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Ask Slashdot: Uses For a Small Office Server?

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the networked-games-obvious-choice dept.

Businesses 260

ragnvaldr writes "I'm the 'IT guy' for an office of about a dozen people. And when I say IT guy, I mean I'm the only one here who can use google well enough to figure out how to make things work. We have a 500GB Mac server with a Drobo with 6TB of storage attached. So far all this server does is back up data, and I want to make it a little more useful. We also have a Filemaker server on it, which I have yet to learn how to use at all, let alone efficiently. Any suggestions to make this machine a little more useful?"

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It's Obvious (5, Funny)

Mikkeles (698461) | more than 2 years ago | (#36334756)

Porn server, of course!

Re:It's Obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36334784)

I was thinking media server, but sure that could work!

Re:It's Obvious (5, Informative)

ElizabethGreene (1185405) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335416)

Hi. Welcome to I.T. A lot of us get started in the exact position where you are.

Top 3 things:
1. Make sure you have a handle on what needs to be backed up.
2. Make sure it's backed up.
3. Make sure you can restore at least one file.

Backups run daily or weekly based on your preference, but run through this entire list at least once a month. People create new shares and it gets missed from the rotation and then... kaboom.

In addition to the above..
Can you share your printer(s) through the server? Sharing a laser printer is almost always cheaper than having a bunch of inkjets on desks.

Can you setup some sort of offsite backup rotation? Is taking a tape home once a month an acceptable solution?

Does your company have a website and branded email? You could very inexpensively purchase a domain and setup a template based site for them. Email @yourco.com is more professional looking than an address @yahoo or @gmail.

Filemaker is an excellent database system. Do you have forms that drive your business? If so then consider if there are benefits to translating them into filemaker.

For all of the above, you are at a disadvantage that you don't have test systems. Making untested changes on a production box is scary. Always have a backup. Try to setup a "test" environment wherever possible. Most importantly, understand what you do before you do it.

Best of luck,

Please Mod This Up (4, Interesting)

causality (777677) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335482)

It's rare to see such a combination of technical experience, and familiarity with the realities of implementing a solution in a small business environment.

Usually you can only get one or the other from any particular individual. This is solid advice and a good starting point. It should be modded up.

Re:It's Obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36334792)

+1. I'm pretty sure that was the first thought everyone had.

Re:It's Obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36334826)

Posting to clear accidental moderation.

Re:It's Obvious (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36334884)

Porn server, of course!

Yeah, obvious - Macs are good at serving up all sorts of pr0n - pre-Liver-extraction fuck-and-snuff Chinese flicks seem the most preferred amongst Apple users.

Re:It's Obvious (1)

cold fjord (826450) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335326)

Porn server, of course!

Because nothing makes an office more productive than large quantities of porn.

On the plus side, it makes evidence gathering easier to settle the sexual harassment lawsuits.

Re:It's Obvious (1)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335442)

Porn server, of course!

Because nothing makes an office more productive than large quantities of porn.

Speak for yourself. My company used to encode porn for streaming. The more porn in the office, the more productive the office was!

what does the office do and what software do you u (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#36334774)

what does the office do and what software do you us? Windows or mac on the desktops?

Hire a professional... (-1, Troll)

Eggplant62 (120514) | more than 2 years ago | (#36334776)

Here's how you can best serve your employer: Realize that your problem is out of your hands. Figure out first what you need that thing to do. Then hire a professional who can deliver that. Don't half ass it. Don't risk your job and get fired for half assing it and failing miserably. Hire pros. They are worth their weight in gold.

Re:Hire a professional... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36334820)

Ah yes, the good old "if you don't know, don't even bother asking just fuck off"! Thank god not ALL slashdotters are as worthless as you are, but that argument comes up waaay too often.

Re:Hire a professional... (-1, Troll)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335116)

I agree, especially when he brings up the "worth their weight in gold" part when talking about "Apple techs".

To the Author asking, your first problem is you bought a Mac and overspent on hardware you dont need and software you cant use.

Re:Hire a professional... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36335162)

If you think macs are overpriced, you havent seen the price of that drobo boat anchor.

Re:Hire a professional... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36335252)

Agreed. Apple techs are far from "worth their weight in gold". First off, they have specialized, niche skills (if they have them at all), secondly, they are fat.

Re:Hire a professional... (0)

Eggplant62 (120514) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335214)

It isn't that at all. I've worked in the field and taken plenty of calls from guys like this. Guys who thought, yeah, I know just enough to be dangerous, let's see what I can do. Then he's sitting there, no backups, no duplication of media, nothing to keep his ass out of the frying pan, and then he's on the phone to me because he's got some hot project that he needs the system for and it suddenly becomes my priority to unfuck the mess he's in.

Either way, he should call the pro. It's cheaper if he calls before he fucks everything up beyond belief.

