Add a Mac Mini Server to your network

Have you ever considered adding a Mac server to your gadget collection, but were afraid of the hassle? Does your Mac work group need a server to share essential resources like your media library, without cluttering up your individual machines? Have you ever wondered if you could set up a Mac server to control your Mac work stations?

Well the answer may be to get yourself a Mac Mini, preloaded with Snow Leopard Server. You can buy one of these little dynamite machines for less than £900 including VAT in UK, or $950 US, and be up and running in less than an hour. The standard Apple Mac Mini Server comes with a 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 4 GB RAM, and two 500 GB Hard drives as standard, with a Geforce 320M graphics adapter, and of course Snow Leopard Server 2 installed.

Be warned, however, that this machine does not include an optical drive, as does it’s client cousin, or a keyboard or mouse, and you will need your own display. It does have two graphics ports, a HDMI port, with an included HDMI to DVI conversion lead. It also includes Wi-Fi wireless networking (based on 802.11n specification; 802.11a/b/g compatible), Gigabit Ethernet wired networking (10/100/1000BASE-T), Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR (Enhanced Data Rate) for connecting with peripherals such as keyboards, mice and cell phones, and four USB 2.0 ports and a FireWire 800 port. Not bad in such a tiny form factor!

If you want to use a VGA display you can buy an optional adapter Mini DisplayPort to VGA adapter, which allows you run up to 2560-by-1600 resolution. Please note that the Mac Mini Server has a Mini DisplayPort, not a Mini DVI port, so you need an Apple MB572Z/A Mini Display Port to VGA Adapter cable, or equivalent. See the link below for a suitable product, or contact Apple.

The setup is quite simple, with a Mac quality Assistant to guide you through the process. One note of caution is offered here; if the server you are setting up will serve as an Open Directory Master and DNS server, you should not set up a new Open Directory domain until you have read and understand the implications. One of the pitfalls of simply walking through Mac OS X Server’s automatic Server Assistant tool, is that the Assistant offers you the option of setting up a new Open Directory domain. This can cause problems if the server you are setting up will serve as an Open Directory Master and DNS server. See Understanding Mac OS X Open Directory later for more information.

Another thing to be aware of of if you are a hands on person and just want to get going. Make sure you have the server software serial number cards that are essential during the setup process! That is one of the first things the Server Assistant requires, and if you have thrown away the packaging in your enthusiasm to get going, you will have a problem. Not that anyone we know would have done that, you understand!

In use, the Mac Mini Server runs cooler that the client version with its built in internal optical drive. Is seems that the internal optical drive generate most of the heat in a Mini, while the disk drives generate very little, which contributes to the heat savings claimed by Apple. As a benchmark, a Mini with Snow Leopard Server should handle a work-group or small business of 25 users with a bit of room to spare.

For the corporately minded, who like the server bolted into a 19″ rack, there is even a nifty little attachment you can buy, which allows two Mac Mini Servers to be secure in a 1U rack mounted enclosure. Neat!

Further reading about Mac OS X server: