For many years, Apple has sold macOS Server (previously called OS X Server) for those who wanted to run various Unix-based Internet services on a Mac. Server became popular because it put an easy-to-use graphical interface on top of the Unix apps. Thus allowing Mac users to avoid complicated configuration files and reducing the need to work at the command line. At its peak, Server boasted 24 different Internet services. Since then Apple has pared down what it can do. Recent versions of macOS Server offer only 13 services.
The bad news
Apple has now announced that in the next update, expected Autumn 2018, it will be removing all but 3 services: Open Directory, Profile Manager, and Xsan storage management.
To prepare for that, Apple has done two things. First, the most popular features of Server, Caching Server, File Sharing Server and Time Machine Server are now part of macOS 10.13 High Sierra. Caching Server reduces Internet usage by sharing software distributed by Apple (updates and apps) and iCloud data from one Mac to other Apple devices on a local network. File Sharing Server lets you create a shared folder that multiple Macs can access. Time Machine Server lets you specify a shared folder as a destination for Time Machine backups from other Macs on the network.
Second, new installations of the current macOS Server 5.6 and 5.6.1 hide quite a few services. This includes Calendar, Contacts, DHCP, DNS, Mail, Messages, NetInstall, VPN, Websites and Wiki. If they were configured in a previous version of Server that’s being upgraded, they’ll still be available. For each of the services being removed, Apple has made suggestions for open-source alternatives. But most don’t have Mac-specific interfaces that simplify management.
What are your options?
If you’re running Server now, nothing needs to change right away, or perhaps even for some time. Nothing Apple does to a future version of Server will affect your existing installation. The only problem is that you won’t get updates that could be important for security, stability, or interoperability. Contact us to see what solutions we recommend for the services you currently rely on.
If you’re running Caching Server, File Sharing Server, or Time Machine Server, it might be worth transitioning those to a Mac running High Sierra. Though it’s best to check with us first in case you have a usage scenario that may not transfer cleanly. The first two are easy to turn on and configure in System Preferences > Sharing; just click the checkbox next to their names in the Service list. Then adjust the settings in the pane to the right.
Time Machine Server is a bit more complicated. To enable it, turn on File Sharing, share a folder (likely to be on an external drive), and then Control or right-click the folder from within the Sharing preference pane. Then choose Advanced Options and select “Share as a Time Machine backup destination.”
We wouldn’t recommend that anyone start working with Server now. We can recommend more capable alternatives. If you’re looking for a way of distributing settings to Macs or devices in your business, Server’s Profile Manager isn’t the best choice. So again, get in touch and let us know what you’re trying to achieve.