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I'm thinking of buying a Mac-Mini.

I'm trying to decide between the less expensive one (has regular snow leopard) and the more expensive one (has snow leopard server).

One of the things I wanted to do is have this mac mini act like a server. I.e., I want it to be on all the time and possibly host web, file server, or do other jobs in the background, etc. What I wanted to know is couldn't I just install apache and other 3rd party server software onto the regular snow leopard.... what would be the benefit of buying the actual snow leopard SERVER??

Thanks

p.s the cheaper mac mini also has a DVD drive (the more expensive one doesn't) so that's another reason why I'm leaning on the cheaper one

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Mac OS X Server includes all the built-in Mac OS X server management tools. There are GUIs and wizards that lead you through setting up a server with users, email, file sharing, wikis, podcasting, etc. All the built-in features of Snow Leopard Server are listed on Apple's website. Most of the servers are actually open-source products under the hood, but Apple has provided an integrated, easy-to-use interface for configuring them.

If you are capable of setting up third-party web servers, mail servers, LDAP, etc., and are willing to do so, then it's entirely possible to use the standard Mac OS X. If anybody else needs to manage the Mac mini, you'll need them to know how to manage all the third-party software as well.

Note that the Mac mini with Snow Leopard Server includes an extra hard drive at the expense of the DVD drive, so if you need more storage with the standard Mac mini, you'll need to hang an external drive off of it. This is probably not a problem, but it's something to consider.

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+1. Snow Leopard client's personal web sharing server is actually a full install of Apache 2. The AFP file server binary is the same as server, so is the NFS server and so is the SMB server (which is Samba). The mail server is Postfix. etc. etc. The part I don't know in depth is the Open Directory/Password Server/Kerberos part, perhaps because I've never tried to set those services up manually on the client OS before. –  Spiff Apr 4 '11 at 2:44
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