Apple’s server software isn’t what it used to be. Once a considerable investment, these days macOS Server only sets you back $20, a bargain considering all the features you get.
Or, at least, the features you used to get. Because with High Sierra, a bunch of features that were once exclusive to macOS Server are now bundled with macOS itself. From Time Machine folders to content caching, a lot of useful features have become free and built-in.
Longtime Server users might be wondering where these features went, while those who don’t use Server might be wondering which new features they got with High Sierra. Here’s a quick rundown.
Advanced File Sharing Configuration
It’s weird, but the latest version of macOS Server doesn’t offer local network file sharing. Instead, everything to do with file sharing is found in System Preferences under Sharing. The preference pane has a few new advanced features, previously exclusive to Server, in order to ease this transition. Right click a shared folder, then click “Advanced Options” to find them.
The first field will ask whether you’re sharing over SMB, AFP, or both.
AFP was Apple’s proprietary protocol; SMB is the open source, windows-compatible protocol Apple now recommends. AFP is incompatible with APFS, Apple’s new file system, so that option will be greyed out on APFS drives, as shown above. If youshare a folder on a macOS Extended (HFS+) drive, you’ll still have the option for AFP.
You also have the option to allow or block guest users, and only allow encrypted connections. This is by no means a feature complete replacement for what was offered by macOS Server, but it gets the major features, and it’s more than non-Server users had before.
Time Machine Network Shares
Speaking of the Advanced Options: you can now set up your Mac as a networked Time Machine drive. Previously it was only proper to run a proper Time Machine server using macOS Server, unless you were willing to use a workaround. Now you can simply open Advanced Options for a folder and enable Time Machine.
Just like that, all computers on your network will see your shared folder as a potential Time Machine destination.
You could set up a dedicated Time Machine server, or you could back up your Macs to each other.
If you live in a house with multiple Apple devices, you’re probably using up bandwidth on downloading the same updates, media, and iCloud documents to each individual update. Content caching speeds up downloads on all Apple devices by storing anything you download locally, meaning they’ll download nearly instantly the second time.
Enabling this feature previously required macOS Server, but with High Sierra you can simply head to System Preferences > Sharing and enable the “Content Caching” option. Just like that your macOS, iOS, and Apple TV devices will have a local cache to work with for everything from iTunes downloads to software updates.
Xcode Server Is Now Part of XCode
Xcode is Apple’s development environment, and is widely used to make macOS and iOS software. An Xcode server allows multiple people to work on the same project at once, and until recently creating an Xcode server required macOS Server.
No longer. The Xcode Server functionality is now found in Xcode itself: just click Xcode > Xcode Server in the menu bar and you can enable the feature.
This isn’t a complete replacement: Git repositories can no longer be locally hosted, for example. But what was a paid feature is now free, so pros and cons I suppose.
Some Features Are Gone Forever
If you were a fan of FTP, or file sharing with iOS, you might be wondering where they went. It turns out they’re just gone.
For iOS folder sharing, Apple recommends users turn to the built-in collaboration options in Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. It’s not a precise replacement, but it’s all you’ve got now.
Also gone is FTP, a longstanding protocol that is famously insecure. Apple recommends users turn to SFTP instead; this can be enabled in System Preferences > Sharing under “Remote Login.” This one is more understandable: standard FTP, which transmits passwords in plaintext, doesn’t really have a place on modern servers.