Hands-on: Making Leopard servers simple

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This is instead of the more robust use of security certificates available in advanced mode. Another example is that although Mac and Windows file sharing is supported (using the Apple Filing and Server Message Block protocols, respectively), other file services such as the Network File System in Unix are not.

For the most part, these differences aren't likely to be of concern to users wishing to set up a server quickly and easily. Users familiar with previous versions of Mac OS X Server, however, should familiarize themselves with some of the changes by reading the "Getting Started" document that accompanies Leopard Server. More importantly, users who begin with the simplified setup and then switch to advanced mode should make sure that they thoroughly understand the functionality of advanced mode and the differences between it and the simpler set-up options.

Moving to advanced mode

It is possible and relatively simple to move from standard or workgroup mode to advanced mode. However, the process is a one-way street. Once Leopard Server is placed in advanced mode, it can't be reverted without reinstalling or restoring from a backup. This makes sense when you consider that there are several configuration changes that can be made in various advanced administration tools that can't be adjusted in Server Preferences.

All that's required to change modes is launching the Server Admin application, which is used in advanced management, and connecting to the server. After authenticating with an administrator account, you'll be warned that Server Admin is not intended to manage servers in standard or workgroup mode. And you'll be given the option to convert the server to advanced mode. After conversion, the services that were configured in standard or workgroup mode remain configured and available, as do any existing user accounts.

Overall impressions

As an experienced Mac OS X server administrator, I was very curious as to whether Apple would really be able to pull off a very simple interface to Leopard Server. Overall, I have to say that Apple did it. The simplified set-up process is easy, provided you have all the requisite information ahead of time. Server Preferences is also incredibly intuitive and easy to operate.

Anyone with an understanding of home networking concepts should be successful in configuring and managing most services. Making full use of Internet services beyond a local network -- such as setting up e-mail, external Web site access and VPN, and integration of iChat Server with outside Jabber networks including Google's GTalk -- does require a certain level of understanding of DNS and related Internet technologies.

Experienced administrators are likely to find the simplified set-up options limited and, as mentioned above, might even find the ways Apple has implemented account management a little jarring. That said, the product does a pretty good job of walking the fine line between being easy to use and providing needed services.

Ryan Faas is a freelance writer and technology consultant specializing in Mac and multiplatform network issues. In addition to writing for Computerworld, he is a frequent contributor to InformIT.com. Faas was also co-author of Essential Mac OS X Panther Server Administration (O'Reilly Media Inc., 2005). You can find more information about Faas, his consulting services and recently published work at www.ryanfaas.com, and you can e-mail him at ryan@ryanfaas.com.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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