OS X Server 3.0 for an amateur?

Discussion in 'Mac OS X Server, Xserve, and Networking' started by JerryMBPR, Nov 2, 2013.

  1. JerryMBPR macrumors newbie


    Nov 2, 2013
    Central Arkansas
    I have worked with IBM/MS DOS/Windows PCs since a Commodore 64 and IBM PC-XT in 1982 but have never had a network other than a basic home network. My current network is nothing beyond Ethernet and WiFi.

    Currently I have 5 MACs (minis & MacBooks), 4 WIN 8 PCs, and a couple iPads plus an iPhone. One of the minis is a Server version.

    I have upgraded all the MACs to OS X Mavericks so I cannot upgrade OS X Server 2.2.2.

    I am the only user and all the equipment is still under warranty and Apple Care Plus so I have unlimited one-on-one tech support available so I would not be interested in any non-Apple server software.

    I am 69 years old and retired.

    All the PCs have, as far as possible, the same software and files including MS Office. I don't have or want Boot Camp.

    My question is whether there is any significant benefit to me buying and using OS X Server 3.0? The cost is not a problem - I just don't know what I could do with it.

    I would also like to know if there is documentation either online or a "Server for Dummies" type of book that would explain in a dumbed down version how I could use the server.

    I would be far more interested in a reasonable and logical explanation of what server software could do for me and not being told 1,000 reasons why I should not consider it. Of course I don't need all the software and hardware I have but it was my choice and I am happy with my choices.


  2. dimme macrumors 65816

    Feb 14, 2007
    SF, CA
    What do you want to do with server. I have server 3.0 running on a mac mini. On the mini I have a 3 TB hard drive I use for a common drive between all my macs (4) and two PC's. I use this drive manly as a shared drive for my data. The only benefit I get from the server software is the ability to run time machine to back up my MacBooks otherwise the standard version of OS X is fine for me. I played around with some of the other features, like portable home directories but to be honest with dropbox, iCloud and the other solutions out there it was not worth it.
  3. JerryMBPR thread starter macrumors newbie


    Nov 2, 2013
    Central Arkansas
    At this point I do not know what I want to do because I don't know what a Server can do.

    Perhaps my main goal would be to be able to assure that I have all the same data physically on all my PCs. I don't want to depend on iCloud or Dropbox because I want to have full capabilities and access to all my data even without access to the internet.

    I also don't like the idea of trusting anyone or company with storing my bank and credit card and other information. When away from home I have no confidence in the security of whatever public WiFi systems I have to use to access the internet so I log in and log off as quick as possible.

    My home ISP is almost useless. I never know how well it will or will not work so I would like to avoid needing a DSL router to network my MACs.

    I don't know what is possible so I don't know what I want at this point. I am still pretty new to Apple so it is a steep learning curve but I am slowly figuring things out.

  4. dimme macrumors 65816

    Feb 14, 2007
    SF, CA
    Well if you want to sync data on Windows PC's I do not think OS X server is right for you. You may need to look at a windows solution or you just have one drive on one computer, which has the data on it and have it shared on all your computers. You really do not need OS X server for this, you can even use windows or buy a NAS. You may want to be sure that "server" computer is energy efficient and leave it run 24/7 so when you boot the "client" computers the data disk auto mounts.
  5. spencers macrumors 68020


    Sep 20, 2004
  6. GeyservilleMan macrumors newbie


    Sep 26, 2012
    Simple Explanation

    I agree with the poster above, the apple webpage is one of the most straightforward explanations.

    The obvious features is the caching of downloads and file sharing along with backups to your backup server drive.

  7. sjinsjca macrumors 68020


    Oct 30, 2008
    My first advice is to run Server on a machine that works as a server only. This is not an app to put on your everyday desktop machine.

    Secondly I'd say, wait for the update to Server 3.0.1. The 3.0 version has nasty VPN bugs, as in VPN doesn't bloody work.

    Once 3.0.1 is out and VPN is verified as operative by early adopters, then it might be worth considering. What OS X Server does is put a thin layer of GUI on top of conventional *nix networking capabilities so you don't have to futz around with command-line stuff. It's not child's play but it's not a super geek-o-rama ...at least, not as much so as rolling your own on a typical Linux or Unix machine. There's still acronym-itis to wade through, and a few un-obvious gotchas. Its documentation is sparse and leaves a lot to be googled.

    Networking is networking, and even Apple can't make it easy. Easier, sure, but only by a degree.
  8. AtomicGrog macrumors regular

    Jul 25, 2011
    Couple of call-outs:

    1. Server only... doesn't mean server hardware, it means for those services to be functional the machine has to be running and typically 24*7.

