What's new in Leopard Server

Apple focuses on ease of setup and administration

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Although the initial setup requires some detailed knowledge about the network and Internet configuration of the new server, the actual setup process is deceptively simple. (For any small business that doesn't know its network or Internet information, a call to the Internet service provider should do the trick.)

Making things even easier is that Leopard clients can autodiscover Leopard Server during initial setup (or thereafter) and configure themselves when Leopard Server is implemented using the simplified setup modes. Workgroups or departments in a larger corporate or educational network -- including Windows and Active Directory -- can import existing network accounts into Leopard Server either during or after the setup process.

An invitation e-mail can be sent to those imported users to allow their Macs to be autoconfigured if they happen to be running the client version of Leopard. This allows individual workgroups or departments to deploy their own, easy-to-manage servers without having to assign all their staff members or students a second set of usernames and passwords.

It also frees the person managing the workgroup server from having to create user accounts or to manage password issues.

The new setup isn't entirely perfect. Pre-Leopard Macs and Windows computers cannot be autoconfigured. And as described above, only a subset of Leopard Server services is available in the simplified setup modes, though they are among the most popular.

The remaining features are more complex and require advanced administration using Mac OS X Server's more traditional graphical and/or command-line administration tools.

Note: Time Machine for server backup is supported only in the new simplified setup modes. The most logical reason Apple made this choice is because Time Machine is not intended as a company backup application and doesn't offer the array of media choices and other options typical of commercial enterprise and server backup software.

Administrators already comfortable with Leopard Server's advanced options might feel very constrained and limited if they were forced to rely on a simple, end-user-oriented application as Time Machine.

It may not be perfect for everyone, but Apple has delivered a server platform that is easier to configure and manage than many home Internet routers and low-budget network-attached storage devices.

New administration tools

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For experienced administrators and other IT professionals who choose to use Leopard Server's advanced mode and larger tool set, Apple has redesigned its server administration tools -- Server Admin, Workgroup Manager and System Image Utility. All have received major facelifts and each change seems to have been aimed at making administration simple and more logical.

 
Workgroup Manager
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Managing user accounts in Workgroup Manager. (Click for larger view.)
 

One of the most notable changes is that file-sharing administration, previously performed in Workgroup Manager, has been moved to Server Admin. Workgroup Manager is now exclusively used for user, group and computer account management and the administration of managed preferences.

This is a logical move that in some ways should have been done sooner because the management of network accounts -- whether they are stored in Apple's Open Directory or another LDAP-based directory system -- is not specific to a single server. Network account management typically requires connection to the master server for a directory domain.

Meanwhile, file-sharing administration must be done at the level of the server hosting individual share points.

One major change for account management in Workgroup Manager is that the concept of computer lists has been replaced with computer accounts and computer groups. Lists were used to manage preferences and to restrict access in previous versions of Mac OS X Server. Using accounts and groups instead allows individual computers to be managed with greater granularity. For instance, computer groups can be nested within each other for more flexible management options.

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