Re:Hire a professional... (5, Insightful)

arnoldo.j.nunez (1300907) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335308)

It isn't that at all. I've worked in the field and taken plenty of calls from guys like this. Guys who thought, yeah, I know just enough to be dangerous, let's see what I can do. Then he's sitting there, no backups, no duplication of media, nothing to keep his ass out of the frying pan, and then he's on the phone to me because he's got some hot project that he needs the system for and it suddenly becomes my priority to unfuck the mess he's in.

Either way, he should call the pro. It's cheaper if he calls before he fucks everything up beyond belief.

You non-science, non-engineering types, especially in IT, love to exaggerate and use pontificating language. You clearly don't mean "fucks everything up beyond belief" because it's a meaningless phrase that you picked up from your stupid colleagues in IT. "nothing to keep his ass out of the frying pan" -- is that really necessary? Get to the point and move on.

How hard are backups? rsync, RAID, different storage media, onsite and offsite backups, and cost / benefit analysis to defend the choices. Some of it will be subjective (the "benefit" of something is obviously difficult to gauge and liable to debate). You could suggest some points of reference. That's what every good scientist and every good engineer I've met does -- because they know their worth is not limited to learning some quirks about programs. They design and build stuff. They often debug it. The bad ones constantly overstate their worth and present themselves with a really irritating know-it-all attitude. The bad ones think that by communicating their ideas and helping others out, they are risking job security. The good ones help others learn how to learn. The good ones demonstrate that they know their stuff and understand their worth is not rooted just in knowledge or wisdom, but also in interpersonal skills, often overlooked or downplayed in STEM fields.

I used to be like you in high school. I had worked at a few Fortune 100 companies as a coder / sysadmin type and I didn't realize my douchiness until I left the field in college for computer science, electrical engineering, physics, and chemistry. I know my comments sound a bit harsh, but maybe my tone may make you reevaluate how you behave.

Re:Hire a professional... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36335436)

Actually your "douchiness" seems like it still has its moments. (and i doubt you've restored a multi-TB backup successfully in the last few years)
Yes, it's not this guys fault he's got a little more motivation than some but most of us realize he's going to jump in with both feet and FUBAR something *really bad* and then get fired for it. So the consensus still stands: Hire a pro or a consultant, and if you still want to do his job after you see what a pain in the ass it is to do it right, then you can just watch him work. You'll probably learn a lot more from him than reading google or slashdot.

Get a used machine to experiment on (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36335498)

If the server were to randomly break in the near future, what would be the cost to the company in terms of lost time? Today, computers are often cheap compared to human time.

If you want to expand your knowledge and experiment with extra functionality, get a cheap computer to experiment on. It might make financial sense to end up with several servers with trialed programs that ended up working and become part of mainstream work. Then, you might want a professional to consolidate the servers.

Re:Hire a professional... (3, Insightful)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335356)

Call the pro?

Call him for what? If you don't have a problem and you "call a pro" you're going to get a solution you didn't need for a problem you didn't have.

You have this backwards. First he comes to slashdot to figure out how to make it useful, once he's done that only THEN can we tell him to hire a pro.

Admittedly there are many people who follow your model of thinking. They invariably end up spending the rest of the year figuring out where all the money went while reading their emails on an iPad sitting next to their computer.

Re:Hire a professional... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36334830)

I second this, a good small business I.T. consultant/contractor can be hard to find, but if you find a good guy a few hours of his time could save you a lot of headaches. My former boss who had small business specializing in networking for small businesses probably could set everything up for a business your size in a few days.

Re:Hire a professional... (3, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 2 years ago | (#36334840)

Yeah, I'm sure a 12-person office has an extra 100k sitting around for an IT guy.

Re:Hire a professional... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36334890)

You ever hear of an IT consultant? it's what I do for a living... sometimes I have work for months with a client, sometimes I only need to be there for a few hours.

This job looks like it wouldn't be more than a few hours. If you can find a place that will give me 100k to set up a fileserver, let me know.

Re:Hire a professional... (2)

lorenlal (164133) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335078)

Actually... I used to be an on-demand IT guy. I worked for a company that charged on billable hours. When something needed maintenance or a break happened, I would schedule some time to see them and take care of it. When my clients had a need, they'd talk it out with me and our business guy, we'd draw up a quote and then do the work. We'd also take care of necessary maintenance (again on demand).

It's actually a pretty good way to get the IT needs taken care of without needing to spend 100K... Or even 50K... If you're an office of about a dozen or so you could probably get by on less than 10K/year including hardware.

It worked out for me because I had a lot of clients, so I always had work to do... It worked great for my clients because (I like to think) that I did good work for them without costing them their profit margin.

Re:Hire a professional... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36335034)

Here's how you can best serve your employer: Realize that your problem is out of your hands. Figure out first what you need that thing to do. Then hire a professional who can deliver that. Don't half ass it. Don't risk your job and get fired for half assing it and failing miserably. Hire pros. They are worth their weight in gold.

No way! Use these people who are too cheap to hire a consultant to further your knowledge. Learn everything you can on the company time, no matter how badly you screw things up there. You'll gain valuable experience, and besides..... you never claimed to be an I.T. expert did you? If it gets too scary for them, they'll just have to hire someone.

