So let’s say you decide to take the dive and buy a copy of OS X Server.  After you get it installed, there are a few things that you will need to do after the setup.

The initial setup requires you to be connected to the internet.  During this setup you’ll need to enter in your product key, choose a server name, and the other ‘normal’ setup items.  But there is one thing within this setup that requires some thought.  This where you choose the role that you server will have.  There are three options with this, Standard, Workgroup, and Advanced.  Each of these has their pros and Cons.  Let’s take a look at each of these.

The Standard setup is intended for the situation where it is the only server in the entire network.  This is typical for small businesses where you do not have an entire IT staff dedicated to running a bunch of different servers.  The Standard configuration allows you to host a website, blogs, a wiki, secure instant messaging, file sharing and even allows you to configure the server as an email server.  The setup of these services is all done though the ‘Server Preferences’ program.  This application can only be used for the Standard and Workgroup configurations.  But this program is included on all OS X Server installations in case you need to remotely administer a server running in a non-advanced mode.

There are some restrictions on the standard configuration.  These limitations the inability to use the following: FTP and NFS sharing, Printer sharing, Firewall, Podcast Producer, advanced user and workgroup settings, xgrid, RADIUS, System imaging, Quicktime Broadcast, and Software Update server..  These aren’t available in standard mode.  Even with these restrictions in place, server setup is a breeze and is great for those who just need things to work.

Workgroup mode

Workgroup mode is an interesting option for server modes.  It is essentially the same as Standard, with all of the same restrictions, except instead of having everything automatically setup for you, Workgroup mode allows you to select which services to enable or disable.  Granted, after everything is setup in Standard mode you can turn on and off individual services, but you cannot set many advanced options.

The place that you would use a workgroup setup is when you already have other services in place.  For instance, DHCP, DNS, and user accounts are already being authenticated against another service, like Microsoft’s Active Directory or an LDAP Server.

Advanced Mode

The advanced mode is the quintessential anal retentive person’s choice for OS X Server setup.  There is not much hand holding with this setup.  Nothing is done automatically, you must do everything yourself.  Unlike Standard and Workgroup modes, you must use Server Admin to administer anything on the server itself.  This can be good and bad depending on how badly you mess something up.

With Advanced you basically have the keys to the kingdom and could easily go and mess things up, or just finely tune everything to hum nicely.  I myself have managed to do both on my server (which is a whole other article).  I would recommend Advanced for only those who know what they’re doing.  Otherwise the configuration can be a bit daunting.

With both Standard and Workgroup modes, you can actually convert both of these to Advanced Mode without too much effort.  But be WARNED, once you convert it to Advanced there is no way to go back, except to wipe the entire system and re-install.  If you are going to do this, you should backup everything.

That’s it for the modes for OS X Server.  If you do happen to buy a copy of OS X Server and you have an Intel Mac, I’d recommend installing it and testing it on an external hard drive, just so you do not wipe out your internal drive.  Plus, then once you’ve got it all setup the way you want, you can just do a super duper copy to your internal hard drive.