Introduction to Administrating Your OS X Lion Server

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Using Server App - Introduction to Administrating Your OS X Lion Server

Introduction to Administrating Your OS X Lion Server
The Server app does more than install OS Lion Server; you can use it as the default administration tool for configuring your Lion Server once the installation is complete. Screen Shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

The Server app is only one of the administration tools available for working with OS X Lion Server. The others (Server Admin, Workgroup Manager, Server Monitor, System Image Utility, Podcast Composer, and Xgrid Admin) are all included in the Server Admin Tools 10.7, which is available as a separate download from the Apple web site.

The Server Admin Tools are the standard administration tools that server admins used with previous versions of OS X Server. They provide advanced administration capabilities, letting you set up, configure, and control OS X Lion Server at a much more granular level. While that may seem enticing, the Server app that is included as part of OS X Lion Server provides an interface that is easier to use and can take care of most server needs, even if you have little or no background in administrating or setting up servers. This makes the Server app an ideal place to start if you're new to working with OS X Lion Server; it's also good for experienced server users who just need a quick and simple setup.

If you haven't already downloaded and installed OS X Server, it would probably be a good idea to start with:

Installing Mac OS X Lion Server

Once you have OS X Lion Server installed, let's move on to using the Server app.

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Using Lion Server App - Introduction to the Server App Interface

Introduction to the Server App Interface
The Server app interface is broken into three main panes: the List pane, the Work pane, and the Next Step pane. Screen Shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

The Server app is actually the same server program you used to install OS X Lion Server. You will find it in your Applications directory, with the singularly revealing name of Server.

When you launch the Server app, you'll notice that it no longer offers to install Lion Server on your Mac. Instead, it makes a connection to the running Lion Server, in order to provide you with an easy-to-use interface for administrating your server.

The Server app can do more than just connect to and administer your local Lion Server. The same app can connect remotely with any Lion Server you are authorized to administer. We will look at remote server admin in detail at a later time. For now, we'll assume you're working directly with Lion Server installed on your Mac.

The Server App Window

The Server app is broken into three basic panes. Along the left side is the list pane, which shows all of the available services your server can provide. In addition, the list pane is where you will find the Accounts section, where you can view account information about users and group accounts; the Status section, where you can view alerts and review stats about the performance of your server; and the Hardware section, which allows you to make changes to the hardware used by the server.

The large middle section of the Server app window is the work pane. This is where you can make changes or view information about an item you have selected from the list pane. Here you can also turn various services on or off, configure any settings a service needs, review stats, or add and delete users and groups.

The remaining pane, the Next Step pane, runs along the bottom of the Server app window. Unlike the other panes, the Next Step pane can be hidden or allowed to remain open. The Next Step pane provides instructions on performing the basic steps necessary to set up and use your OS X Lion Server. The steps outlined include Configuring Network, Add Users, Review Certificates, Start Services, and Manage Devices.

By following the tips in the Next Step pane, you can get a basic OS X Lion Server up and running.

OS X Lion Documentation

While the Next Step pane is helpful, you should also take a look at the documentation for OS X Lion Server. What, you've looked around for the server docs and haven't found much? Neither have I. Unlike past versions of OS X Server, which had reams of documentation, OS X Lion Server has a few documents for advanced configuration, but nothing on the Apple web site for basic use. Instead, you will find all Server app documentation under the Help menu of the Server app.

The help files provide much of the basic information you need to set up and run basic services. When combined with the Next Step guides found in the bottom pane of the Server app, you should be able to get a basic OS X Lion Server up and running without much trouble.

If you're looking for the advanced server administration guides, you can find them here:

OS X Lion Server Resources

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Using Lion Server App - Server Accounts

Using Lion Server App - Server Accounts
It's no mystery that the Users item in the List pane is where you can add both local and network users to your Lion Server. Screen Shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

The Accounts section of the OS X Lion Server app list pane is where you manage both users and groups. You can add and manage local accounts, accounts that reside on the server, and network accounts, which are accounts that may reside on other computers, but which will use services provided by the server.