Re:Hire a professional... (2)

NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335088)

Stonewall and obfuscate until they are willing to hire additional help or give you an obscene raise. Once they recognize your unique ability to set priorities, they will promote you to manager.

Re:Hire a professional... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36335102)

How is this insightful? The guy asked what things he he might be able to use a Mac server for his admitted skilset and you're telling him he's over his head and should hire a professional. And what exactly will he be hiring this professional to do? Man some geeks are so full of themselves they've gone 180 to stupid.

Re:Hire a professional... (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335276)

That's the first intelligent reply on this thread. Sometimes I wonder how drunk the average slashdotter is while posting...

Re:Hire a professional... (1)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335320)

That's the first intelligent reply on this thread. Sometimes I wonder how drunk the average slashdotter is while posting...

They are not drunk. They are simply stupid and juvenile... even when they are not juvenile anymore.

Re:Hire a professional... (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335300)

Man some geeks are so full of themselves they've gone 180 to stupid.
Reply to This Parent

Okay, I'll reply to the parent - it's not collective arrogance, it's a bunch of desperate starving dogs gathering around to hustle and fight over a soup bone*

* In case you didn't get the analogy, It means that many I.T. guys are unemployed and have been without work for months, or even years, and are will take anything they can get.

Unfortunately in this economy, as another poster said above, keeping a job will depend on stonewalling and obfuscation; but the irony is that to be valuable enough to keep your job, you will also have to be just inexpensive enough.

Re:Hire a professional... (1)

supremebob (574732) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335124)

Yep... IT seems fairly easy for a layman until you have a hardware failure due a power outage, and suddenly find out that your daily backups haven't been working correctly for the past few weeks.

Only THEN will many people understand how important IT concepts like UPS battery backup, RAID, and scheduled backup tests are.

Re:Hire a professional... (1)

nanohurtzGT (1114555) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335340)

"Hire a professional?... Is that your best answer? I read a response like that and I envision a slanted eye smary car sales man in a moth eaten tweed coat "yess sirr this car is better, but don't take my word for it.." Anyway...MacOS servers have major advantages if you use Mac clients in your network. It allows for a rich set of features comprable to that of wins server. As an app server it's reluctant to break due to threading. A great search or index server. No, you don't need a pro to do this either. You can run client windows, vms, sftp, etc. A potential to be a PITA without cost to TCO like most wins environs. Scaling may be a challenge, and most move to Linux to do this. FOr now you have quiet a bit to work with

If you have to ask.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36334778)

Give me your password and I'll think of something...

In my experience... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36334780)

...you let a perceived need dictate a use, not the other way around.

Re:In my experience... (1)

exupery (1939432) | more than 2 years ago | (#36334856)

Agreed, don't try to use any technology simply for the sake of using technology. If your company does come to a point it has another need for the box your finance chief will be thrilled you don't need to buy new hardware.

Re:In my experience... (3, Insightful)

Anubis IV (1279820) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335096)

But when you're as inexperienced as this individual is, sometimes you have needs that you don't even recognize, and which you may be able to solve with the resources already available. Clearly he shouldn't be trying to make it something it isn't, but they may not realize that there are easy fixes out there to problems they have in the office and simply put up with at the moment.

Re:In my experience... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36335280)

This, exactly. You might explore setting up a VPN so people can log in to work from home. That's an office pleaser, but it's also open to the Internet and maybe not a good idea to have sitting on the same hardware you are backing up / serving internal files from. Yeah scratch that... one really good backup server is worth more than anything else you could add. If you have spare PC's lying around, install Linux and add services to them... for 12 people you don't need big guns for most services. If you do decide to run other services off that server, consider putting them in a seperate virtual machine.

Re:In my experience... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36335202)

In general, this is true, but there are needs that people have not identified because they do not know what technology can do for them.

I set up a simple file sharing server for a design shop I worked for. They'd had no clue that something like that could be done, and were emailing files back and forth.

Re:In my experience... (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335386)

...you let a perceived need dictate a use, not the other way around.

That's crazy talk! Every business needs a server. First he needs to put some XML on it, then once he has the XML working he can install a cloud (everyone is talking about cloud so it must be good!). Then sit back and watch the money roll in!

Need more info (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36334786)

How many printers do you have? How are they set up? Are you a workgroup? Do you want to centralize administration? What kind of software are your users working with? Do you use Outlook?

To get any decent suggestions your going to have to give a little more information.

Don't Disrespect the Backups (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36334804)

Seriously, data backups are crucial in every enterprise, even small ones. That's a *great* use for your server. Are you checking on your process by restoring files once per month? Once per quarter? I joined a bioscience center that had faithfully been making backups for half a year before I joined but five months of the backups had no data. So do check, please.

