So, you’ve installed Lion Server, and you’re ready to get started - go ahead and launch the new Server program (hereafter referred to as Server.app, for brevity’s sake).

Server.app is more or less a replacement for Server Preferences, the dumbed-down administration interface that came with past versions of OS X Server. Server.app is a much better tool for novices and experienced administrators alike, and strikes a decent balance between functionality and usability. However, if you’ve had experience with previous versions of the software, you may be a little horrified right about now - where are all the services? The advanced configuration options?

If you’re one of those people, don’t get too worried yet - you can restore most of your lost functionality by installing the Server Admin Tools from Apple’s support website. This will install Server Admin, Workgroup Manager, the System Image Utility, Server Monitor, Podcast Composer, and XGrid Admin, all of which expose most of the functionality you’re used to in a familiar way.

Of these, Server Admin is the most important, since it has historically provided the most information and control over your different services, but even its importance has been lessened in Lion Server - it now provides access only to services that Server.app doesn’t manage, rather than advanced configuration setting for all services (if you’ve still got Snow Leopard servers to manage, don’t worry - Lion’s Server Admin can still manage all services on a Snow Leopard server just as before).

My main gripe with Server.app is that it doesn’t offer access to everything OS X Server can do - OS X Server without the Server Admin Tools is a much less functional product. People wanting to expose all of OS X Server’s functionality will have to use both apps, and as such I’ll do my best to cover both Server.app and the Server Admin Tools in this review.
Installation Server.app and Server Admin Overview
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  • the_engineer - Thursday, August 04, 2011 - link

    Indeed, and that's the plan, assuming nothing else I like more comes along. I was really sort of tantalized by the possibility of software RAID in OSX, and still haven't been able to get a straight answer on it. Currently it is looking like it's a no go. Reply
  • tff - Tuesday, August 02, 2011 - link

    As a home user, I've been frustrated by the inability to have two users edit a shared calendar in OS X/iOS without using 3rd party software.

    How would it differ using Lion server to accomplish this rather than Lion and iOS 5 clients using iCloud?

    Typical Mac home user- iPhones, iPads, Mac laptops.
    Reply
  • Omegabet - Tuesday, August 02, 2011 - link

    You can install server.app on a client. Just copy the app over from the server. The first time you launch it, choose connect to a server. It will then run server.app from your client. Otherwise it will upgrade lion to the server version. This was recommended in the apple documentation (can't remember where though). Reply
  • qiankun - Tuesday, August 02, 2011 - link

    One instance I found frustrating is that non-HSF+ volumes like NTFS and exFat cannot be accessed from other computers using SMB or AFP. You can add the volume to the file sharing list, pick whatever protocol you like, but when you try to access it you'll get an error. Same thing applies to the bootcamp partition.

    I like to use NTFS or exFat on external drives, for simple fact that whenever needed you can simply disconnect them from the mac server and plug into a PC. I know there are software that allows reading HSF+ partitions on windows, but it's not installed everywhere, very unlikely if you want to use the drive on a random computer you or your friend uses.
    Reply
  • damianrobertjones - Tuesday, August 02, 2011 - link

    Windows Home Server. That's all I have to add. Reply
  • justinf79 - Friday, August 05, 2011 - link

    WHS isn't even in the same league... Reply
  • rs2 - Tuesday, August 02, 2011 - link

    I've used a number of different wiki solutions, and the one included on OS X Server is a toy compared to most other popular wikis. There's just no comparison between the OS X wiki and something like Confluence or MediaWiki. Reply
  • gamoniac - Tuesday, August 02, 2011 - link

    At first glance, this looks impressive, given the price tag and the myriad of features provided. However, the author should note the huge maintenance costs of this at best rudimentary product. Anyone who has used Apache or IIS 7 knows the Lion web server is years away from catching up.

    What good is a cheap product if you have to to spend, say, 40 hours, trying to get something to work. The TCO is too high even at $10/hour, and even for home users.
    Reply
  • gamoniac - Tuesday, August 02, 2011 - link

    PS: Good article nonetheless. Thank you AT. Keep them coming! Reply
  • repoman27 - Wednesday, August 03, 2011 - link

    What's good about a cheap product with a myriad of features is that if even one or two work as advertised out of the box, it was worth it. If not, you're only out $50. I configured Snow Leopard Client on a MacBook Pro to work as a NetBoot / NetRestore server because I happened to find that functionality useful, and although it was trivial to do so, I'm perfectly inclined to shell out the $50 for Lion Server going forward rather than monkey around with another client version.

    In general, you're right though, it's stupid to cheap out on a capital expenditure and then spend an order of magnitude more trying to get someone who knows what they're doing to make it work.

    Really, though, who doesn't spend at least 40 hours setting up a new server for the first time?
    Reply

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