Mac OS X Server: how does a home server solution work?

Discussion in 'Mac OS X Server, Xserve, and Networking' started by I'm a Mac, Aug 23, 2009.

  1. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2007
    #1
    I'm kind of intrigued by the process of a home server, yet I'm not quite sure what the capabilities of it are (sorry if these seem like stupid questions). First of all, how exactly does Mac OS X Server work?

    I know that servers are generally used for large networks, like for example at school we all log into the server instead of that particular computer, but for a home network, how does that physically work?

    What I'd want to be able to do is have the server running and have documents, contacts, email, and maybe even movies and music from all of the other computers on the network, and have it accessible from computers outside a network- macs and pc's, and have it physically able to be logged into remotely- like VNC. Is such a setup possible (or worth it?)
     
  2. macrumors 65816

    munkees

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2005
    Location:
    Pacific Northwest
    #2
    what you want is universal cloud computing for the home.
     
  3. Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2004
    Location:
    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    #3
    ^^ That really is the best solution for this. But you can do this at home if you wish to, and there are members here who have. You actually don't need OS X Server to do any of this. It's not a single box, click the button kind of situation, though, either. You'll have to put it in the DMZ of your router or port forward, use dynamic DNS or something so that you have a way to find your computer from the public internet, and then you'll have to establish any servers for various services you want. You can use free server software for all the kinds of things you want to serve.

    As for OS X server, it comes with a number of those server packages, but really what it offers is a lot of tools for administration, and you really don't need those tools / they won't help you.
     
  4. macrumors 6502a

    carlosbutler

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2008
    Location:
    London City
    #4
    You could buy a NAS which will work with any OS and save all files and folders on that. If its connected over 1Gb ethernet you could even install stuff on the hard drives. I was under the impression that you could do remote management from going to sharing in system preferences. Then just mess around with the router and get yourself a domain name if you want to make it a tad easier to remember.
     
  5. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2007
    #5
    There is no reason for you to have Mac OS X Server to do any of this. Stock Mac OS X should be just fine. It isn't as if you need anything more powerful than a Mac Mini with a big hard drive attached. You can use it to push iTunes, share files, push a web server, etc. Just look in the "Sharing" tab of the System Preferences on your Mac and you will see what is available.

    Good luck.

    Oh, you might find that if you go off-site that your ISP doesn't allow you to run a web or FTP server. You can probably come back in via VNC though.
     
  6. macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2006
    #6
    It's definitely overkill for home use, but I run OS X server on a mini in the attic with plenty of external storage attached. That machine holds all of my data for the macs in the house and, using network home folders allows me to access my user profile and all of my files, iTunes library, etc from any machine in the house.

    I also have the added benefit of it syncing my Macbook Pro with my home folder when I connect to the network so I have my home machine and laptop in sync.

    Although I run iTunes on my Imac, all of my media (including lots of movies) sit on a file share from the server.

    I would be lying if I said it had been easy to set up, but now it's running - It is a very sweet solution!

    :cool:
     
  7. macrumors demi-god

    VideoFreek

    Joined:
    May 12, 2007
    Location:
    Philly
    #7
    If you're not wedded to OS X, I could recommend a Windows Home Server, which would give you a turnkey solution that does nearly everything you specified out of the box (everything except remote login and control, that is, which can easily be done--for free--using LogMeIn). I'm quite enthusiastic about this product; though it really rocks for a Windows-centric home network, it functions fine in a Mac environment, too. If you go for one of the popular HP MediaSmarts, it can serve as a Time Machine target for your Macs as well.

    I built my own WHS around a low-end Dell PowerEdge server I had lying around, and it has been extremely stable and a joy to use. I even purchased the LogMeIn Ignition app for my iPhone, so that I can login and control my server (as well as any of my PCs or Macs) from anywhere using my iPhone. Really sweet!

    If you have an old PC laying around, you can download a free 120-day demo of the WHS OS from Microsoft for evaluation. This would be a good way to check whether WHS would meet your needs before committing cash. Good luck!
     
  8. macrumors 68040

    rwilliams

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2009
    Location:
    Durham, NC
    #8
    I use Ubuntu on a really old Dell desktop as our home server. I use it to store documents, photos, backups of my wife's PC, and use Firefly Media Server (mt-daapd) to make it operate as an iTunes server. OS X Server is way more than the average person would need for home "server" functionality.
     
  9. macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2009
    Location:
    Cali
    #9
    I am in the same want to know as the OP,

    I have been serving my stuff up on the ps3, and thru the wifes computer just using the AEBS and an attached drive so she can safe her stuff there.

    I am not really in the know, to know how to do automatic backups from the vista computer to the disk and want to learn how it can be done as well?

    I want to learn how to set up a server, and want to run one here in the home for the same reasons, email, files, music, videos ect...

    do you guys have any links to read or anything about setting one up for mac/pc/ entertainment ect....

    thanks

    all great suggestions, i just need a bit of knowledge before i can proceed.
     
