The hosting add-on for Mountain Lion, made by Apple

OS X Server used to be a distinct, separate product from the regular operating system for standalone Macs. That all changed with Lion and Mountain Lion, and it’s now merely a $20 add-on. The current version is available exclusively through the Mac App Store and requires Mountain Lion, which you have to install or update first.

Where MAMP (see p52) is a dedicated web platform and nothing else, OS X Server rolls in a broad selection of complimentary services, such as calendar sharing, an integrated wiki, a group update server, and a centralized file repository for sharing between groups.

The Server application takes care of both providing and administering these services, and if you’ve installed it on several Macs on the same local network you can use it to administer any of the others. Most of the services need only be switched on and off with a click, and can be tweaked by filling in forms, but more-experienced users can still get their hands dirty by entering commands with Terminal.

The last couple of versions have come in for some criticism in reviews on the App Store, but if all you want to do is host a single site and share a few files between friends or colleagues, it still represents excellent value for the money.

1. INSTALL SOFTWARE Install the Server application from the Mac App Store. Start it, click Continue on the opening screen, agree to the terms and conditions, and enter your administrator password. Server asks you to give your machine a name. Choose something recognizably logical to help you identify it on the network.

2. CREATE A HOST NAME You’ll also need to provide a host name. This is effectively your server’s domain name, and can be typed into a browser to access its hosted pages and built-in default services. It suggests a name of its own, based on your computer name, with .home as the extension. Change it if you want; otherwise click Continue.

3. SET UP CLOUD SERVICES Provide your iCIoud login details so that the server can use Apple’s push notification service to send emails and alerts when software needs updating or events occur. Server then spends several minutes setting up your services. Once it’s finished, point your browser at the chosen server name to make sure everything is up and running.

4. ENABLE FEATURES Enable Server’s web features by picking Websites in the sidebar and clicking the ON/OFF slider. Select Server Website in the main part of the window and click the pencil icon to edit the settings. On the following screen, click the arrow beside «Store Site Files in» to open the associated folder in which you need to store your pages and assets so that they are visible online. beside «Store Site Files in» to open the associated folder in which you need to store your pages and assets so that they are visible online.


While MAMP comes with MySQL built in, OS X Server doesn’t, opting instead for PostgreSQL. They’re broadly similar, but if you want to run WordPress and many other common content management systems, you need to install MySQL on top. You can leave PostgreSQL deactivated by not checking its box on the Websites page in the OS X Server app.


MySQL is open source and free. MySQLdownload to download. Select Mac from the platform list and download either the 32-bit or 64-bit version for OS X 10.7. There is no edition specifically for OS X 10.8.


Open the downloaded package. Doubleclick the MySQL prefpane to add it to System Preferences, and the MySOLStartupltem. pkg to make sure it fires up when you start your Mac. Now, execute the MySQL package to install it on your Mac.


Start System Preferences and click the MySQL pane. There’s only one option on offer, which is to start or stop the server, depending on its current status. Click the button to activate the process so you can connect to your database.


You can now use your database in a content management system. Most locally hosted web apps are able to find it at the address «localhost,’ but if any of them fail, swap this out for in their configuration or set-up screens.

Pros & cons

■ It’s an inexpensive add-on to a regular installation of Mountain Lion, rather than a completely different operating system.

■ OS X Server has loads of supplementary features, making it a lot more flexible than many free alternatives.

■ As it’s coded by Apple, it has excellent iOS compatibility, with the wiki, Calendar, and file-sharing features all behaving well on an iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch.

X Some power users may find the interface to be a little unsubtle and lacking in flexibility, forcing them to resort to the command line.

X Free alternatives are a better value if all you need to do is host a few web pages.

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