A primer in OS X Server's Profile Manager

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A primer in Profile Manager: The Server app

Before we dive into Apple's Profile Manager, let's take an introductory look at OS X Server and how it works.

apple os x server icon mac screen

This is part three in a multi-part series on setting up Profile Manager to manage your Mac OS, iOS, and Apple TV devices. For an introduction to the series, have a look at last two articles: A Primer in Profile Manger and The Setup.

At the end of our previous episode, we completed the process of installing El Capitan and the Server app on an external hard drive. Now we’ll look at the Server app’s features and we’ll also get started with Server’s remote management features.

Apple’s Server (Yup! It’s really an app)

If you’re used to working with typical server software, you’re also used to the notion of a server operating system, such as Microsoft’s Windows Server 2012. Apple’s server app is a horse of a different color, which is to say, it’s an app running on Apple’s El Capitan operating system. Install and set up the app and you have all the features of a server operating system. Drag the app to the Trash and the app will detect that it’s no longer in the Applications folder and will turn off all the services. Re-install and open the Server app and you will once again have a functioning server. It’s so simple that, if you’re used to other server environments, it can initially be a little confusing.

(Note: While it’s outside the scope of this primer, if you want to see where the Server app stores its server data, you can take a peek inside your Server’s /Library/Server folder at the root of your hard drive. But, just like my grandmother used to say, “Keep your hands in your pockets!”; there’s nothing here you want to touch unless you know why you’re touching it.)

Inside the Server app

If you haven’t done so already, open the Server app and let’s take a look around. One of the first things you’ll see is that the app’s sidebar is organized into four sections:

  1. Server: Used to view and change information about your server, manage Apple AirPort base stations for use with your server, view and take action Server alerts, view Server logs, and graphical statistics for services you have running.
  2. Accounts: Used to create and manage user accounts and groups.
  3. Services: For managing the most commonly used services.
  4. Advanced: For managing less frequently used services.

If you don’t see any information displayed underneath any of these sections, move your mouse on top of a section title and you should see the word Show. Click your mouse button while you see Show and the services under that section should appear.


Services are active when you can see a little green dot next to the service name.


At this point in time, you shouldn’t see any services active. If any services are active you can turn them off, unless, of course, you’re working in an active server environment.

You turn services on and off by selecting one in the sidebar of the server app and flipping the services switch to the on or off position. If you want to take a quick look at turning on a service that you should be running, have a look at Save your bandwidth by using a caching server.


Server information

Select your server under the Server section in the sidebar of the Server app. When it’s selected you should see four tabs across the top of the Server app window.

  • Overview: Displays information about your server, including your Server’s host name, external IP address, current version of the OS and Server app running on your server, and available network interfaces.

  • Settings: Allows you to manage your server’s remote access options and Apple’s Push Notification Services, and change your service data location.

  • Storage: For viewing every disk attached to your server and for managing access to the files and folders located on those disks.

  • Access: Lets you define which users will have access to the services you’re hosting on your server.


Turn on remote access

At the moment, you’re probably managing your server using a mouse and keyboard connected to the computer that Server is running on. While that’s practical when you’re only working with one server, the reality is that you want to be able to manage servers when you’re not sitting directly in front of them, either while they’re in a server room somewhere or while you’re at a remote location and your server is in at the office. Apple’s Server app allows you to do this, but not without first enabling Remote Access services.

To do this:

  1. Click the Settings tab.
  2. Locate the Remote access section and put checks in the boxes next to: “Screen Sharing and Apple Remote Desktop app” and “Using Server app on a remote Mac”.

We’ll connect to your server remotely in the next installment of this primer.

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