I have more questions about your backup methods than I can easily list here. Still, there are other good uses for *every* server. They can all:

1) Provide DHCP addresses
2) Offer NTP to keep the clocks synchronized
3) Provide comprehensive system logging (for all systems of concern)
4) Store and/or offer common utilities like print services

MAC Server?? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36334818)

First off replace it with a linux server or at least a Windows server

Re:MAC Server?? (2)

joshki (152061) | more than 2 years ago | (#36334922)

Why would you replace a Unix server with a Linux server?

Re:MAC Server?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36335194)

Because there's no software for MAC OS unless you install the stuff developed on Linux?

Re:MAC Server?? (1)

Yonder Way (603108) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335344)

I see you've never actually used a Mac as a server. Apple sells a server flavor of OS X, and it's actually quite good.

Re:MAC Server?? (2)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335488)

Until you try to do a softwareupdate -i -a via ssh and it hangs on iTunes (due to EULA acceptance GUI). Why is iTunes installed by default on OS X Server?

rtfm . . . 0_o (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36334824)

Mac OSX Server is pretty powerful and you can do alot with it. it could be a print server, a web server, ftp, email, application . . . i would caution putting all those services on one machine, as a single point of failure is sometimes trouble for the less experienced, and you don't want to bring down any data. i have a couple of mac servers running virtually using Parallels on a couple of MacPro's and it handles it quite well and it's very stable and efficient.

i would take a class or buy a book or just RTFM . . . 0_o

Needs based approach (4, Insightful)

tofu2go (727555) | more than 2 years ago | (#36334846)

It sounds to me like you haven't identified a business need and are fishing for one. Wouldn't it be better to look at how the business operates and from there see if there is something that can be done more efficiently? If there is, then ask yourself how this server can be used to address that problem. A server can do a lot of things, but don't look at those things and try to force it on the business when the need doesn't necessarily exist. It may create more problems then it solves.

If what you are really looking for is something to play with, then Filemaker sounds like a great place to start. It could be your introduction to databases. Once you understand the power of databases, you may find areas of the business that might benefit from a database. But until you have the knowledge, you aren't in a position to implement and support one. Just remember, if you're going to play with something, don't do it on a production server. Backups are a real business need. Even if that is the only thing the box is used for, it is a perfectly good reason for its existence.

Re:Needs based approach (1)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335322)

Filemaker sounds like a great place to start. It could be your introduction to databases.

Dear god, just tell him to commit suicide!

Once you understand the power of databases

Not using filemaker you won't!

Set up a webserver on your personal machine and start playing with some utilities that you think might be useful in your environment. When you've got more than 2 things you'd like to see in use at your office, pitch it to your boss and get his approval. Then create a webserver on the apple server and start building your new company intranet.

Oh, and stay as far away from filemaker as you possibly can. In my last job I was the go-to filemaker guy (I didn't build the FM databases, I just cleaned up the mess). My approach was to wait until a filemaker database crashed, and rebuild it correctly in PHP/MySQL.

Learn it. (2)

pixline (2028580) | more than 2 years ago | (#36334848)

Use and study it as much as you can: knowledge pays for itself and OSX Server is not the same thing as a raw linux/bsd box. (And while you're at it: enjoy every single pixel of their Apache and Mailman admin interface OSX style, you'll miss 'em in real life!)

Requirements? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36334858)

Requirements first, lad.

What do you need? What would improve productivity or whatnot?

If you don't need anything, then turn it off. Saves money. Quantifiable improvement.

Vmware Fussion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36334870)

If things are working as they should already. Create a whole bunch of servers! Centvm, DNS vm, even web hosting... You are not risking much if you just pay attention to your memory. Max out the internal drive space and RAM.

motivation server (1)

carlosap (1068042) | more than 2 years ago | (#36334872)

i dont know what your office do, but it could be used to share some motivation videos, maybe some porn to release the stress, mmm i dont know any game server for macosx, but seriously, why the f. you ask this on /.
I dont think you would get another answer than install porn

Wrong way around (5, Informative)

nine-times (778537) | more than 2 years ago | (#36334882)

It's generally better to start a project from "I want to accomplish [x], so what do I need?" rather than "I have [x], so what can I accomplish with it?" The first approach will be much more focused and more likely to succeed.

Second thing to keep in mind: you don't want to experiment on a production server. I don't care if the "production server" is only a backup server-- if you don't want to endanger your backups, then it's still a production server. This means you shouldn't do anything with this server until you've planned what you want to install on it, and you've already set up a test implementation and you know what you're doing.

Third thing to keep in mind: in current IT practices, it's often not worth it for a small company to do things for themselves unless they need to. You probably need a local file server and therefore also a backup scheme. Aside from that, things like web hosting, email, and chat are usually better handled by a big company that can afford a datacenter. If you do try to do email internally, make sure you back it up and have a plan for outages and disaster recovery.

All that aside, you could start with basic services: directory services, file sharing, email, etc. Filemaker has its uses, but let the use determine the tool. Don't go around pounding on everything just because you've found yourself a hammer. Define the job, and then pick the best tool for the job.

Re:Wrong way around (2)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335398)

It's generally better to start a project from "I want to accomplish [x], so what do I need?" rather than "I have [x], so what can I accomplish with it?"

