In-Depth with Mac OS X Lion Serverby Andrew Cunningham on August 2, 2011 8:00 AM EST
Let’s start with Server.app, since it’s going to be the administration tool we’ll use the most throughout this review. I’ll start with a general overview of what it is and what it does, and then I’ll move on to the specific services that it manages.
For small and/or uncomplicated directories, Server.app will be fine for managing your directory, though people wanting to do anything more advanced will want to be familiar with Workgroup Manager (one of the Server Admin Tools that we’ll discuss in depth later).
Moving down the sidebar, our next entries are Alerts and Stats under the Status heading. Alerts is a simple log viewer, showing you messages about your server that you should know (if you have Server.app in your dock, the number of Alerts you have will be displayed with the icon).
Last up is the Hardware section, which lets you do quite a few things. The Overview tab gives you basic information about your server’s hardware and uptime.
Under the Settings tab, you can enable and disable SSH and remote administration of your server, create and control SSL certificates, and “dedicate system resources to server services,” which enhances the performance of some server functions at the expense of “the performance of some user applications” (this would be a useful box to tick on a dedicated server, but not on a personal computer that’s doing double-duty as a workstation).
Lastly, the Storage tab gives you an overview of your available disk space, and also allows you to change the access permissions on files and folders (useful if you have file-sharing enabled, though you should probably do this using the File Sharing service itself, since it is much better at it).
Lastly, at the bottom of the screen, you can see something called Next Steps - this is an excellent place for novices to figure out what to do now that they’ve setup a server. It will guide you through setting up your network, managing network accounts, managing devices, and starting services, among a few other things. Those needing more advanced help can go through the documentation for Lion Server - the page is looking a little sparse right now, especially when compared to the extensive documentation for previous OS X Server versions, but hopefully it will become a little more populated over time.
Lastly, let’s talk about remote administration - if your OS X servers are located in a server room where you don’t have physical access to them, you’ll need a way to manage them remotely. In past OS X Server versions, the Server Admin Tools were installable to any OS X client, and enabled remote administration of most services and tasks.
Server.app, however, is not available for client OS X versions - if you need to administer Lion Server remotely, you’ll either need to change your OS X client into a server (thus giving you access to Server.app, which can be used to connect to other servers), or you must control your servers directly using VNC or Screen Sharing or Apple Remote Desktop (take your pick). It’s not a deal-breaking change, but businesses (whose Lion licensing terms are a bit less generous than those for consumers) will have to cough up for additional Server licenses if they want their admins to administer services on their servers.
We’ll look at the individual Server.app services soon - first, I want to walk you through the Server Admin program and OS X Server’s directory services, since so many of the other services are dependent on them.
Server Admin Overview
As we talked about before, Server Admin used to be the heart of OS X Server. Its role in Lion, while much reduced, is still important, since it still manages some of the software’s more interesting pieces.
Server Admin can still be installed to Lion clients and used to administer Lion Server (and Snow Leopard Server) remotely.
Now, time to talk about some services.