Opinion: In depth with Apple's Snow Leopard Server

We dig in to explain the new networking, performance and collaboration improvements

I've worked with various versions of Apple's Mac OS X Server for nearly a decade now. Each new release has brought major advances to the company's server software in terms of overall features, performance and ease of administration. The most recent iteration, version 10.6 -- a.k.a. Snow Leopard Server -- is no exception.

It offers a number of advances compared to Leopard Server (v. 10.5), which was released two years ago.

These changes include performance gains, improvements to several collaboration tools introduced in Leopard Server, enhanced simple administration for non-technical users and new features designed for mobile access and for supporting the iPhone.

And if those aren't reasons enough to be happy about the upgrade, the fact that Apple cut the price of its server OS in half, to $499 -- and continues to make it available with no client access licenses -- makes it well-worth considering. It can serve nicely as either an upgrade from previous versions or as a replacement for other server platforms. In this article, I'll focus on the major additions and changes that Apple has made in version 10.6.

[Catch up with our continuing Snow Leopard coverage, and check out the image gallery that accompanies this story.]

Clearing away administrative confusion

One of the features introduced in Leopard Server was a simplified administration tool called Server Preferences. Server Preferences was designed for workgroups or small businesses to manage some of the core services -- file sharing, e-mail accounts, Web hosting and other collaborative tools, and centralized backup using Apple's Time Machine -- available in Leopard Server.

This management happened from a simple utility that was designed along the same lines as Mac OS X's familiar System Preferences utility, but with Server Preferences, a user with only moderate technical skills could set up and easily manage a server without having to dig through the primary Mac OS X Server administrative tools.

Server Preferences
Apple has retained the simplfied administrative offerings of Leopard Server, but has added more options for IT staffs or consultants who need to create more complex configurations.
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