Network accounts require the setup of network directory services, which use Open Directory and Open LDAP standards. The Server app is able to create a basic Open Directory server that you can use for your network accounts.

The Accounts section also allows you to specify which services each account can access. Groups can be assigned privileges. For example, each group can have a shared folder, all group members can be set up as iChat buddies, and group members can create and edit a group's wiki. You can also use groups to easily manage a set of users (the group's members).

We'll provide a more detailed guide to using the Accounts section of the OS X Lion Server app in a future step-by-step guide.

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Using Lion Server App - Status

Using Lion Server App - Status
The Status area is where you can review alerts issued by the server, or view how well your Lion Server is performing. Screen Shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

The Status area of the OS X Lion Server app provides access to alerts issued by the Server log system. Alerts are issued for both critical and informational reasons; you can filter the results to find just the alerts you want.

Each alert notes the time when an event occurred and describes the event. In some cases, alerts will offer suggestions about how to recover from an event. Lion Server sends alert events for available disk space, software upgrades, SSL certificate issues, email issues, and network or server configuration changes.

You can view alerts in detail, as well as clear them from the list once you have taken any necessary corrective actions.

Alerts can also be sent via email to Lion Server administrators.

Stats

The Stats section allows you to monitor server activity over time. You can see processor usage, memory usage, and network traffic graphed over time, ranging from the past hour to the past seven weeks.

There is also a separate Server Status widget that you can run on remote computers so you can monitor just server performance, without having to access the server or connect to it via the Server app.

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Using Lion Server App - Services

Each service, such as File Sharing, shown here, is configured in the Work pane of the Server app. Screen Shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

The Services section of the Lion Server app is where all the good stuff is. This is where you can configure each of the services that Lion Server offers. You will find the following services available from the Server app.

Lion Services

  • Address Book: Can provide centralized contact information for remote clients, including Macs, PCs, and iOS devices.
  • iCal: Provides shared calendars and calendar services to remote clients. This can make it easy to schedule meetings, coordinate events, delegate activities, and generate event invitations.
  • iChat: Provides collaborative instant messaging, file sharing, and video and audio chatting. Running an iChat server helps to secure your messaging data, and prevent it from being easily available to non-invited guests.
  • Mail: Mail services let Lion Server operate as your mail server. Your users can send and receive email using standard mail services, including POP, IMAP, and SMTP. Mail also provides web-based mail services and protective spam and virus filtering.
  • Podcast: This feature in Lion Server makes it easy to host audio or video podcasts. You can publish podcasts with the Podcast publisher.
  • Profile Manager: Provides a simple method of setting up and managing remote computer systems. Profile Manager works with Macs running OS X Lion, as well as iPads, iPhones, and other iOS devices.
  • Time Machine: You can set up your Lion Server to be a network-based Time Machine destination for any version of OS X that supports Time Machine.
  • VPN: Virtual Private Network services allow remote users to connect to your local network from home or other locations. Once connected, they can access services just as if they were sitting at one of the Macs on your local network.
  • Web: The web server allows you to host web sites on your Lion Server.
  • Wiki: You can set up and host wiki sites, to allow users to create and edit content using just a web browser.

Besides the list of services available from the Server app, OS X Lion Server has additional services and more advanced configuration options available from the Server Admin tool. However, for most users, the Server app options will usually suffice for most setups.

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Using Lion Server App - Hardware

Using Lion Server App - Hardware
The Hardware section is where you can make changes to the server's hardware, as well as view the current condition of hardware components, such as the amount of space left on your storage devices. Screen Shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

The Hardware section of the Lion Server app is where you can configure or make changes to the hardware that is running your Lion Server. It also provides the capability to manage SSL certificates, create self-signed certificates, manage the Apple push notification system, and change the computer's name, as well as the Lion Server Host name.

You can also monitor storage usage, create new folders, and edit and manage file and folder permissions.