The problem is if you don't know what is possible how could you know if there are efficiencies to be gained from it? Not everything in IT is an "expense" that needs a business case for justification. Some things are features we already have and we don't know that we could potentially improve our way of life with it.

At our work we already have several Toughbooks. We already have WiFi coverage over the plant. We already have an database of all assets. The inspection team had a wonderful set of procedures for equipment inspection and updated the database when they got back to their desks. I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this but for some reason no one in the inspection department did.

Each of these were separate and bought for separate reasons for separate business needs by different departments. Now the inspection team borrow the Toughbooks from another department when needed to update the database directly in the field. This process nearly halves their inspection time and they never even knew it was possible let alone built a business case for it.

Admittedly we don't know enough about his workplace to know how we could improve things, but not every IT expenditure is driven by a business need, or more accurately not all business needs have to be known before you ask others for advice on continuous improvement.

Re:Wrong way around (1)

Bacon Bits (926911) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335430)

It's generally better to start a project from "I want to accomplish [x], so what do I need?" rather than "I have [x], so what can I accomplish with it?" The first approach will be much more focused and more likely to succeed.

While generally this is true, professionals tend to forget that at the very beginning plain ignorance (not stupidity... ignorance means one simply does not know) is the main problem. The question is "I don't know what I can accomplish or what I'm supposed to do. How do I know what's reasonable, what's too expensive, what might be accomplished?" If you're used to Algebra, how do you know when you need Trig or Calculus? It's obvious to those who use it a lot (e.g., a given physics problem can be many times easier if you know the Law of Cosines, or how to construct and evaluate an infinite series, or integrate or derive an equation) but if you've never even seen it done, never know what it's for or how to know when to use it, you don't even know what question to ask.

Unfortunately, most IT professionals learn this type of thing simply by being immersed in the field and by observing more experienced professionals. You need someone with this knowledge already, but consultants are so expensive you need to have a project for them and it's impossible to hire an IT specialist in such a small company.

Mac OS X server license? (1)

hugortega (721079) | more than 2 years ago | (#36334892)

Do you have a mac os x server license? If not, you can buy it, and you'll have a lot of services available, from podcast server to directory server, iCal server, and a lot of options.

Re:Mac OS X server license? (1)

achbed (97139) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335032)

The next release of Max OS (Lion) includes server functions as an optional install at no additional cost.

If you want it to be useful... (2)

cold fjord (826450) | more than 2 years ago | (#36334894)

Make sure it is reliable before you get people to rely on it. Make sure both the computer and storage are on UPS and have good surge protection. Ideally you want the server to shutdown before it loses power. Also, make sure you have some sort of backup scheme in place. Tape backup, DVD, whatever, just make sure you can backup the data and restore. It's a really good idea to test your backups from time to time to make sure they can be read. Ideally you will also save your backups either off-site, or at least in a fire safe. Also, check that the server area doesn't get too hot as that can cause problems as well. Make sure you apply current OS patches. Ideally you will also have anti-virus protection. If the office has access to the internet, make sure you have at least a cheap hardware firewall, or better if you can, to protect everyone. Consider physical security. Do you lock the room with the server? Use cables to secure it? Document things in case you need to rebuild it.

Consider information security: does everyone get access to everything?

Besides that, file servers tend to be very handy, even for small offices. Put any sort of shared resources you use on the file server instead of on individual PCs. Things like: document templates, form letters, contact lists, etc.

Beyond that, it really depends on your business doesn't it? I assume you bought Filemaker for a reason. Information sharing must be important somehow. You can use Filemaker as the heart of a lot of business applications. Would an internal web server be useful? Internal mail server? List server?

One more thing, teach people how things are intended to be used.

Help them out - make sure their PCs are properly patched, have anti-virus, and ideally aren't running as administrator.

5 Rated Comment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36334898)


Maybe thats directed towards the editors.

Most Important Job It Can Do (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36334900)

Backup. Oh you're already doing that? Done.

Why for? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36334910)

This depends on a lot of things we (and you seem to) not know about. No offense.

In a nutshell: You seem to be looking for trouble.

Have you seen any new needs coming up? You shouldn't have to shovel functionality down just for the sake of it. Sometimes simplicity is worth it and more is less.

Also, we can't be in your office to know what goes on there. You most probably know better than all of us.

If you can google enough to make things work, the next step seems to learn how to google enough to know about what is worth making work.

I wish I could give you output regarding a lot of cool things you could do with your server to boost productivity, make people happy and make you happy, but what are your needs on the first place? You wish to learn? Increase profit? Reduce downtime? Those are all useful in one way or another.

If you wish to learn, you can just go around asking yourself stuff:
Have you got some monitoring going on?
Is your server hardened? Could you think of ways of breaking into it?
Does it have any form of redundancy? What happens if it explodes?
Is a domain server needed?

I think you should pay attention to what happens on your office/network, study a bit if you're serious about it, google and answer things for yourself. And for pete's sake, don't go testing things on the server.

