How do I manage Macs in a Remote office half way across the country?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Mac Write, Feb 2, 2013.

  1. macrumors member

    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2012
    Location:
    Vancouver British Columbia
    #1
    Really not sure where I should post this so it gets the attention it requires.

    I work for a charity and we are going to purchase 3 Mac mini's for our Toronto office as "Data Entry" computers. I live and work on Vancouver BC. We barely have the funds for these new computers, so I need to come up with a solution to handle this Mac minis from half way across the country.

    My ideal solution would be a VPN+Apple Remote Desktop, but a server for that office isn't on the books at present (we will be getting a mini server for our head office this month though).

    I need to remotely manage these computers and since we most likely won't get a mac mini server, I need other solutions.

    "Back to my Mac" is another option, but that means I need a "office" iCloud account and have to change user accounts on my MBP. The other issue is, reliability. I personally feel Back to my Mac isn't reliable enough for having to manage Macs in a remote office.

    Any ideas on how best to do this? We are using a Time Capsule or Airport Base Station (not sure which one). I just realized since they are data entry systems we should go with Reburbs. will save us close to $500 on all 3 systems.
     
  2. macrumors P6

    Intell

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2010
    Location:
    Inside
    #2
    SSH. Each Mini can be it's own server. Setup port forwarding on the router to forward a high public port to the Mini's port 22. Setup a SSH only account that has a good strong password or use public key authentication. Allow only that account to be used for remote access/SSH. Then forward the Apple Remote Desktop ports and VNC ports to the local machine. You can even use SSH compression to make it a bit faster and you can use only Mini to act as a server for the others if you want.
     
  3. thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2012
    Location:
    Vancouver British Columbia
    #3
    Thanks. We are going to get the 2011 Mac minis with 2GB RAM as they are refurbs.

    The other issue is, right now I just have are volunteer computers at the head office use a limited user guest user account so it auto resets on logout.

    Tell me more about how to use ARD with port forwarding. I assume that in the group I would call "Toronto Volunteer Computers" That I would enter IP:port and that would be good enough to get through via SSH?
     
  4. macrumors member

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2011
    Location:
    Dagobah System
    #4
    Just thought I'd say that if you are using those machines with that amount of RAM the performance would not be great. I have a 2011 and bumped it to 8Gbs of RAM, think mine came with 4 and even that amount still felt at times sluggish.Lion is fairly resource hungry.

    Also we have used Teamviewer across multiple platforms and I have to say it's superb, the free versions are not meant to be used for commercial use but you could give it a try and see what you think and then buy if you decide its worth it.
     
  5. thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2012
    Location:
    Vancouver British Columbia
    #5
    We are a Charity/NonProfit. As for the RAM. Basically the Mac minis will be used to access Safari and then do Data Entry via Web forms. 99.99% of the work done on these Mac minis will be in Safari. Maybe I will say we should through 8GB of RAM in them. I doubt each year I will upgrade the OS on them as I am in Vancouver and they are in Toronto and…well good luck getting approval for that trip.
     
  6. macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2011
    #6
    2GB RAM is a non-starter if you plan on using Lion or Mountain Lion. You need at least 4GB to do the basics; I know this from personal experience. 8GB RAM should be sufficient based on what you plan to do with the Minis.
     
  7. macrumors 6502a

    palebluedot

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2008
    #7
    Why get Macs at all if you are only going to have 2GB of RAM? You can get PCs at the same power for a cheaper price and Windows 7 and OS X are pretty much comparable now in terms of usability (and before I get flamed, I use both).

    Moreover, I forget the name of the site but there is some site that allows 501c3s (I assume, in Canada, too) to register and get mega-discounts on software and hardware.
     
  8. thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2012
    Location:
    Vancouver British Columbia
    #8
    Maybe a Linux Terminal would be a good idea, but Windows is out. That's what we have now and we require low maintenance. I am not going to support Windows (have enough trouble getting the president off of Windows 7 on her 27 iMac we bought for her 2-years ago!.

    I will definitely look to upgrade the RAM. Now I need to find cheap Keyboard, Mouse, 24" Monitors.
     
  9. macrumors newbie

    laughjimbo

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2012
    #9
    I have used back to mac reliably from a mobile phone connection to my mac book pro to support a number of macs before with no real problems.
     
  10. macrumors P6

    Intell

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2010
    Location:
    Inside
    #10
    For you needs, 4GB of ram is plenty. A simple Pentium 3 box running a stripped down version of Linux would do very well as a server box for you to SSH into. If you can find an old x86 laptop that would be even better as they tend to use less power than a desktop of similar vintage.
     
  11. macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2010
    #11
    If Safari is the only needed app, who not go for iPad/minis ?
     
  12. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2012
    #12
    Check out logmein.com. You can use the free version or pay for a full version. Works very well for remote control.
     
  13. macrumors 68030

    FreakinEurekan

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2011
    Location:
    Eureka Springs, Arkansas
    #13
    Why would you need a server for that office to use ARD? Can't you just use a VPN tunneling router?

    It's quite possible you can't; I've not tried that with ARD... but I've used VPN tunneling routers to support remote computers using VNC so I would expect it to work OK with ARD.
     
  14. macrumors 6502

    Holmes093

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2010
    #14
    Could you not do the following:

    Grab a Raspberry PI.
    Setup the Raspberry Pi as a VPN server using Hamachi.
    Use ARD over Hamachi VPN.

    I am going to be buying a Raspberry Pi come payday, I will try this method.

    Holmes093
     
  15. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2010
    Location:
    Baltimore MD
    #15
    logmein is great, if they will be inside your WAN look at VNC as well.
     

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