Is an OSX server the right choice for this . . .

Discussion in 'Mac OS X Server, Xserve, and Networking' started by betaboy78, Sep 7, 2009.

  1. betaboy78 macrumors regular

    betaboy78

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    #1
    My father has just started a small firm (used to work in a big one), and he is wanting to get a 'server' (he is used to MS Exchange at his old firm). The main goal of the sever is to share calendar, contacts, files, host email, etc. He, and his partners, are all on PC, but I am a Mac person. If I set up a Mac Mini as a server (Snow Leopard Server), could the PC's even use it? I know this is a super-noob question, but I can't seem to find a definitive answer. I know it would be best to switch them to Macs, but its just not in the cards right now.

    Any ideas/help/thoughts would be greatly appreciated!
     
  2. Bobacus macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2009
    #2
    How many computers will be using the server?

    Also being an all PC setup, and with everyone being familiar with exchange I would recommend going with a PC server and running SBS 2008. Don't skimp on the hardware though, from what I've seen HP ML350's are very good server machines that aren't too expensive, plus they are quiet.

    You could set them up with an OS X Server on a Mac Mini, although honestly with what services you are wanting to host, it would probably be overkill on that machine. Also integration would not be as smooth as it would be going with an Exchange server.

    Also one advantage to going with a PC Server is if you plan to run SBS 2008, since it has Exchange 2007 built in, you can migrate the clients over to Snow Leopard at their own pace, since Snow Leopard has built in support for Exchange 2007.
     
  3. betaboy78 thread starter macrumors regular

    betaboy78

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    #3
    Thanks, Bobacus. They will have 4-10 PC's on the system.

    I will look into your suggestion of a Windows solution. I just thought the OSX server would be easier for me to set up since I have no experience in this (server admin), but wanted to help them out, even though I am a Mac person. :D
     
  4. JGruber macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2006
    #4
    No matter what direction you plan on going, setting up either server will be a task. SL Server can be challenging if you have never done it before. Same goes for a Windows Server.

    There is plenty of documentation on how to setup a Mac server and Windows Server, so make sure you do a lot of reading!

    I would agree with Bobacus though, a Win SBS is the best route for what you want to do.
     
  5. deadcpu macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2009
    #5
    My 2 cents

    Nobody will like this answer, but.....

    If it's just a few users and a decent internet connection, why not co-locate the services? At $7 each user per month, the intial money you save by not having to buy the hardware/software or need IT support is well worth it. What about viruses and keeping up with patches? In three years down the road, even if you spent $1500 in colo fees, your hardware/software is now outdated. Why not have somebody else worry about the maintenance and the backups? Of course there is a happy medium as users go up, ut if you don't mind your father coming down on YOU when the server goes down, then by all means setup a mini with 10.6 and an external raid system. Have some fun!

    N :cool:
     
  6. Mycatisbigfoot macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2009
    #6
    I think a mini would work fine, I can not see a problem with it, except the hard drive limits in it, But you can get the mini stacks and make a raid
     
  7. betaboy78 thread starter macrumors regular

    betaboy78

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    #7
    @Mycatisbigfoot (or anyone who can answer): Do you know what services the PC people can use with SL Server? What I mean is, the new Mac Mini Server is very intriguing to me, and if the calendar, address book, mail and file sharing can be used by Windows based PC's (and maybe even blackberries), it seems like setting up a SL Sever for a small business will be perfect. My only concern is that it will only work with Mac clients.

    Any thoughts?

    P.S. Thanks, and sorry for the bump.
     
  8. ingenious macrumors 65832

    ingenious

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    Virginia, United States (Kansan in exile)
    #8
    I'm also interested in this answer, so we'll let the bump slide :)

    As for calendaring, I've heard Mozilla Sunbird or the Mozilla Lightning extension for Thunderbird mentioned, but from my experience, neither one had a complete implementation, especially when it came to scheduling meetings.

    I think any address book application that can connect to an LDAP server will work, Outlook may even do this.

    The thing is, SL Server uses all standards-compliant services. The problem is, many times the PC software isn't standards-compliant. So in reality, it's not that the Mac server wouldn't be compatible with the PCs, it's that their software doesn't follow the right standards. SL Server is compatible with anything standards compliant.
     
  9. betaboy78 thread starter macrumors regular

    betaboy78

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    #9
    Thanks @ingenious. So if I am understanding what you are saying, SL Server would work for Windows machines as long as they have compliant software (I am assuming Outlook would work?).

    I know that a true MS Exchange server would be best, but if I can get them IMAP via SL Server, than they would be happy. They are a VERY small operation, and I am helping them out as a favor using my VERY BASIC knowledge.

    If SL Server on a Mac mini can be had for under $1K, I think it may be worth a try (if for nothing else to discover that I can't do it :p).

    Thanks to all for your help!
     
  10. ingenious macrumors 65832

    ingenious

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    #10
    Yes, that is correct.

    However, in the case of Outlook, it's basically a front-end client for Exchange Server. It works with some other things, i.e. POP3, IMAP, and possibly LDAP, but not nearly as well. It's just not designed to. You're better off trying to use a Mozilla client software solution such as Thunderbird+Lightning or Thunderbird and Sunbird.

    Or, there may be other options I'm not aware of.


    If you're wanting to use Outlook, Exchange is definitely your best bet.

    SL Server supports IMAP and POP3 for email.
     
