Thu, 08 Oct 2009 Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Server review
Advanced features promise total control over your network
- Manufacturer: Apple
- Manufacturer: Apple
- Pros: Full 64-bit power will be welcome in a server environment; easy to set up; fantastic set of Web services; incredible Podcast Producer 2 application; remarkably cost effective compared to other server options.
- Cons: At its best when working with other Macs, especially ones running Snow Leopard; CardDAV standard in its early stages; Intel requirement rules out use on otherwise perfectly adequate G5 Macs; Podcast Producer 2 not as easy to setup as other services.
- Min specs: Mac computer with Intel processor, 2GB of RAM, 10GB of available disk space, some features have additional system requirements, see the Apple website for full details.
- Price: £399 including VAT (Unlimited Client License)
- Star rating:
Another set of services that are available through OS X server are web services, as you’d imagine these are accessed through a Web browser. Web services include Wikis, Blogs and My Page (a custom page that tracks updates and blogs). New to OS X 10.6 is the ability use an online Calendar and Mail via Web apps (in a similar manner to MobileMe users).
Wiki Server 2 is possibly the most interesting of the web apps. This is an app that enables small teams to collaborate on Web pages that contain information, documentation, and the pages can contain attachments and even have media embedded into them. One of the key new features is the ability to do a virtual Quick Look of files attached to the Web pages.
The Web apps are surprisingly powerful and enable you to work collaboratively on Web pages (known as wikis) and these now have Web-based Quick Look technology.
This is a remarkable piece of technology, and as with many things Apple does it really blows away the kind of tech that Google is deploying to a wider market via Google Docs. Text entry is smooth and quick, and there are formatting and search options. You can even Spotlight search the Web services through a search field. As with the MobileMe apps we can see Apple deploying Web services to a wider market via the massive server farm its reputed to be building. And OS X server’s Web services (and MobileMe’s Web apps) are a good way to see what that future might look like.
Another new feature in server is that the Web interface is adapted for the iPhone enabling iPhone users to easily browse Wikis and blogs. It is also possible to use this in conjuntion with Apple’s iPhone Configuration Utility 2.1 to remotely configure iPhone setup options. These can then be emailed or placed on a wiki for users to install.
Value for money?
In terms of pricing, Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard server has never been cheaper. Formally £310 for a 10-client version and £629 for an unlimited version, Apple has now taken the bold decision to have just one version that’s £399 for unlimited clients.
The price reduction is obviously good for businesses, although the removal of a 10-client version is somewhat awkward for home users and small businesses that now find themselves paying the same deal as a massive corporation.
£399 is still a fairly substantial spend if you’re a home user looking to put OS X server on an old Mac; speaking of which we’d like to see OS X 10.5 Server get the same updated functionality. It seems a shame that you can’t put the latest version of Mac OS X server on an old G5.
But to put the pricing in context, Windows Server 2008 comes with a pricing structure that’s too complex to get into here. There are about six different versions sold into multiple different channels and you purchase bundles of client packs separately. Let’s say it starts at around £800 and you take it from there, often quite a long way up from there.
Having said that, you’ll find the real benefit from OS X 10.6 if all your clients are Macs running Snow Leopard; that’s not our experience of most work environments where older machines are put to use rather than thrown in the skip. And while we find CardDAV and CalDAV excellent technologies, the lack of native support in Windows would make us cautious of deploying Mac OS X 10.6 Server in a mixed Windows and Mac environment.
There’s far more to Mac OS X Server than we’ve managed to cover in this review. It’s probably the most comprehensive program Apple produces, and is capable of an amazing array of tasks. We’ve barely covered Xgrid functionality for distributed computing, Web hosting, and the ability to remotely install and manage Macs (from deploying Software Updates to Parental Controls). Mostly because these aren’t features we personally use Mac OS X Server for, but suffice to say there is an amazing feature set for a £400 program.