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jhmccullough
Mar 5, 2011, 08:32 AM
Hi, all. I've been reading the forums for a while, but now I need to solicit some information and advice.

The threads have been pretty helpful, and I wanted to solicit input on a slightly different position.

We're running a law office that consists of me and my secretary. We're hoping add another assistant in the near future.

Currently, my secretary is running a Mini and I'm running an old model Macbook Pro. I also have an ipad and an iphone that I use for business. We currently sync calendars, contacts, e-mail through mobileme (All the computers are mine, since its my office. :))

When we bring the new person in, we will be purchasing some form of Mac for them to work from, and I'm considering a mac mini server (with either SL or Lion installed, depending on when we hire).

We obviously have no in-house IT department (unless you count me), and we're in a rural area -- so there are not a great variety of Mac IT resources less than a half-hour away.

I was capable of setting up user access to my secretay's computer from my MBP.

When the third person comes into the office, it becomes even more paramount that we be able to store documents in one location and all have access to the same things. Currently, while we can share files, everything that my secretary has is on her computer, and my Laptop has its own files. Each computer is independently backed up.

I know a server would allow us to install the files onto the server and then have all three employees access them.

My question is, how difficult is this to set up? I really have no server experience whatsoever. Reviews tell me most of the setup can be done through the GUI in SL server, but that some command line functions may be needed. Terminal = over my head.

I would also like to employ the calendaring, contacts and other synchronizing capabilities of a server, and stop relying on Mobileme. Is this possible without a static IP? Right now, I'm pretty sure we're dynamic on our DSL, and the cost to obtain a static IP might be prohibitive.

Will I be able to configure my firewall with relative ease -- and little to no experience -- to allow for Back to my Mac functionality so that I can access the server, say from home, to get files? I know a VPN would be better, but again, cost may be a factor, and certainly, I question my ability to arrange for it.

Lastly, if I purchase the server as the computer for my new employee, can I set up the server running under one username, and then have them log in from a second user name, and have them use the physical server as their computer, thereby having access to the server under the other user at the same time, just like I and my current secretary would be able to?

Any advice you could offer would be greatly appreciated!

--John



iDisk
Mar 5, 2011, 08:51 AM
Breathe.......and approach this with a open and fun mind.:)


Get a Mac-Mini Server, for starters.
Educate yourself on SL Server by buying some books. Check out Amazon and get the apple training series books. Also a book on SL Server.
If You know SL well or even very well SL Server shouldn't be a big learning curve as you may think.


I would also suggest you assign task for your team. Meaning each person must master different duties that are involved with a server. All 3 of you can be somewhat less burden by taking the time to understand your tools, and properly implement them for your needs and maybe at some point help others who want to make the same transition.

Cause if someone is sick or leaves the company the other 2 know how to pick up where they left off. Don't leave all the knowledge to 1 person..... and don't expect this to be done over night.... I would also suggest that you either wait for Lion Server or buy SL Server and stick with it. why? because your learning something new and if you hop around from SL to Lion and things have changed your pretty much going to make it more difficult to understand the server software, and besides know one knows for sure if Apple has omitted some things in Lion Server thats in SL Server, that you may need or want.

Consumers can upgrade to new OS's quick but usually the server world sticks with one until the bugs are fixed from the new one before upgrading.

You & your team need to seriously invest in some education on the server. Make it fun, because it is.

simonlok
Mar 5, 2011, 09:17 AM
If I were you, I would not go the route of putting in a Mac OS X Server. I would do the following:

#1 - Apply for Google Apps for your domain. It's 100% free.

http://www.google.com/apps/intl/en/group/index.html

Use Google Apps in lieu of Mobile Me. Google Apps will allow you to sync calendars, email, contacts, etc., and it is 100% free. It works work Mac OS X as well as iOS and lots of other kinds of devices.


#2 - Install a simple NAS device at your office. You could do this by purchasing a Time Capsule and replace your DSL router with the Time Capsule. Alternatively, get something from here:

http://www.newegg.com/Store/SubCategory.aspx?SubCategory=124


#3 - If you need remote access to the files that will be stored on the NAS at your office, reconfigure your DSL router to do the proper port forwards and apply for a 100% free DynDNS mapping.

http://www.dyndns.com/

With the DynDNS mapping and a DynDNS mechanism setup at your office along with the port forward, you will be able to do remote access and you will be able to do so with a dynamic IP. No static IP is necessary. All 100% free.

Noah22
Mar 5, 2011, 09:29 AM
I, also, am a lawyer. Be careful with anything Google (or MobileMe) for that matter. Confidentiality...some bar associations are actively considering sanctions if something goes wrong with the data. Check it out, and the cloud in general, regarding client confidentiality.

jhmccullough
Mar 5, 2011, 01:47 PM
I appreciate the advice about google -- but unfortunately, I'm with Noah on this one. In my office, I'm not comfortable with putting information onto someone else's server -- not when it's confidential information.

I also appreciate the suggestion about taking it slowly -- I didn't mean to give the impression this was going to be a rush situation. I was just trying to get some answers to specific questions about how server would function in certain specific ways.

