Forget Windows: SMBs should try Snow Leopard Server
The next obvious difference is equally refreshing. One of the most painful things about current Microsoft licensing is the User/Device CAL counting process. Yes, I know that everybody should have it right on the day they press the Go button, but the reality in many small businesses is there’s always an “Oh dear, the machine says it can’t connect” moment, followed by a 48- to 72-hour delay while the next CAL pack grinds its way through the system. Apple has simply thrown all that nonsense away. Pretty well every copy of Snow Leopard Server is licensed for an unlimited number of users, which means way up into the tens or hundreds of thousands.
Snow Leopard Server is licensed for an unlimited number of users, which means way up into the tens or hundreds of thousands
That might seem hardly relevant if you’re merely considering Snow Leopard as a way to put an exceptionally smart NAS into your small business, but it starts to make sense once you look at all the other functions thrown in alongside the file-serving ability. Let’s tour these extra functions before we get to the file sharing management stuff, because it’s a short list that points down a very long road.
You get: email; web serving; built-in blogs; a wiki; software rollout support (for Macs only); and user access management (again for Macs). The latter is a bit like Group Policies, secured against a user list that shows up in the Workgroup Manager on the main server, but it isn’t much use to us since it doesn’t cover PCs.
Let me explain why all this excites me so much. I opened up my firewall to allow HTTP through to the Snow Leopard Server inside my network – something I don’t normally encourage people to do – and with that connection in place I typed in the IP address (bare numbers, not a domain name) into my iPhone. Up came the default Snow Leopard Server web page, slick and smooth in usual Apple style, and it just worked. It let me enter a blog post (if rather shakily – iPhones badly need speech-recognition), read my email, all stuff we PC users are used to fighting through a bramble thicket of external Cloud-based accounts, passwords, services and features to achieve.
This is where the most interest will be found: here’s an appliance (especially in its Mac mini server format) that can cheerfully present a somewhat more secure extranet, without needing to be located in a hosting centre somewhere beyond your control. It may not be part of the vast Windows monoculture, but it comes from a player sufficiently large enough that updates and service information are ensured and easy to access.