Running a server isn’t as scary as you’d think. Here are three reasons why you should consider it, too.
When it comes to technology, the word “server” might bring to mind, for some, a warehouse-sized room not unlike the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, but with fewer crates and more racks of computers. For others it might be the cause of sweaty palms and glazed-over eyes.
But servers don’t need to be mysterious or scary—after all, a server is just a computer that serves up information (and/or services) that can be accessed by other computers. Sure, it can get more complex than that, but it can also be a fairly simple and invaluable tool.
I run a Mac mini server on my home network for a handful of reasons that are fairly mundane, but all of which help at least provide some peace of mind, especially when I’m not in the house.
This Mac mini could be your new server.
One of the primary uses of my Mac mini is as a portal into my home network. When I’m away from the house, or on a business trip or vacation, this means I can not only access the data on my home machines, but even see and control them.
I maintain several different services to let me access my home machines. Most basic is the Secure Shell (SSH) command line interface (OS X calls it “Remote Login” in the Sharing system preferences pane) and its associated Secure FTP (SFTP) file transfer service. These services allow me to quickly interact with my home machine as well as download files to whatever Mac or iOS device I happen to have with me at the time.
I’ve also taken the somewhat more complex step of setting up OS X Server to host a Virtual Private Network (VPN)—essentially an encrypted tunnel that lets me securely route my data and my Internet connection back through my home network. In some cases it might be slow, but it does help protect my data when I’m using a spurious Wi-Fi network.