Windows Server vs Mac OSX Server

Hi All,
I have a big question here and need a lot of help. I want to set up a server. I use mostly Macs, but have headless Windows computers here and there (everything is at the same location) to do other tasks. I want to know the benefits of a Windows 2008 Server over Mac Lion server or even just a windows or mac computer doing file sharing.

Right now, I am testing out using Mac Server. It is set up so that I can connect to its file server from anywhere very simply. But that is about it.

I really only need a file server, but I would like to do VPN if possible, DHCP I honestly just leave up to my router as it really doesn't matter to me. Computer management would be nice. I really don't know.

What are the features of Windows Server like active directory and all of that? Web hosting etc?
I have business class internet and multiple IP addresses as well.

I just want to get insight from everyone.
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mfranzelAsked:
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strungCommented:
Lion Server costs only $30, which has to be a major consideration. Don't know what Windows Server costs, but I bet it is a lot more.

You can use individual Macs or PC's as servers, but my recollection is that they will be restricted to 10 concurrent connections unless you have server software.

You might find this article useful:  http://www.anandtech.com/show/4547/mac-os-x-lion-server-review
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Dave BaldwinFixer of ProblemsCommented:
You might take a look at a Linux server like Ubuntu.  It's 'free' though you can get paid support if you want it.  You can set it up without the restrictions that Windows servers have, especially in the area of licensing.  Might be a little learning curve to using it but shouldn't be too bad.
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mfranzelAuthor Commented:
Thanks for all of the information. I would like to stay away from Linux.

Cost is not a concern to me right now. I am more focused on what suit my needs better. I would think Lion Server would do this as we have mostly Macs.

But what I am concerned about is usability like users, sharing, things like that. Also, what exactly is Active Directory and Open Directory and why do I need it? What about VPN?
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
You have to keep in mind that while server software is an important factor, server hardware is critical.  If you can't run a good hardware RAID to protect against disk failure (something that will happen to both mac and pc) or redundant power supplies (power supplies fail - mac or PC).  Macs are... oh, sorry, were ... serious about server hardware... they killed their server line about a year ago.  At least you could virtualize it... oh, sorry... you can't - Apple doesn't allow you to run MacOS on anything other than Apple non-server class hardware... oh well... do you really want to go with a server that doesn't have any serious backing from it's maker?  Apple killed the server hardware line... who is to say they won't kill the OS next month...

If you want to play with a server that shares some similarities you could look at a BSD based linux variant... otherwise, for a small business, you'd be better advised going with either Server 2008 R2 Foundation edition or SBS 2011 Essentials.

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BTechAUCommented:
Hi mfranzel,

I would have to agree with leew in that something like SBS/SBS Essentials is probably the way to go. My apologies if I am way off base, but it sounds like you're new to the whole server thing. In this case, something like SBS Essentials is ideal as it is designed to be administered by people who are not experienced server administrators. There are a lot of other things to consider here, not least of all the version of OS X you're running on your Macs. If you are running 10.5+ you can join your Macs to Active Directory and use centrally-managed usernames/passwords to connect to the server and file shares, etc. In basic terms, Active Directory allows you to centrally manage users/shares, etc. SBS and especially SBS Essentials has a simplified user interface to manage all of this.

Here are a couple of articles on it:
http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2394239,00.asp
http://www.winsupersite.com/article/windows-server/windows-small-business-server-2011-essentials-140451

DHCP, VPN, file shares, etc, are all easily handled by both OS X server and all (most) variants of Windows Server. In fact, my recommendation would be that you definitely use the server for all of these functions rather than your router.

There are some issues with Mac/Windows compatibility but on the whole they play well together these days. Introducing a server into a network is almost always a good idea but make sure you've got your backup well-covered. Good luck with your decision.

B.
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mfranzelAuthor Commented:
BTechAU,
Thank you for the indepth information. You are right, I do not have so much experience in servers.

So you are saying I can join my macs to AD for centralized user and user file management?
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mfranzelAuthor Commented:
Also, what about remotely accessing files etc from Mac and PCs?
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Eoin OSullivanConsultantCommented:
If you have mostly Macs then OSX Server is the best way to go .. there is no advantage to introducing a Windows Server into the mix, in fact it is more likely to introduce complications and problems (a simple Google search into integrating Macs with Windows Servers will elicit LOTS of users with issues)

OSX Server will let you do all the standard things you need.  There is a VPN Server included along with web server, wiki etc.
http://www.apple.com/macosx/server/

Open Directory is the Apple equivalent of Active Directory (you don't need both - Open Directory will allow centralised user account management and works similarly)
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strungCommented:
I am inclined to agree with Eoin (don't I always!). Hardly a day goes by without someone posting a problem here about integrating Macs with SBS.  I don't run OS X server myself, but all the links above suggest that Lion Server is specifically designed to make administration easy for beginners. You could even buy it pre-installed on a Mac Mini.
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djdjukicCommented:
Basically, a Windows Server offers you no advantages since you have a Mac based network. OS X Server is a really nice piece of server software and, contrary to what a commenter above me said, you can configure a really nice Mac Pro or Mini server, with all kinds of RAID (which isn't even necessary for all servers, not all servers work in service of major websites with terabyte-sized databases).
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mfranzelAuthor Commented:
Makes sense. I didn't even think of it that way. Sometimes you overlook the simplest thing. Thanks for everyone's input.
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