Thanks again for the great suggestions on other options as well, though!

miles01110
Mar 5, 2011, 01:52 PM
I appreciate the advice about google -- but unfortunately, I'm with Noah on this one. In my office, I'm not comfortable with putting information onto someone else's server -- not when it's confidential information.

I don't think you fully understand the implications of running a server on your own. If you are planning to keep any sort of sensitive customer data, the advice to outsource your serving requirements to an established vendor with enterprise security systems in place and operating at five 9s or better is good advice.

You say you aren't comfortable putting "confidential" information on someone else's server... are you comfortable with your own ability to secure that confidential data against an attacker? If so, you should understand that you'll have no defense if there's a data breach. Plenty of organizations with security and privacy concerns utilize Google Apps or Amazon S3 (Wikileaks, for example) with no problems at all.

GLS
Mar 6, 2011, 02:47 PM
Google apps isn't that bad an option for a small business; while the concept of a cloud still has some negative connotations with regards to security and data integrity, many universities (that have their own security concerns regarding student information) have adopted the Google solution.

At the end of the day, any email/file sharing solution is only as secure as the end users who use it.

talmy
Mar 9, 2011, 12:31 PM
Do not use the server computer as a workstation. Dedicate it to the task because you don't want a "user screwup" to take your server down.

I use a Mac mini with Snow Leopard Server at home, but I've got a pretty advanced home. Calendar and Address book server/synchronization, files, backups, VPN for remote accessing. Just about everything but mail.

It's not "it just works". Strongly recommend a book like "Snow Leopard Server for Dummies". Really! There's also a good tutorial available from Lynda.com. Best to bring it up slowly and switch it on-line once you have tested it all out. My story is here: http://almy.us/server.html

Moof1904
Mar 9, 2011, 01:34 PM
I'm not running SL server, just Leopard server, but I found "Leopard Server for Dummies" to be very useful. I use a mirrored pair of drives for data, with Time Machine backing them up. I have two Time Machine drives and rotate one to my safe deposit box at my bank once a week. That way, if catastrophe hits, I'll only lose a week's worth of data.

It's not plug-and-play, but setting it up is relatively straightforward. And yes, use a dedicated Mac to run the server. (I'm running Leopard server on an old dual 867 MHz G4 tower that I bought used for $100.)

I agree with those who suggest to just get Snow Leopard server now and begin, rather than wait months for a new OS. If you think you might be hiring someone in a few months, it will probably be less stressful to already have the IT infrastructure in place before the person starts, rather than add the annoyance of implementing and debugging an IT solution to the burden of getting a new person up to speed.

Kenrik
Mar 9, 2011, 02:49 PM
Lynda.com has a great tutorial on how to set everything up with Snow Leopard Server.

DNS was the most useful part because if you mess it up... well nothing works.

I have a Mac Mini Server running Apache/Mail/Address Book/MySQL/Open Directory etc.. great little machine.

P.S you might have to reinstall if you mess up DNS.

nastebu
Mar 9, 2011, 03:39 PM
It sounds like for what you want to do, a server is overkill.

An NAS will allow you to keep all your files together and accessible to all the computers.

As for sharing calendars, have you looked at BusyCal? It can keep everything synced between calendars over the local network without MobileMe or Google. It's very easy and a very elegant program.

http://www.busymac.com/

aaronhe
Mar 11, 2011, 03:02 PM
I can help you with this through the entire process. If you would like you can contact me at aaronhe@cdw.com.

thejadedmonkey
Mar 11, 2011, 03:22 PM
I do the IT for a small law firm in a rural area. There's the lawyer, secretary, and we will be adding a new computer. The only difference is, we use Windows instead of OS X.

We just have everything on shared folders, and generally the secretary's computer is the one with everything on it, and everyone else just uses the network to open the docs.

Regarding the cloud - don't use it. At best it's unreliable. When something goes down - such as when Google accidently deleted user accounts - you have no way to getting the data back, and you're at the mercy of Google. That's a good scenario. In a bad case, Mobile Me could have a permission bug that allows someone to see your confidential emails and contacts (http://www.tuaw.com/2009/10/12/mobileme-mixup-address-book-snafu-exposes-personal-data-to-stra/). That breach of confidentiality is on your hands if something goes wrong... not Apple's.

If we were to implement something, it would be a Windows server, running only a file, web, and email server, and slowly look into allowing outside access, or the ability to sync with mobile devices (Windows phone for example)

Step 1 would be to make sure the server is working internally, using windows domain.
Step 2 is considering how to add outside access in a safe way.

handheldgames
Mar 13, 2011, 04:40 AM
Lynda.com has a great tutorial on how to set everything up with Snow Leopard Server.

DNS was the most useful part because if you mess it up... well nothing works.

I have a Mac Mini Server running Apache/Mail/Address Book/MySQL/Open Directory etc.. great little machine.

P.S you might have to reinstall if you mess up DNS.

I'll second lynda. excellent resource!