well, nearly right because it is and it isn’t. OSX Server is certainly one of the most user friendly server installs out there, but it’s still a server, and setting it up has its own pitfalls that you can easily fall into. I have found that Apple’s own documentation on OS X Server comes in two flavors. The basic guide reassures you that everything works and it’ll be all fine, which is OK, until you need something more in-depth. Then you graduate to the advanced guides, which assume you are a network admin and UNIX boffin, and you soon find yourself well and truly out of your comfort zone.
So this is an attempt to create a guide for the rest of us. It’s my first stab, so if I have gotten anything wrong, or you have got some feedback, then feel free to give some feedback via the forums. I’ll take on any criticism and keep this updated and try to keep things as straightforward as possible.
First, I would have a look at Apple’s Lion Server pages and see what it has to offer, if you haven’t already. You may have already done this, bit if you haven’t, you’ll get an overview of what Lion Server can do, and if it meets your needs.
While we will be dealing with Lion and Mountain Lion server in this series, most of the subjects covered are also relevant if you are looking at setting up and running Snow Leopard Server, but there are differences. So if you are going to run Snow Leopard Server, then by all means read on, and where there are differences that I don’t cover in this series, then I suggest you post any queries in the Mac Forums where you’ll get help with issues not covered here.
Do I need OSX Server?
Before we start, you have to ask yourself whether you really need to run OSX Server. Lion Server comes with a host of features, from a mail service to wikis and collaborative calendars. If all you need is to share files and maybe host a shared iTunes library on a machine at home, then honestly, you are better off with the sharing capabilities built into the regular OSX. So here’s a shortlist of some of the services Lion Server offers to help you decide.
File Sharing: The basic function of any server, but you get more control over who can access which shared folders and you get better Spotlight support for when you need to search shared drives.
Calendar, Contacts and Mail: Share calendars, schedule meetings, book conference rooms, and coordinate events. Contacts Server lets to create shared contacts and keep them in sync on all Macs, iPads, and iPhones. You can also run your own mail server with push notification.
Time Machine: OS X Server can act as a designated Time Machine backup location for all the Macs on your network, including the server itself. just make sure you have plenty of storage.
Profile Manager: If your business or family has a lot of Apple devices and the task of updating them all is becoming a chore then this is a godsend. If you want to control the way kids use their devices or push out updates to a sales force using iPads and macs then this will save you hours. You can also update these profiles and remote wipe a lost or stolen device.
iChat Server: Set up a shared instant messages server. iChat also allows screen sharing and the sending of large attachments that would otherwise be sent by email. If you are after reducing the amount of spurious emails users often resort to, an iChat service is great for all those throw away mesages that would otherwise make email inboxes cluttered with those one-off throw away messages.
Wiki and Blog Server: Another group collaboration service. With this you can have a Wiki area to hold information that everybody needs to know about, and keep it updated . If you ever get asked the same question countless times, you can now just say, “It’s on the Wiki”. With a blog service teams can share information, so that everybody can share and contribute, sharing knowledge, expertise and much more.
VPN: VPN lets those who need access to your network securely by setting up a secure link to your home or business network. You can access the server, any other shared computers and printers, just as if you where in the building.
Software Update Server: Apple’s software update service does a great job of keeping all your Macs and iOS devices up to date. But it can use a lot of bandwidth when you have a lot of Apple devices, each downloading their own updates. Lion server can act as a central update service for all devices on your network, downloading the updates once, then sending them to any devices that need that update.
Web Server: If you want a full web server, or just a company intranet then the web server can let you create and run an information hub with much less hassle.