Mac Mini as Server For Small Office

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by rugbyboy, Nov 9, 2007.

  1. rugbyboy macrumors member

    rugbyboy

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2002
    Location:
    London, UK
    #1
    Hi there

    I work in a small advertising company, 8 people on site, in a mac based office.

    There is no server to speak of a the moment but I was thinking about getting one. We will not be using it heavily at all. Basic file sharing, calendar stuff and perhaps hosting email. We have a limited budget for this - surprise! - and I'm trying to work out where best to spend the money.

    I was thinking about getting a new Mac Mini with plenty of RAM, a copy of Mac OS Server Leopard (10 client), 1TB backup drive and a much faster internet connection - we are on ADSL at the moment and my intent was to upgrade to SDSL.

    Can a Mac Mini handle serving duties? It will never be that many service I need and I doubt the company will get any bigger. I would do our office email - 8 clients - and maybe host our site, the traffic for which is pretty low.

    If not a Mini what is the best machine I could get bearing i mind finncial constraints?

    A thousand hank yous.

    Ben

    The last server product I used from Apple as 10.3 which I have some training in. I know my way around but am not fully experienced.
     
  2. CashGap macrumors 6502

    CashGap

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2007
    Location:
    Music City, USA
    #2
    Commenting only on one small part of your plan... no way I would host email in an organization this small. Google Domains, or one of many many other great providers would provide world-wide access/price/uptime that is hard to match in a small office.

    My $.02.
     
  3. RedTomato macrumors 68040

    RedTomato

    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2005
    Location:
    .. London ..
    #3
    I'm in the same situation, except our office is even smaller - 4 people. Everyone uses ibook laptops, and we have no server.

    I'm considering buying an iMac 20'' to use:

    - as server, (NOT for hosting email)
    - Time Machine host
    - so that people have something with a large screen available if they need one,
    - and for visiting workers (we have many) to use when neccessary
    - and as something we can take to trade fairs and exhibitions.
     
  4. darh macrumors member

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2005
    #4
    I think it isn't a smart idea to use a "server" for other tasks then the server services...

     
  5. tersono macrumors 68000

    tersono

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2005
    Location:
    UK
    #5
    A mini should do the job just fine, but I would strongly recommend the purchase of one (preferably two to use as a RAID mirror) firewire hard drives to hang off the back of it. The notebook drive in the mini isn't really intended for continuous use and may wear fairly quickly - if your data is on the external drive, it's likely to be safer.

    Secondly, you'll need to work out a backup strategy. Even with a RAID mirror, you'll need some sort of nightly backup to ensure your data is safe in case something goes wrong. This is especially important given that your business relies on your data. That backup should preferably be able to be taken off-site.

    I see no problems using the mini for email too - it's straightforward to set up if you know what you're doing and should be minimum hassle. You'll need some sort of external backup mail exchanger to ensure that email doesn't go astray if your connection (or server) goes down. Some web hosts offer that service, if not, NoIP.com offer a backupMX service for minimal yearly cost.

    Good luck!
     
  6. rugbyboy thread starter macrumors member

    rugbyboy

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2002
    Location:
    London, UK
    #6
    Tersano,

    Thanks for that all very helpful - i was planning to hang a 1TB of the back to backup, Firewire. Also use one of those business offsite backup - the oens that do their thing overnight

    In terms of mail server backup, I don't know much about that - does that site you mentioned explain what i does?

    In terms of demand on the server machine, as long as the connection is solid and fast enough is web serving realistic for a low bandwidth site?
     
  7. CarlsonCustoms macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2007
    #7
    If you really wanted to go cheaper you could even use an older G4 powermac to use as a server. I did this at my home. Its nice becuase you can just vnc into it. The biggest plus to me is the ability to run multiple harddrives right inside the box.

    Just an idea
    Zack
     
  8. rugbyboy thread starter macrumors member

    rugbyboy

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2002
    Location:
    London, UK
    #8
    Zack,

    That did cross my mind as we have exactly that on site but was worried about the performance of 10.5 server on it. Would it run ok you reckon?
     
  9. zioxide macrumors 603

    zioxide

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2006
    #9
    Might be a tad slow

    However a Mini has more than enough power to run a small server.
     