Two suggestions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36334912)

1. Get in the apple server bootcamp class and learn how to use it. Its not a overly difficult course and gives you good insight into what all the platform offers you.

2. Hire me as your mac admin short term since ive been doing this for the past 15 years and need to eat.

As a 49 year old militant feminist grandmother (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36334926)

Advice is buy a 386 off eBay, open it up and take out the LED and the turbo button, bang a hole into the mac server, solder in the turbo button and put a battery containing led with acid mixed together into the server case. Now it's a little more useful. Anymore worthless questions or did you expect we all have magic "useful" ways that'll increase your bottomline 20%?

how many people work in your organisation? (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36334938)

if your company is more than ten people, you should try a wiki [wikipedia.org] of course.


All offices have paperwork (2)

thesandtiger (819476) | more than 2 years ago | (#36334952)

Set up a document versioning system to track changes.

Re:All offices have paperwork (2)

scrib (1277042) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335178)

Seconded. Version control of some stripe is a fantastic (and oft overlooked) thing for most organisations.

Which flavor of version control is left as an exercise to the OP. The "right one" for the office depends a great deal on what is produced, what they can budget, and what the users will tolerate. It's funny, sometimes users don't appreciate the extra steps it takes to check out/check in a file, until someone changes it under them.

Backups? (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#36334960)

6Tb of storage is excellent for a file server. However, unless you are bringing files offsite and running occasional restore tests, then it's not really a good setup as a backup. I'm not sure of the Drobo's capabilities, or how the drives are configured within it, but you might consider taking a couple of them offline and cycling through them like tapes; bringing the spare drives offsite.

Re:Backups? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36335080)

Drobo is a DAS/NAS/SAN device meant to be either primary or secondary storage for a small enterprise. It is a drive array with a proprietary coding scheme, not RAID 5 etc. not sure could be RAID under Drobo proprietary management. Anyway the Drobo management is meant to be easy for small shops. So there are no drives to remove. Needed would be a backup scheme for off site disaster recovery, perhaps tape or multiple rotating external eSata drives. Som etype of snapshot tech is needed to keep backup time manageable. For expanding use of the server determine business needs then go from there. Primary file server, map work stations to the server. This makes backup more critical since I think currently the server is backup to files stored on workstations. Learn as much as you can without affecting your primary job too much. You can get local small business IT support from many consulting companies, $60-120/hr or so much per server per month or package deals.

P.S. sorry about the AC, too lazy to reset pw.

Communication? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36334964)

Host a company wiki.

Although, I have to say, getting people to use a wiki is like pulling teeth at my company.

if it aint broke ... (0)

NemoinSpace (1118137) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335004)

if you had even the most basic training as an IT guy you would not ask such questions.
There will be no thinking outside the box here! This is Slashdot and we are legion. Now go back to your cube. (and stop trying to make the rest of us look bad. we are already at least 3 rules ahead of you)
  1. is it broke?
    1. does anyone know it's broke?
      1. can you blame someone else?

Use it to create another virual server (1)

shawn443 (882648) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335050)

Then use this server as a test environment for your learning purposes and for demo applications. You could use this server to help discover what you might or probably don't need.

Keep it simple! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36335052)

TLDR: keep it so simple that it *can't* screw up and you can't get your ass kicked.

Just keep it as a file server! OSX server would have been a simple drop-in solution for groupware but OSX server is dead - and having the organisation's groupware residing on just one physical machine is questionable.


It would be wise (even if you were a real IT person) to try to move any responsibility you have to somebody/somewhere else. You can do this by using hosted groupware such as Zimbra or Goolge Apps and even hosted file server such as Ignyte (it's awesome!, you just run a VM locally as a cache and use simple online the web interface to manage everything.)

Also, just a thought - if you just need a simple file server then using just the Drobo without the server is probably the way to go. If you use just the Drobo you have 1 less moving piece to fail.

Remember, if something goes wrong it is *you* who is responsible - and "I'm not an IT guy anyway" doesn't cut it.

Internal or external? (2)

david.emery (127135) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335060)

I'm presuming this machine is for internal use only. If you need to host external services, such as a website, pay $1k for another Mini Server and use that exclusively for external facing services.

That being said, you could activate the Wiki function and produce a little company Intranet where people could post and update information. That's quite easy to do once you've enabled the WebServer (using Server Admin).

It's also easy to set up LDAP server, which will at a minimum simplify your account management. You could use Mobile accounts on each workstation, so that the workstation's data is local but is automatically both backed up to the server -and made available- if the user has to log onto or borrow another machine.

You could configure VPN for safe remote access (but that's a bit tricky.)

Right now the best book on OS X Server Admin is Daniel Eran Dilger's book. (http://www.amazon.com/Snow-Leopard-Server-Developer-Reference/dp/0470521317)

My experience as a SOHO user/administrator of Server going back to Tiger Server is that each version has gotten easier to use, but unless the out-of-the-box configuration is -exactly what you need-, it's worth paying a couple $100s to get an expert to fully configure the server initial setup, particularly the DNS. If the DNS isn't set up perfectly, a lot of stuff breaks in OS X Server. (I've used Mid Atlantic Consulting here in the DC area.)

