Mac Mini Server w/ Windows Server 2003/2008 in Parallels

Discussion in 'Mac OS X Server, Xserve, and Networking' started by peteullo, Mar 26, 2010.

  1. macrumors regular

    I am entertaining the idea of running a Mac Mini server in my small office. I was curious if anyone has any experience running the Mac mini server while virtually running Windows Server software at the same time. Basically we need the Windows Server just for our accounting software so it won't see much traffic.

    The idea was mentioned to me by a consultant recommended to us from the Apple Store.

    If anyone can chime in on opinions/experiences I would truly appreciate it.
  2. macrumors member

    Yes, it could be done. You could use an USB ethernet adapter with the Mac mini with Snow Leopard Server to create a second LAN connection which can be used dedicated for the virtual machine. However, it might be cheaper and easier to manage in the end to simply install Windows Server 2003 or Windows Server 2008 on an ordinary computer, preferably using a motherboard which has two ethernet ports and a sufficient amount of SATA connectors. It would be easier to manage and you would divide tasks better this way, minimizing risks as well.
  3. macrumors regular

  4. dyn
    macrumors 68000

    Simply use whatever virtualisation software you want (VMware Fusion, Parallels or VirtualBox) and create a vm that uses the built-in network card of the Mac mini and tell it to use bridge mode (no NAT as this would cause some problems). There is only one downside: when you reboot the machine you need to restart the virtualisation app and restart or resume the Windows vm. VirtualBox has the option to use headless mode for these kind of situations.

    Using a usb network card is not really recommended as these cards have some problems. Having 2 network cards is most likely to be an overkill. The only usable thing would be load balancing (which 99,99% of the small offices do not need) and minimising the very small risk of a broken network card (the mini has wifi so that could be used as well, although network cards do not tend to break often). I consider it to be a bit of overreacting, it seems to be like dressing up as the Michelin man when travelling to work in your car because "something" might happen.

    In this case I'd check on the memory and I/O usage because those are the biggest problems when using virtualisation. If the vm is using a lot of memory or I/O this means it will slow down the Mac mini considerably which in turn can cause all sorts of problems (files from network shares open very slowly, email is slow, it does not validate your credentials when logging in and thus does not allow you to log in, etc.). You need to investigate what amount of memory Windows needs and what amount you can actually use for the vm. It might also be a better option to run the vm from a different hdd than OS X and your data. You can test these things by downloading the trial version of Parallels (or whatever you want to use) and test it on your workstation. It will give you an idea of what to expect.
  5. macrumors 68030


    Awesome suggestion & insight on the last post.

    I'm curious as to witch accounting program are you tied to windows with?
    Is it SimplyAccounting or that age old AccPac (plus) or some other proprietary/industry standard?

    The reason I ask is if you need to submitt your accounting records to the government, surely the gov has some mac os x compatibility or the file compatibility for mac accounting apps are available too, no?
  6. macrumors newbie

    If you just like the small Mac Mini hardware, is there any reason to run Mac OS X at all?
    You could just run Windows via bootcamp. That way you wouldnt have to patch two systems at the same time.
  7. macrumors regular

    Thanks for all the suggestions.. You're ideas have all been very helpful. I ended up picking up the Mini server and converted 4 computers over to Macs.. I decided to keep things simple and just built a server with some old PC parts I had laying around. Everything is running nice and smooth and hopefully will stay that way! Again thanks for everything!
  8. macrumors 68030


    Awesome! When you get more familiar with OS X Server/OS X client and feel like Parallels/VMWare virtual machine solution can help reduce the electric bill expense and replace that PC, then follow-up with new solution back to your original inquiry.
  9. macrumors regular

    Once I get more fluent in all this server nonsense I will definitely go virtual. This is my first time doing any sort of networking that involves a server. I have been learning a ton from Apples resources site and you tube. Amazing how much simpler and user friendly OSX server is compared to Windows... Then again should I have expected different? :apple:
  10. macrumors newbie

    I started down this route about 2 months ago, I was about running a Windows 2003 Server with Exchange in a VM on a Mac Mini Server. Like a previous contributor pointed out the regular Parallels 5 would need to be restarted upon reboot - the alternative is a very (very very) expensive version of Parallels that is designed for server use. In the end I just moved the (relatively few) mail accounts to the Mac Mail Server by converting Outlook PST files to MBOX files, set up fetchmail etc. Another win for Apple! You may even find a different way to host your accounting system if you decide that a VM looks like a bit of a kludge :)

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