  10. macrumors member

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2008
    #10
    It sounds like what you want is a NAS mixed with a domain server, mixed with a Exchange server / client all topped off with VPN or VNC access.

    To be honest that is not easy to setup.

    If you are looking to have one place in the house were all your movies, music, pictures, and Time machine backups go, a mac mini running 10.5/6 with a lot of storage attached all shared over SMB (so that your PCs and other devices can see them too) is the best thing to do. If you want to be able to access this remotely setup a VNC server on your main computer (I personally like RealVNC as it comes comes with a java client that can be accessed via web interface).

    Cheers
    Cameron
     
  11. macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2009
    Location:
    Cali
    #11
    very awesome suggestions, me likey!!

    see as of now i have this stuff:

    mac pro (as in sig)
    2 ps3's
    a few tb of movies/music/pics
    1 time machine backing up mac pro main boot drive(need to just go ahaead and either copy clone this or use the other one)


    so why use a mac mini?

    could i not just use the mac pro for everything?

    mac mini will cost me more money!
     
  12. macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2003
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    #12
    This is a great feature of OS X server. Is there any easy way to duplicate it without Server?
     
  13. macrumors 68040

    calderone

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2009
    Location:
    Seattle
    #13

    You could but many (including myself) do not like to mix our production machines with our storage/services. My Mac Pro is strictly for production, it is set up to be my workhorse.

    I don't want my Mac Pro to also manage the services for my 360, PS3, MBA, MB and other various devices.

    My situation may be different as I use Mac OS X server, so I use directory services, etc. For me, it makes sense to use a Mini for these things as opposed to my production machine. This allows me the freedom to change (I like to tinker) my Mac Pro without the worry that I will be taking down my entire infrastructure.

    If your Mac Pro doesn't fall into that category, there is no issue with running services from your Pro.
     
  14. macrumors member

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2009
    #14
    Home Server Computing

    Wohoho .... dangerous stuff ! I have been and am running a mixed environment (Windows, Linux and Mac) around a Windows Home Server. I chose that because it was easy to set up, my three kids use Windows for school and need to secure their files, share printers etc. Unfortunately, the buddies from Microsoft have shot themselves in the foot by creating a backup solution (the core of WHS) that is inconsistent and unreliable ... a fact I have established through painful experience. It is very easy to set up, manage etc., and provides remote access out of the box, lets the Macs and the Linux PCs use the printers, exchange files etc. etc. flawlessly, but when it comes to data security, don't hang your hat there. I use a Drobo for file backup, so all files from all machines are stored on the WHS, and the entire WHS storage is backed up to the Drobo. I have 3 GB of storage on the WHS, and 12 GB net RAID on the Drobo, so I keep a daily, weekly and monthly backup. That works, in conjunction with my TimeMachine that doesn't work on the WHS. iTunes, photos, movies (both to PCs, Macs and Apple TV) and files are shared from the WHS, and works without fail. If only you could trust the backup function on WHS, which you.can.not !!!
     
  15. thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2007
    #15
    This is a perfect solution. If I could get a mac mini w/Server, attach something like a DROBO to it, and back up my macs with time machine AND PCs, as well as store plenty of music so it would be accessible from anywhere in the house (I could just run a VNC client and then play the music through whatever speakes, right? [or just store music, too]), and have it accessible from Macs and PCs at all times, how could I do this?
     
  16. macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    May 2, 2008
    #16
    Look at the HP MediaSmart Server EX487 or better

    I have one of these and it does sooo much and if you are hooking it up to a PS3 or an Xbox 360 it is very simple. Pluse I have an add on so that my home server rips my CD's and avals the music to my Xbox 360 and my Macbook Pro

    You can set the HP unit up for remote access using a dynamic DNS service and RDP, it is really nice.

    Lastly, I have restored TimeMachine files from this and it worked well.

    Plus with the HP iPhone app I can listen to music from the home server on the go. It is nice. They claim you can do movies, but I found it too slow.

    I know it is not an Apple solution, but it is very nice for what it does.
     
  17. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2008
    #17
    All of this is nice, and I have done it before, but nowadays I forget the hassles and just use getdropbox.com to sync my files between all my computers. It's auto-backup also.

    There are other such services but I have shopped around and DropBox is the best one for my purposes. Totally great service. Check it out. 2 GB free trial.
     
  18. macrumors member

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2009
    Location:
    Cheshire
    #18
    I found this thread interesting but far too full of jargon for an aged old duffer like me. If I can explain our situation and then ask for anyone to respond in 'lay-terms'.

    My wife and I have a number of interests - she runs a home based web-site for someone, I am a home based management consultant and we both have a large set of files categorised as; movies, music, pictures and applications - plus our separate mail, document and database files.

    What we would like to do is to have all our movies, music and picture held 'centrally and for us both to be able to access them on our own machines and also via Apple TV for movies and our HiFi via airport express for music. All those files need to be accessible at any time. (I know there are issues with Itunes, but we could get round that).

