This article is a pre-release chapter in the upcoming “Take Control of OS X Server,” by Charles Edge, scheduled for public release later in 2014. Apart from, and , these chapters are available only to ; see  for details.
Do you want to provide file, Web, networking, and other services to computers on your local area network (LAN)? Or, perhaps you want to distribute content to other computers on the Internet. Or manage iOS devices and OS X computers from a central location. Whether you are a Mac user or a server administrator, you can do all this with a standard installation of Apple’s OS X Server and a little elbow grease!
Long gone are the days when the 10.6 Snow Leopard version of OS X Server cost $499 and required a completely different operating system installation. Now OS X Server is just an app called Server. It is available on the Mac App Store for $19.99 and installs on top of a stock version of 10.9 Mavericks.
In 2005, when I wrote my first book about Mac servers, they were usually big, expensive beasts running on Apple’s Xserve hardware. Apple smartly retired the Xserve, and now the typical machine you find running OS X Server is a Mac mini. But there’s no requirement that you use a Mac mini or any other particular Mac model. I’ve installed the Server app on everything from an old MacBook Air to a shiny new Mac Pro. You can make any Mavericks Mac into a server, using the steps in this book.
Back in the Xserve days, Apple tried to make OS X Server do a lot. It had podcasting, streaming media, and other services that have since been retired. No one outside of Apple knows why Apple has removed these services. Perhaps a service wasn’t being used enough to justify development or perhaps it didn’t fit into Apple’s overall plans. OS X Server is still a great solution, provided you use it for what Apple intends (although some of my favorite work has been deploying OS X Server for customers doing crazy things Apple never imagined).
An advantage of Apple dropping some services is that OS X Server has become easier to use, and that, combined with the massive price reduction and the simplified app installation, makes OS X Server more accessible to the masses. Adoption is up, and a lot more people are taking advantage of what OS X Server can do.
That’s all good, but just because OS X Server is easier to use than ever before, that doesn’t mean it’s something that anyone can install and configure, at least not without help! No matter how easy Apple makes the Server app, Macs running it are still servers, so there are terms, concepts, and procedures that you should understand before you take on server installation and management tasks. Look at it this way—the Server app may provide a friendly interface to configuring various services, but unless you know what to enter and why, things won’t work.
This book is intended for new administrators of OS X Server, and for those who want to refresh their Server know-how. Perhaps you’re entirely new to OS X Server, but want a centralized file server for your ripped DVDs and so you can manage your kids’ iPads. Or perhaps you’ve managed OS X Server in the past, but are looking for a refresher on what’s possible in the current version.
After this Chapter 1, Introducing OS X Server, the book is divided into the following chapters:
I’ve designed the book so you can read each chapter independently once you have configured the Server app. For example, if your goal in setting up OS X Server is just to run a file server for your small business, you need to read only the first three chapters and the chapters on File Sharing and Backup. Each service that a server runs corresponds to a chapter of this book.
Whether you’re an individual user at home or the administrator of dozens of computers in a busy office—and whether you’re a relative beginner or a professional system administrator—you’ve come to the right place to start using OS X Server!
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