Apple's Mac Mini server 'ideal' for the small office

It's inexpensive and easy to set up and use

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Each option is fine, depending on your needs or preferences. The one setup I wouldn't recommend is using the second internal drive for Time Machine backups. For convenience and a bit more security, I'd use a larger external drive that's at least 1TB.

The Mac Mini server comes with only a single Ethernet interface, but it also offers 802.11a/b/g/n wireless, making it an ideal choice in businesses and offices where cabling may be difficult or costly. If additional Ethernet interfaces are needed, you can use the USB-to-Ethernet adapter that Apple sells for the MacBook Air. The five available USB ports give you some room to expand Ethernet access.

Performance with the Mini server is good for a small business, but it's no barn-burner. With the 2.53-GHz Core 2 Duo chip and 4GB of 1066-MHz RAM, it can easily handle basic services for a few-dozen computers without buckling. Although you could theoretically support even more users, I'd suggest that you limit the number to no more than maybe four-dozen users. I'd also be hesitant about using it to host corporate Web sites for the Internet at large.

But for internal use by a small number of people, the Mini server does really well for its size and price.

Final thoughts

The Mac Mini server is a well-priced solution for small businesses. It can scale up to a point as a company grows or its business needs change, but it really isn't designed to take the place of a more powerful server in a larger business or enterprise environment. That doesn't mean it's limited in features; it offers the same services as a top-of-the-line Xserve, albeit on lesser -- and less expensive -- hardware. The ability to handle basic functions like file and printer sharing or to run a small intranet, intraoffice IM server or any of the other services that Mac OS X Server offers, makes it an ideal product for small offices, design firms, schools and retail shops.

Mac mini server ports
The Mini offers an array of ports, including FireWire 800, on the back.

Ryan Faas is a freelance writer and technology consultant specializing in Mac and multiplatform network issues. His most recent book is The iPhone for Work, published by Apress. You can find more information at www.ryanfaas.com and can e-mail Ryan at ryan@ryanfaas.com.

Read more about macintoshes in Computerworld's Macintoshes Knowledge Center.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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