Finally, you need to have an additional backup strategy that involves off-site/off-machine backups. Consider the recent tornadoes all over the US! I have a pair of USB drives and my plan is to monthly back up to one and swap it for the other stored at an offsite location (friend's house.) (Disclosure: I'm about 6 months behind doing that, one of the drives in an external exclosure died and I haven't gotten around to replacing it.)

Re:Internal or external? (1)

itchythebear (2198688) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335200)

All great advice, but this puzzles me:

If you need to host external services, such as a website, pay $1k for another Mini Server

At $1,000(not including labor and electricity) wouldn't it be cheaper to just host any external services with a hosting company? Chances are they have a better backup policy, guaranteed uptime, and a better internet connection. Just my 2 cents.

Here's a suggestion (1, Informative)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335072)

I'm the 'IT guy' for an office of about a dozen people. And when I say IT guy, I mean I'm the only one here who can use google well enough to figure out how to make things work...

Stop! Stop right there!


Off site backups (2)

Prairiewest (719875) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335128)

I think the most important thing you can do for your small company is to research and implement an off-site backup solution. Find one strikes the right balance of cost versus privacy/security for the business sector that you're in. So if you're using the Mac as a central place to back up the employees individual computers, or if you've made it the place where everyone saves all their files, that's a great first step. But it needs to be augmented with off-site backup.

I have seen too many examples of small businesses losing all of their data to theft or fire. I don't mean I'm reading about them on the web, I mean I hear these stories in person. I'm honestly amazed at how many times this happens, and having central backup or central storage alone isn't enough to mitigate the dangers.

Good luck, and happy Googling!

Some tips (1)

itchythebear (2198688) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335130)

If the rest of your computers are macs as well, use the space on that drobo for everyones timemachine backups(assuming no one has like 1Tb of data on their machine). Timemachine works pretty well for recovering both accidentally deleted files or restoring a machine thats had a hardware failure of some kind. If you don't want 12 machines all trying to back up data every hour all at the same time over your network, you can change how often timemachine does backups by editing the file /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.backupd-auto.plist. If you aren't familiar with launchd(what OSX uses to start and stop processes) then def read up on it before editing any plist files.

Normally I recommend NOT editing anything in /System, but thats where apple put the time machine preference files so I suppose in this case it's acceptable to modify that file.

Oh and some type of wiki is always a nice tool, I think OSX server comes with one, or you could just use WikiMedia.

If I think of anything else I'll be sure to post it, but as others have said, it's best to think of what your business needs rather than invent problems to fix.

My modest proposal. (-1, Flamebait)

Killall -9 Bash (622952) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335138)

Any suggestions to make this machine a little more useful?

Plan A: Set it on fire to reduce heating bills.
Plan B: Sell all of that gay Mac bullshit, and apply the pittance towards buying an NAS. Not for file backup... for primary data storage on a raid 1 array.

Trivial Apache/MySQL Services (1)

Chris Snook (872473) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335140)

I run the server for a small company as well, and since we do some Apache/MySQL stuff on it anyway, there's a lot of lightweight, mostly turn-key Apache/MySQL stuff I've set up opportunistically, some of which have turned out to be useful to the whole organization, and some of which have just turned out to be useful for me and the developers. It's a bit simpler to set up on a Linux server where a lot of this stuff is prepackaged for you, but Macports is rather straightforward, and installing PHP apps is only marginally more complicated than unpacking a zip file. Among other things, we're using:


All of these require (trivial) database setup, which I manage with phpMyAdmin.

Don't overreach though. Your time is valuable, so you're much better off paying a bit to one of the many service providers who will gladly provide you with similar services for free or cheap, than mucking around in config files you don't understand. Your intranet server is still a great place to do proof-of-concept setups for things that ultimately you'd want to outsource. I use it more for things that require more customization than I can get from a service provider, but I'm a fairly experienced system administrator.

Alerts (1)

networkzombie (921324) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335150)

Setup Cron (or whatever) to send alerts via email. Did the backup complete successfully? Send an Alert. Did the backup fail? Send an alert. Is a disk failing? Send an alert. Is the CPU usage higher than average over a six month period? Send an alert. Is it a full moon? Send an alert. Is it the vernal equinox? Send an alert. Is it Elvis' birthday? Send an alert. I do a whole This Day in History alert. You can also use ASCII to jazz up the emails, as long as it still looks good on a phone display. I also have a few thousand jokes that I setup to randomly insert one joke as a sig to each alert. There is also the countdown of how many days left to xmas that kicks in after Turkey day.

alfresco (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36335174)

Set up an Alfresco server.


I think its free for up to 15 people. It will give you CMS experience, give your small company an organized place for your documents, and if you stick with OSX, you can back it all up with Time Machine. If Alfresco is no longer free, try O3Spaces.

