What is OS X Server

The services of OS X Server

Matthias Zehden

As an extension of Yosemite, Apple offers OS X Server in the App Store. The app gives OS X users additional services and functions for administration, but not everyone needs them

The server version of OS X used to be a stand-alone system, the licenses of which weren't exactly cheap. AppleOS now offers X Server as an app for around 20 euros, which is installed under Yosemite and provides the additional functions and services when started. The low price should tempt some OS X users to buy, but private users only benefit from it in exceptional cases, so we can anticipate this at this point.

EnlargeThe configuration takes place via the app server, either locally or via the network.

Advanced management

Normal OS X already has many server functions, the underlying software of which is largely still used by OS X Server. This is simply based on the same services, just provides a new interface for configuration. The server app takes the place of system settings and OS X utilities. This differs on the one hand in that new services and additional options for known services become visible. On the other hand, the tool allows the administration of the server over the network. When it starts, it asks whether you want to configure the server on this or another Mac. This also turns the app into a remote maintenance tool.

EnlargeIn the left column you select protocols, accounts, services and other settings.

Additional functions

When it comes to file shares, OS X Server not only offers AFP and SMB3, but also the universally applicable, HTTP-based WebDAV. In addition, OS X Server supports Apple's Xsan-4 protocol for network-based storage clusters ("Storage Area Networks"). However, this is clearly a professional feature.

In addition, server services for address book, calendar and e-mail can be set up in order to store this important data on your own servers. This is definitely an argument in companies with sensitive data. Since such services then usually also have to be available externally, they entail sufficiently fast Internet access and, above all, intensive preoccupation with its security.

EnlargeFile sharing also supports encrypted SMB3 and WebDAV connections.

Exciting functions for work groups include a separate wiki, for example as a bulletin board, and the option of setting up a caching server for downloads and software updates. The latter prevents every user in the house network from pulling the data from Apple servers again. If you are already on the OS X server, it takes over the delivery and thus helps to save internet bandwidth. The profile manager allows the central management of Macs and iOS devices.

An important basic function is the Time Machine server, which allows central backups for all users on the server. Here, OS X Server is much faster and more reliable than simple network solutions such as a time capsule or backup on a USB disk on an airport router.

EnlargeTo maintain compatibility, AFP approvals are of course also possible.

Client or server?

Anyone who is toying with the installation of OS X Server must be aware that this product is not aimed at the average user. It's not that easy to configure, although it might look like it at first glance. You have to invest some time to familiarize yourself with the app and its various possibilities.

Most users, even small workgroups, get along very well with the user administration and normal release functions of OS Yosemite. This also applies to mail and calendar services that can be used free of charge or at least cheaply via iCloud or free providers.

EnlargeYou can use the statistics function to check the utilization of the network, processor and other components of the server at any time. The time period for this can vary between an hour and a week.

In work groups or small companies in which a lot of data is moved or a central backup is important, the faster file sharing of OS X Server and the Time Machine server come into play. If it only matters, NAS systems are also an alternative. They can't do as much as an OS X server, but they are easier to administer. Companies in particular benefit from the convenient remote maintenance via the server app