Client Management in a Mac/Windows Network Solutions - Not Easy or Not Perfect

One of the biggest challenges to managing a network of both Macs and Windows PCs is that neither Windows Server nor Mac OS X Server provide a particularly good away of setting up a managed client environment for clients of the other platform. Yes, Mac OS X Server uses Samba as a method for hosting a Windows domain, which can be used for authentication and home directory access by Windows clients, but it doesn't offer anything like group policies under Active Directory to manage anything about the Windows user experience. By the same token, Mac OS X includes a Directory Access plug-in that allows it to authenticate against Active Directory pretty well and it also supports home directory access. But that doesn't offer Active Directory any mechanism for managing settings using Mac OS X's client management architecture. If you're willing to invest in servers for both platforms, there are ways around this limitation - primarily because you'll have a server for each platform managing the user environment for its respective clients. Although this approach is workable, it isn't perfect because of the expense of using multiple servers, the potential effort of getting the both Microsoft's Active Directory and Apple's Open Directory to interoperate well, and the fact that you may need to spend time modifying the schema of one or both directory architectures (though if you use Active Directory as your primary source for directory services, you can get some client management without schema modifications). Centrify's Direct Control offers another option - group policies in Active Directory that are designed for Mac management. Although the policies listed on Centrify's website don't offer all the management solutions that you can get using Mac OS X Server, they can be a useful set of tools for expanding Mac management in an all Windows Server environment and Centrify recently extended the product with smart-card support. The price tag is a little heavy ($300 per server and $60 per client), however.


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