  11. thejadedmonkey macrumors 604

    thejadedmonkey

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    Pa
    #11
    wrong. "best" is subjective, relating to what people know, and how well a product works. Windows is #1 in the workplace for a reason, especially when it comes to networking and program compatibility where everything HAS to work 100% of the time.

    Having said that, I wouldn't even consider a mac OS based server as there are too many unknown variables that could create issues between OS X and Windows. And if that happens, it's the customer who suffers with outages, lost productivity, etc.

    If you wanna test it, check out the free 30 day trial, but personally I would just get a dell or HP server if you even need a server. You might be able to just get away with a computer for file-hosting and whatnot.
     
  12. ingenious macrumors 65832

    ingenious

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    #12
    As with any heterogeneous environment, you have to make sure ALL issues are worked out before using it in a production environment.
     
  13. betaboy78 thread starter macrumors regular

    betaboy78

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    #13
    Thanks for all of the advice everyone. I think I'm going to do the 30-day trial and see if it will work for my situation.

    Again, you have all been very helpful and I really appreciate all the ideas and comments. I will let you know how it goes. . .
     
  14. ingenious macrumors 65832

    ingenious

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    #14
    Please do. I'm anxious to see how it works out.
     
  15. foshizzle macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2007
    #15
    Google Apps. A mini to do file sharing/remote access/chat server/wiki server. I see no reason for any small company to host their own email these days. It is too much of a chore, too much to worry about, and it KILLS when email goes down even for a day. File sharing, etc. can be down, but when email goes down, well, imagine if all of their cell phones turned off for a few days.

    Google apps hosts your domain, allows collaboration on documents, has fantastic spam filters, is free for the basic version or $50/user/year for the pro version which gets you 25GB and a bunch of other stuff like syncing with a directory server, etc.

    Oh, and a mac server will allow users to sign on through open directory with single-sign-on, and will share over SMB so they can see files. It would integrate fine.

    Glad someone pointed out the free trial.
     
  16. gdc macrumors member

    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2009
    #16
    I run IT in the start up company I work for. Declaration: I have no formal IT training, it's not even the main aspect of my role, but someone's got to do it in a 10 person business. That said, this is the second time I have been responsible for setting up from scratch all the IT for a new company, and it worked very well last time!

    The most important thing is what your end users are expecting/needing/used to using. And for me, both times round, this has meant MS Office (PC), with Outlook being core to day in day out working. If I had tried to introduce even Entourage, let alone the suite of Mail, iCal and Address Book, there would be a riot, and a lot of downtime as people get used to this, no matter how intuitive the Apple solution is.

    I strongly advise against running your own email. What I do is use a provider (there are many) such as Rackspace (mods - I'm not sure if I'm allowed to mention names, apologies if not) who, as a previous poster above says, will run the backend MS Exchange platform for you. All you need is your domain name to use this with. This will typically be less than $10/user/month and for this you get full shared calendars, contacts, outlook web access, and often a free license to the most recent version of Outlook if you need it for your users.

    What I have then done (being a Mac guy) is to use a single Mac (previously a Mac Pro, but now one of the new server Mac minis) as a file server in the office. All the PC users map network drives to this. To them they notice nothing as regards it being a Mac where all there files are! I then get to use a RAID1 array with the twin 500 GB disks in the mini to protect against hardware disk failure, and will couple this with a 1 TB firewire drive to act as a Time Machine backup. Then I have a small portable 500 GB drive that I use once a week as an offsite back up that I clone the server drive to using Carbon Copy Cloner (excellent software). If you also want to automate offsite back up you can use the Apple mobile me/backup sync service, or something like Jungle Disk.

    I have used Mac OS Server 10.5 previously, and found it to be utterly overkill for file serving alone. This time I plan just to use standard Snow Leopard install.

    The one caveat to all of this is that if the company in question is going to be going through a rapid rate of growth of user numbers, then server software will aid you in mass set up and performance.

    Hope this is useful.
     
  17. Winni macrumors 68030

    Winni

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2008
    Location:
    Germany.
    #17
    Forget about the Mini or anything else from Apple. Also forget about Linux in this case. If you want or need Microsoft Exchange, then there is no substitute for it - NOTHING else works even remotely well with Microsoft Outlook or Entourage or even the new Apple Mail.

    The most cost-effective way would be to buy a server from Dell with Microsoft Small Business Server 2008 pre-installed. And don't be cheap: Buy the Dell server with Pro -AND- installation support - unless you have someone around who really knows what he is doing. Getting an Exchange server up and running is not a trivial task.

    With the SBS 2008 server, you also get Sharepoint and other nice-to-haves from Microsoft.

    You could also spend a few more bucks and buy the Premium version (or whatever it is called) of SBS 2008 - it includes Microsoft SQL Server.
     
  18. pakster macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2009
    #18
    betaboy78 if you help them with this computer setup you will be your dads bitch each time something isnt working. Especially if you setup a server for them.
    Its just too much trouble maintaining spam list, firewall port setup, disk space, faulty hardware, client setup.
    And mixing mac and windows will make all this even worse if you havnt got any experience with it.

    I would definitely choose a hosted setup solution with a local fileshare server (this could be a mac server, windows server, og just windows client with a share.)

    Hosted exchange and sharepoint gives you mail, shared calendars and a intranet. And the price is very low, and theres allways techsupport to call.

    I would recommend http://www.sherweb.com/hosted-exchange but look at the hosted exchange marked yourself.

    If your dad just started his own company theres other things more important than learning a new os, like mac os x. :)

    Good luck
     

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