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I am looking into the possibility to setup an OSX server for my employees, and would like some input on what is the best approach to meet my needs, and perhaps some suggestions if I am moving in the wrong direction.

I am thinking of a Mac Mini OSX server, and are not sure if my needs will be met, and what possibilities are out there.

I want these capabilities:

- Groups/Users managed on server
- Shared folders and private folders for users/groups
- Access to activated services
- Server hosting software for the users (developing tools ++)

- Similar to Windows Terminal Server
- Virtual desktop environment (both local and over internet/VPN)
- Possible to access trough Mac and Windows

The reason I am looking at OSX server is that my employees almost only work in OSX environment, and I want to offer the capabilities to logon to the server trough some kind of terminal software, and have full access to their work OSX environment and software on their mac or pc, from anywhere they might be. Instead of having to have multiple setups and need for spending alot of time installing and setting up needed software on every client.

This is a small business, where some work on local network, and others from the internet, preferably trough VPN. But a terminal server solution, that are fast and easy to manage would be perfect for our needs.

So if anyone have any experience with a similar setup, please let me know what you did, and your experiences with your setup.

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1 Answer 1

Mac OS X isn't a good fit for people looking for a replacement / analog to Windows Terminal Server.

In the past, you could only have one user logged into the GUI of OS X but now you can have two. If one user is connected and a second asks to control the screen (VNC style) - they get an option to observe/collaborate with the existing user or start their own session.

There just isn't a good fit for the use case of installing OS X tools and programs on one server and having several people use them at once. With Mountain Lion - server is very much an enabler for managing other Macs and providing services. It is not at all a replacement for thinly installed clients to remote into a full software stack and work on the server CPU in a graphical manner.

Apple's marketing materials lay out a good summary of what it does well:

  • File Sharing (WebDAV, AFP, SMB, etc..)
  • Managing OS X and iOS profiles
  • Hosting network drives for Time Machine (other Macs can back up to the server)
  • Web Server (wiki, etc...)
  • Group Mail (IMAP), Calendaring (CalDAV), Contacts (CardDAV), Chat/Messages
  • VPN, App Store Caching, NetBoot, Xsan etc...

Depending on your needs, stick with Windows server or consider a mix. Run all the OS X services you can (VPN, File Sharing, whatever) to reduce the CAL $ you send to Microsoft and keep a TS server around for only those people that need that capability. You can grow your organization and support mobile devices without paying per user, but still have the remote access to TS for those that need it.

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