    Then we'd each like to have our own file storage, again held on a 'central machine, accessed via password.

    Finally we'd like to be able to go away from home with our MacBooks and when we return for the central and MacBooks to synch and keep us up to date. We both have @me.com accounts and Iphones.

    We have just seen the MacPro server (with Snow Leopard not Lion!) that can have 4 x 1Tb storage (enough to last us for a good long time :) ) and are aware of 'sharing' as a mechanism via MacOSx.

    Can anyone assist me in understanding the way forward - no jargon please (we're British - and old!)

    Thanks in advance.

    Uncle H
     
  19. macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2011
    #19
    Jargon Free thoughts

    There are pros and cons to using a Mac OS X Server. The Pro side is hard to explain without the jargon, so I will stick to the con side. Simply put, it is a little overkill as a solution to manage storage centrally. A few things to consider:
    1) Storage: One of the users posted the term NAS (Network Attached Storage). The concept of a NAS is that it is a hard drive or a series of hard drives that are networkable. Time Capsule can serve this function. I used to work in an Apple Store and I would typically suggest either using the Time Capsule, or "slaving" or connecting a hard drive to the time capsule for this storage. The disadvantage of Time Capsule is that it is a single point of failure. If the device crashes, you lose your router, back ups and data. If you want to upgrade, copying gigs and gigs of data is time consuming. Another storage idea is some device with swappable drives. For example something like this (http://www.lacie.com/us/products/product.htm?id=10506). If a drive fails, it is easy for any end user to replace. Finally on storage, I would not buy more than you think you will use in the next 2 to 3 years. Drives fail, and storage is getting cheaper by the month.
    2) File Management: Mac OS X allows us to 5 users to connect to it as a server. Running an OS X desktop is one way to manage files. Mac OS X Server will be a better solution for more than 5 users accessing the central computer at the same time.
    3) Services: First, I would not host a website on the same computer that I was running other essential services (mail, contacts, calendars) on. Web services can take a lot of "overhead" meaning that it can slow the computer down. I would run this from another box. Mac OS X offers a lot of interesting services that you might like. They are not hard to set up, but it can make managing multiple Macs very easy. For example, Mac OS X server can help manage software updates (store them on a computer in your house, you can apply them faster), it can "serve" contacts to other PC and Mac computers, It can support Mobile Home Directories (Users Home folder lives on the server... User can use computer remotely. When back on the network, home folder is synced with "Master computer" or server. It can also manage Time Machine backups centrally.

    I would start with the storage. Plan for that. Then plan for how you serve data. Keep in mind, many of the programs on the Mac are not "client server ready". For example, if you are in iPhoto, the database is locked and other users cannot attach to that same iPhoto library. The best way to manage this is via Photo sharing. iTunes is the same thing. So a little planning is needed

    ----------

    There are pros and cons to using a Mac OS X Server. The Pro side is hard to explain without the jargon, so I will stick to the con side. Simply put, it is a little overkill as a solution to manage storage centrally. A few things to consider:
    1) Storage: One of the users posted the term NAS (Network Attached Storage). The concept of a NAS is that it is a hard drive or a series of hard drives that are networkable. Time Capsule can serve this function. I used to work in an Apple Store and I would typically suggest either using the Time Capsule, or "slaving" or connecting a hard drive to the time capsule for this storage. The disadvantage of Time Capsule is that it is a single point of failure. If the device crashes, you lose your router, back ups and data. If you want to upgrade, copying gigs and gigs of data is time consuming. Another storage idea is some device with swappable drives. For example something like this (http://www.lacie.com/us/products/product.htm?id=10506). If a drive fails, it is easy for any end user to replace. Finally on storage, I would not buy more than you think you will use in the next 2 to 3 years. Drives fail, and storage is getting cheaper by the month.

    2) File Management: Mac OS X allows us to 5 users to connect to it as a server. Running an OS X desktop is one way to manage files. Mac OS X Server will be a better solution for more than 5 users accessing the central computer at the same time.

    3) Services: First, I would not host a website on the same computer that I was running other essential services (mail, contacts, calendars) on. Web services can take a lot of "overhead" meaning that it can slow the computer down. I would run this from another box. Mac OS X offers a lot of interesting services that you might like. They are not hard to set up, but it can make managing multiple Macs very easy. For example, Mac OS X server can help manage software updates (store them on a computer in your house, you can apply them faster), it can "serve" contacts to other PC and Mac computers, It can support Mobile Home Directories (Users Home folder lives on the server... User can use computer remotely. When back on the network, home folder is synced with "Master computer" or server. It can also manage Time Machine backups centrally.

    I would start with the storage. Plan for that. Then plan for how you serve data. Keep in mind, many of the programs on the Mac are not "client server ready". For example, if you are in iPhoto, the database is locked and other users cannot attach to that same iPhoto library. The best way to manage this is via Photo sharing. iTunes is the same thing. So a little planning is needed
     

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