  10. Super Macho Man macrumors 6502a

    Super Macho Man

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2006
    Location:
    Hollywood, CA
    #10
    The mini will be fine as an *internal* server. I would definitely think twice about using it as an external or email server. Once you make it public, YOU are in charge of 24/7 uptime and if your website or email goes down at 4am, or if it gets hacked at 1:30am Saturday morning, it's you who will have to come in and fix it. If it malfunctions, you are serverless for however long it takes to replace the machine, and that is very unprofessional. I agree with CashGap, don't run your own mail server - e-mail absolutely has to be 24/7/365 and you don't want that responsibility. Outsourcing your e-mail and your public website will be better in so many ways - cost, availability, reliability, data integrity, security...

    However, for internal duties, light file sharing etc., the Mini will be ok. Plenty of CPU speed, not a lot of disk speed. Multiple simultaneous large transfers will bog down and there is only one gigabit interface w/ no possibility of expansion. CarlsonCustoms is onto something w/ the G4 Power Mac idea. With those, you can plug in a 64-bit PCI SATA card and run multiple HDs and plug in a 2nd ethernet interface.
     
  11. CarlsonCustoms macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2007
    #11
    I've personally never run osx server edition, but file sharing and whatnot worked fine with osx tiger. I like the mini alot but its expandability is what scares me.. with powermac you can get alot of drives in there, gigabit ethernet etc, and if you STILL need more you can add FW or USB drives.

    But on the side of hte mini it is a dual core which is great and you can't beat how small and quiet they are.

    Zack
     
  12. tersono macrumors 68000

    tersono

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2005
    Location:
    UK
    #12
    Essentially the service provides a backup mail exchanger. Let's say your mail server is offline for a couple of days. What happens to your email? If you don't have backup MX, the mail will eventually start bouncing back to the sender as undeliverable (or worse, just disappear). A backup mail exchanger is another mail server that acts as a secure secondary destination - if your mail server goes down, mail is then delivered to the backup mail exchanger - it knows to go there as you've set things up accordingly in your DNS records (NoIP can handle that for you, too). Once your own server comes back online, the backup exchanger delivers all the queued mail to you - you lose nothing.

    Oh - with regard to hosting a web site, yes it's perfectly doable as long as you're not trying to host some big database-driven hairball ;-)) Do bear in mind, however, that you can't guarantee 100% accessibility over a regular dsl or cable line - and your ISP will need to be one who are happy for you to host a web site over their connection - some don't permit it.
     
  13. julianps macrumors member

    julianps

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2006
    Location:
    Wales, UK
    #13
    Mac Mini Colo


    Mac Mini will be fine for a group the size you suggest and will serve a low bandwidth site. Everyone here's made good points especially about how you'll be wholly responsible etc. You can however place your MMini in a co-location environment (macminicolo.net has one in Las Vegas [so their mini's come from the Apple store there and are cheaper than the UK)]. Plus they have a deal with an online data-warehouse for off-site backup.

    Take a look at their site, and each of the linked sites for tools you might use to achieve this (like Tenon's Post Office and Webmail applications; Tenon's support is second-to-none). Brian Sticki, one of the tech support guys at MMCoLo has uploaded a bunch of quicktime movies on how to run a remote MMini; you can find them at http://www.freemacblog.com/category/server-video-series/

    So not only highly possible it's highly do-able and with their hot-swap club and the the Apple store repair facility just around the corner there's almost no downside risk on the deal either.

    My $.02's worth.
     
  14. jeremy.king macrumors 603

    jeremy.king

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2002
    Location:
    Fuquay Varina, NC
    #14
    I couldn't agree more.

    Most web hosts nowadays can provide web hosting and email for a very small fee ($60/year) - and they have the infrastructure to support maximum uptime. http://www.surpasshosting.com/hostingplans.php

    Use the mini for authentication and file serving, and outsource the hosting/email.
     
  15. stukdog macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2004
    #15
    It's always strange to be reading thru a thread and then see your name and company suggested in it. Thanks for the recommendation julianps.

    rugbyboy, the mini will definitely be able to do what you're looking to do. We have about 400 minis in our data center and many of them are for companies looking to host a site and have a file sharing location just like yours.

    I add to the recommendation of others on backup. Most of our clients take an external drive and clone to it each night. This let's you have a bootable backup in case things go down. Plug it into another standby mini and you're rolling.

    If you use another service for mail (Google Apps is a good one) then you could even do without the copy of OS X Server. Everything else you listed can be easily done with the regular OS X Client that comes installed on the minis. (Though FYI, Server does run great on these minis.)

    Feel free to give me a PM or contact me via chat from our site if you have any questions. And if you outgrow your office, or want a remote location with high speeds, we'd love to have you come aboard. (We have a ton of international customers thanks to the currency rate with the US dollar right now. Often, our colocation rate is lower than the high speed office connection alone.)
     

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