*Disclaimer: Your question made it on to Slashdot because the idea of "I have this cool powerful thing, what can I do with it?" is an extremely valid and commonly asked question which will yield a lot of useful responses. Unfortunately, it exposes you to inevitable flaming (for good reason, there's a lot of disgruntled and "more-qualified-than-you-for-your-job" people on Slashdot without a 500GB Mac Server at their disposal but plenty of experience to find a valid business purpose for it). Hold your ground though, because asking questions will help you keep that job of yours. Just remember that most businesses frown upon "buy first, find a fun use for it later" approach at IT equipment, so comments will reflect that. :)


It Depends (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36335192)

Is this a relatively recent Mac OSX Server operating system?
Are the workstations also Mac?

Share Calendars

Centralized Address Book

Share Files

Print server


DNS --- you can have friendly names for all IP connected internal devices

Landing point for remote managment -- when you are offsite, you can VPN into the server and launch Apple Remote Desktop or "Chicken Of The VNC" so you can log onto your co-worker's desktop to interactively resolve an issue.

Software Update Server (workstations download from your server, instead of from Apple, so you use much less bandwidth.)

Network home directories if you are inclined

Any number of office automation and data management tasks can be built on Filemaker ---
--- personalized form letters or email blasts
--- project tracking, todo lists
--- hr management functions
--- document management
--- product documentation
--- build quotes and estimates
--- invoices

Network location for software installers

Image server to restore or upgrade workstations.

reconsider your own question (1)

Alien Being (18488) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335210)

"All it does is back up data."

If you fuck uppa da backups then you gotta backa da fuck up and finda youself a new job. Capisce?

Define and Document, be Cassandra (1)

tengu1sd (797240) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335238)

Be well aware of what you don't know. There are good comments about security and reliability already. Outsource things such e-mail and web services to a reliable, willing to be audited vendor. Ensure DR plan and testing is included.

Now the big point. You have greater than 6 TB of storage. Is there a backup and recovery plan in place? RAID is not equal to backup. Is this information important to the business or is someone unwilling to learn "delete" options? Does the backup plan include off site media migration? That can be as expensive as Iron Mountain, a company safe deposit box or just someone takes a tape set home on Fridays. Test your recovery on bare metal. Cloud backups are one option, although you're now betting that another company will survive and maintain any privacy requirements you have. Warn the decision makers, ensure that the "when Drobo raid controller burps and scrambles all disks" there will be no recovery is a possible scenario. Granted that may or may not happen this year or next. It's more likely that Bart the intern will purge the Drobo so he can save DVDs he's ripping all afternoon. Now you have redundant movies.

Document the warnings and the decision to not spend money and accept the risk(s). As management amnesia sets in, this keeps you from holding the bag.

fax server (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36335242)

I run a small office as well and found the following two applications helpful

1 fax server
2 scanner

We all use faxes. Just imagine how much easier everybody*s life would be if they could send/receive faxes from their machine instead of using paper.

Imagine how much faster everything would be in the office if ALL documents were stored on a hard drive that can be backed up instead of expensive fireproof cabinets.

Documentation and Wiki (2)

Tibor the Hun (143056) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335316)

Firstly, (and most importantly) read the documentation: http://www.apple.com/server/macosx/resources/documentation.html [apple.com]

Secondly, you can set up a wiki server pretty easily. It is extremely useful for self-help and internal process documentation. Easy to add videos, screenshots and keep the documentation up to date.

Thirdly, if you don't have an office collaboration server, you can also run your own Jabber server.

Both Wiki and Jabber services have their own documentation at the aforementioned link.

2 cents from a sysadmin (2)

MikeB0Lton (962403) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335318)

An organization of 12 people is not going to need much in the way of centralized "IT" services, so keep it simple. You don't want to create more work than necessary and your company likely wants to keep the overhead of IT low at this stage. Back up their laptops/workstations to the server and provide core services like file shares, print shares, DHCP, and authentication. Use cloud services to provide things like Exchange, SharePoint, and what not if you need them. Then just make sure you are backing up any data that is solely hosted on the server. Always, always, always have two verified copies of everything, and try not to keep them in the same location.

good question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36335332)

generally, it sounds like you have a file server. So, #1 is to keep that running well and backed up, which actually isn't that hard.

After that, there isnt much you need it for that you couldnt do in the cloud. So, if the question is "i have hardware can i use it for something", the answer is, you could use it for stuff that is free and easier to manage in the cloud. With the exception, generally of storing files.

Want email... put it on a hosted exchange server for $7/user/month and forget about it.
Want a wiki... use any of many online systems.

If you want to justify your job you can try to build all this stuff on your server, and worry about the server, power and configuration full time. But that is just an inefficient use of your companies money and your time.

So, make sure your files are stored and backed up- maybe accessible remotely and securely. But other than that...

Bitcoin miner. (1)

CyberDong (137370) | more than 2 years ago | (#36335456)

That machine could be adding to the company's bottom line instead of just being a depreciating asset.

Install Gentoo (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36335458)

Install Gentoo

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