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.
Despite the popularity of file sharing services like Dropbox, the most common server used on internal networks today remains the file server, a central repository that stores files for a workgroup. These stalwarts have been connecting users to their files seemingly since before time began. Whether in a home, school, or business, the impetus for for setting up a server is often a need for file sharing.
A number of protocols built into OS X Server’s File Sharing service are dedicated to serving files, including AFP, SMB, and WebDAV (the sidebar just ahead explains these).
The basic steps to setting up a file server are to Connect to Shared Folders., ,  for each shared folder, and finally . Because file sharing is the most mature service in OS X Server, it’s also one of the easiest to manage. When you’re done setting it up, you’ll want close the loop on file sharing by having your clients
Exactly which default shared folders will have been created for you depends on what you’ve done previously. For instance, the Groups shared folder appears if you selected the “Give this group a shared folder” checkbox in. You might also see a Public folder and one called Backups, if you’ve enabled Time Machine Server.
The default file sharing configuration won’t work for everyone, because you don’t get to say where the default shared folders actually live on your server’s drive. Therefore, before we do anything else, let’s remove the unnecessary default shared folders, after which you can create new ones that do exactly what you want. If the Backups shared folder appears, do not remove it, since Time Machine Server relies on it!
In the Server app, select File Sharing from the Services category in the left sidebar. The File Sharing pane appears at the right, showing a list of available shared folders as in Figure 1.
In our example configuration, we’re going to remove the built-in Groups shared folder, if present. To do so, in the Shared Folders list, select Groups and click the minusbutton. A confirmation dialog appears (Figure 2). Click Remove.
Now that you’ve cleaned up the default shared folders, it’s time to create one or more new shared folders. As an example, let’s assume that you have a large external hard drive sharing files for members of your household, or perhaps for a small department at work.
To create the shared folder:
Shared Items. You may also want to create sub-folders within it to pre-populate the hierarchy.
It doesn’t matter where you create the shared folder in the Finder, but make sure the location is on a drive with plenty of room for future files and is backed up regularly. If you followed my recommendation in and used a relatively small partition or drive to hold OS X and applications, then you’d want your shared folder to be on a larger drive or volume.
Server creates your new shared folder. Your next step is to either set up custom permissions for the shared folder, if needed, or to turn on File Sharing. I cover each option just ahead.
The specific permissions that are assigned to a shared folder vary based on where in the filesystem the folder was created, so it’s always important to look at the permissions and make sure the correct users and groups have the appropriate access to the folder. You may also wish to restrict access to particular sub-folders within the shared folder.
Here are some examples of how you can use permissions:
To specify permissions:
You can also limit who has access to folders within the shared folder, as you might do with a folder that contains sensitive or private items like accounting or grades. If these more granular permissions are required, follow these steps, which take place in a different part of Server’s interface:
Although it’s okay to come back later and modify your File Sharing setup, before you turn on file sharing, run through this list to be sure you aren’t inadvertently exposing anything sensitive:
With all of the above taken care of, select File Sharing in the left-hand sidebar and click the ON button (at the upper right) to start the File Sharing service.
Now that you’ve turned on File Sharing, it’s time to help users connect to shared folders.
To connect to a shared folder from the Mac Finder:
If your shared folder is accessible via multiple file sharing protocols, specify which should be used by prefixing the IP address in the Server Address field with
webdav:// as Figure 8 shows with AFP.
After the user enters a username and password, if he selects the checkbox “Remember this password in my keychain,” the next time he connects, he won’t be asked to authenticate. (Needless to say, remembering the password generally makes things easier.) Click Connect.
The shared folder (or folders) can now be accessed through the Shared category in the sidebar of any Finder window, the hidden
/Volumes directory, and in Open and Save dialogs. Plus, the shared folder, and any folders inside it, work just like any other local folders when it comes to making aliases or adding it to the Finder window’s sidebar or toolbar.
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