    For a desktop that would typically remove all the low level network services (for your average multi machine network: DHCP, DNS etc.).

    Next tier up where it would be painful but not catastrophic would be the classic web/network 'user' services such as a web server, wiki, ftp etc... obviously bad if you cant get to them when you need them but not having them running wont stop you accessing other services (that loosing DNS for example would).

    Last tier would be what I call the nice to have's... Backup services, Software update services... if any of these fail because your desktop is down it's no massive biggie, the client will simply wait until they are back.

    2. I have to call out that VPN isn't a major use case for the lower end home user, and if you don't have it now there's not point in waiting for the next server release.

    From my perspective I had OS3.0 but it's not my main 'server'. I avoided using a OSX box all-together and purchased a NAS. It's cheaper to run, is an actual '24*7' server and can provide all three tiers of service just as effectively as well in addition to it's main role of providing network storage for my 5 home machines - In my case it also acts as a XMBC machine so I plug it into the TV :)
  9. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    In your case the only real use for the server is just to learn about it. The use would be educational.

    As for sharing disks or files and letting one machine host time machine backups for the others., you can do that already. I use a disk on my iMac to back up my macbook. no server software needed.

    One nice server feature is for those using Xcode. but if you are not developing software the version control and test features don't help you.

    Caching Apple's software upgrades is not a big deal if you have only a handful of computers. It might be if you had 200 or 1,000. Seriously using a server to save 6 minutes a month of download time is not worth the hassle.

    Server does come with the ability to serve web pages but, it's just the same web server software everyone see, Apple did not write Apache.

    All that said for education/entertainment it might be fun to play with. About your question "can it be used by amateurs?" That is Apple's intent. It is NOT designed for IT professionals, they would not be running Mac OS X on their servers. It is designed for the small outfit who can't afford to hire staff and who' network must be run by people who have other primary jobs
  10. dimme macrumors 65816

    Feb 14, 2007
    SF, CA
    Are you able to host time machines backups over a network connection without server?
    This is the main reason I am running server. Before I tried a few hacks to make it work in Lion and then just spent the $20 for server and it has worked great ever since. I am backing up 3 macs to my mini.
  11. Ledgem macrumors 65816


    Jan 18, 2008
    Hawaii, USA
    You should be able to, yes. James Pond (alias "pondini" on the Apple Support Forums) has a wonderful Time Machine guide written up, and he has a section devoted to running Time Machine from a shared drive connected to a Mac. It's a fairly straight-forward process.

    The only potential advantage to using Server that I can think of (and this assumes that Server behaves the way that I think it does) is that it broadcasts the Time Machine volume's availability to the network. Setting up networked Time Machine according to Pondini's guide requires that the "client" computers mount the shared volume. The guide includes a step so that this process occurs on login, but otherwise the user would have to do it manually. My guess - and Server users, please correct me if I'm wrong - is that the Server system can go from being offline to online, and the "client" systems would receive a broadcast about being able to make Time Machine backups over the network, without having to mount the volume themselves.

    Considering that OS X 10.9 was free and Server is only $20, I've considered buying Server purely for the networked Time Machine backup capability. For now, I'll give Pondini's guide a try and will see if it's inconvenient with my setup.
  12. JerryMBPR thread starter macrumors newbie


    Nov 2, 2013
    Central Arkansas
    Since I started this thread there have been several changes made - from the original Mac Mini server I added two late 2012 Mac Minis with 1 TB hard drive and this week I received a new late 2014 Mac Mini again with 1 TB drive.

    All 4 Mac minis are now running Yosemite that should work out well with the four Mac Minis and the two MacBook Pros (also with Yosemite).

    My hope and reason for getting the time capsule is to find a way to keep all six OS devices up-to-date with the latest files so that they basically have duplicated the information I have on others and I can stop continue, or finish the same project any of the OS devices.

    I'm not totally sure where I am going with this but hopefully it will work out.
  13. mvmanolov macrumors 6502a

    Aug 27, 2013
    For syncing files across all your devices check out chronosync, i use this to have bi-directional sync between 3 machines.

    as for server usages, here are couple of cites that i found useful in setting up server so that may give you an idea of the various services.



  14. chrfr macrumors 604

    Jul 11, 2009
    You'll find that the Time Capsule is unpleasantly slow for this sort of use.
    You'll be better off enabling file sharing on one of the Minis, and using that as your "server," and letting the Time Capsule host your backups. You don't need the Server app for basic file sharing.

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