AnandTech reviews Mac OS X Lion Server: Full-featured, easy-to-manage and simple-to-license

Mac OS X Server [at US$49.99] costs 5% of what it cost just three years ago. Whatever your needs and whatever the software’s shortcomings, this is hard to ignore,” Andrew Cunningham reports for AnandTech. “For this reason alone, Lion Server will (and should) attract the attention of people who have never been in the market for server software before – home users, in particular – but it has to do so without alienating the business and education customers who currently rely on the software.”

“I’m approaching this review from a different angle than the Lion client review – while most people interested in an OS X review have at least a passing familiarity with the software, this review will be the first exposure to OS X Server for many of you,” Cunningham reports. “For that reason, among the descriptions of Lion Server’s features and comparisons with past versions of the software, I’m going to be going a little more in-depth about how to actually configure the services. Hopefully the newbies among you can use these instructions as jumping-off points as you explore the software on your own.”

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Cunningham reports, “OS X Server is most useful in a handful of different scenarios: the first is that you have a small network that’s in need of a full-featured but easy-to-manage and simple-to-license server product. The second is that you’re managing a network of any size that used to be all-Windows, but hosts a growing number of Macs (this is often the case in education, for example) – OS X Server knows that it’s going to be finding its way into a lot of Windows houses, and as such it integrates fairly well with existing Active Directory setups. The last is that you have a bunch of iOS devices flooding your network and you have no idea what to do with them – iOS management may be Lion Server’s ace in the hole. If any of this sounds familiar to you, you really ought to give Lion Server a try. At $50, there’s not much reason not to.”

Much more in the extensive full review – very highly recommended – here.


  1. Man, reading through the article is giving me a serious case of hyper migraine. I’m not an IT administrator so I have no idea what a server does. To me, half the server functions could be done by iCloud, so why bother messing with it? I suppose if you run a multiple Mac shop you might find OS X Server useful but I wouldn’t know jack%#*^ to be honest.

        1. To make a complex matter simple (and long story short), while some of server functions may be satisfied by the iCloud,for any multi-user environment, a server is an important requirement.

          With a server, you have the flexibility to control who can access what (for example, in a file system, there is a folder, or a volume, for Accounts, another one for Marketing, another for Manufacturing, separate for Human Resources, one for Legal, etc). You don’t want anyone but HR to access confidential HR files. Also, you have a centralised directory service, with all user information stored in a single place. When users start their Macs, they don’t log into a local user profile on those Macs; they log into the server, which then gives them the necessary permissions for access. Further, server can manage e-mail services. Rather than using G-mail or iCloud (and relying on Google’s or Apple’s security policies for protection of sensitive data), you can have your own mail server in your own facility, where you control access to the data (and it is your own fault if someone hacks it). Same for web server, database server, as well as many other common services. Also, you can manage security and permissions for every computer that connects to that server remotely, directly on the server, rather than having to go to each computer and do it manually on all of them. In other words, if you don’t want to allow users the ability to install applications, you can change that setting on the server for everyone (or for each group of users separately).

          These are very basic functions of a server in a multi-user environment. There are many more.

    1. Assuming you’re using Safari, click on the *Reader* button in the far right of the address bar.

      I think you’ll like the result better than Print to PDF

  2. It really isn’t accurate to say Lion server costs only $49.99. You need to either upgrade from Snow Leopard Server or convert the client version of Lion so add the cost of one or the other. Still an incredible bargain!

  3. I’m really hoping this is part of Apple’s larger cloud strategy, using Lion Server as a localized personal cloud node (on top of the other goodies already present).

  4. When will all these idiot reporters get it straight? Lion Server costs more than $49.99. It costs $79.98.

    To use Lion Server, you need to already have the client version of Lion. That’s $29.98. Then you ADD Lion Server for an additional $49.99. Of course if you got Lion with a new computer, the $29.99 price of Lion was part of the total price of the computer.

    Compare to Snow Leopard Server. Yes, it cost $499.99. However, it was directly bootable. No need to buy client Snow Leopard and then the server add-on.

    Like I said, is it too much to expect competent reporting?

    1. When you buy a new Mac that you want to designate as a server, you pay $50. You don’t pay $80. Let me repeat that: you pay $50, because that is the retail price of Lion Server. System requirements for Lion Server are any Intel Core 2 Duo Mac with a Mac OS 10.7 on it. If your Mac does NOT meet those system requirements, you cannot install Lion Server on it. Which also means, if the hardware itself is good, and OS is older (Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard), you may be able to upgrade your Mac’s OS in order to meet system requirements.

  5. Full featured, apart from PrintServer, which I use everyday, and isn’t in Lion Server.
    Even though Snow Leopard Server is a pain to set-up and run, I’ll stick with it for now until the missing pieces are there.

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