I've been working with Mac hosting for about thirteen years. I tell people about using a Mac mini as a server and they just love the idea of it. There are a lot of great hosting options out there these days, but it's nice to work with a server where the OS is familiar and you know you control the whole stack of hardware and software. Our base Mac mini subscription starts at just $79/mo (that includes the server) so it's much easier to get started.
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Five years ago today, I wrote a post about ways you might use a Mac server. I’ve decided to update that list and add some new ones that have come along in the last little while. It’s a mix of Mac apps, open source projects, and iOS tools. Now when you say to yourself “I’d love to try a Mac server but I just don’t know what I’d do with it” then you can take a look at this list. (Have more suggestions? Add them here.)
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Ways to use your Mac Server
How do I play on Minecraft servers? Find a server you like and copy it's IP address. Start Minecraft, click 'Multiplayer', then 'Add Server'. Then, paste the server's address in the IP Address field. Click 'Done' to confirm, you will then be taken back to the servers list. You can now click 'Join Server' to play on it.
macOS server is in the middle of a big transition, but I'm still including it here. You'll want to be sure to read up on the future roadmap. It's a first party way to run a Profile Manager and Open Directory.
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There are a number of ways to use your Mac as a build server. It’s easily the most popular use here at MacStadium. You might look at Jenkins, Buildkite, Teamcity, Veertu, or Gitlab.
Xcode now includes Xcode Server. We have a guide for setting up Xcode 9 Server that may be helpful.
Resilio is a file sync server built on bit torrent technology. It's very good for large files. Here is a tutorial to setup a file server with Resilio on a Mac mini.
Selfoss is a web based RSS reader that is open source and free.
Screens will let you use a Mac from your iPad or iPhone.
NuoRDS is a scalable terminal server for Mac. Here are some setup instructions.
Hazel is an automation tool that can keep your Mac server clean. (I use it to offload things from Dropbox, make a copy of full resolution images, etc. Just set it up and let it run. It's especially useful for people who use an iOS device full time but want a Mac to do some heavy lifting in the background without much interaction.)
Sendy is a self hosted service to email your newsletters at a significant discount. Similar to MailChimp.
Guacamole is a client-less remote desktop gateway. You can control your machine without needing a client (and just a browser using HTML5.)
Yourls is a self-hosted URL shortener. It provides stats as well.
Pow lets you create a quick environment to build and test Rails apps.
Use Transmit to access your Mac as a file server. Here’s a short tutorial.
Moodle is a CMS for education.
VirtualHostX lets you setup multiple websites quickly on a Mac. It comes with it's own self-contained Apache web server as well.
Owncloud is a replacement for Dropbox, but also provides calendar, contacts and so much more.
Plex lets you stream all your media to your phone/tablet/Macs/etc.
FileMaker is a powerful database server. Very Powerful. Run it for yourself or as a paid service for others.
Kerio is a powerful Mail server. A very good alternative to Exchange.
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Run a Minecraft Server of your own.
uTorrent is a simple torrent client.
ServerPilot makes it simple and fast to create and maintain Wordpress installs. Built for DigitalOcean, but works great on a Mac mini with Ubuntu.
MAMP will help you setup a WordPress blog quickly with PHP and mySQL.
DNS Enabler lets you run your own DNS server.
BBpress is clean forum software from the makers of WordPress.
Discourse is a platform to build a community. It's modern and free for self hosted. We use Discourse for our own community site.
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Simon is an application that will monitor all sorts of servers and services and notify you if they're down.
iStat Server will let you keep an eye on your Mac server.
Asterisk is an open source VOIP server.
Deep Freeze will let you really hack on your machine, and bring it back clean with a restart.
Nagios will keep an eye on your infastructure.
VMware ESXi will let you install and run multiple instances of OS X on the same server (and we'll install it for you when you start a Mac mini subscription.)
Pancake is a seller self hosted app for invoicing and billing clients.
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GridRepublic or Warrior will let you put your extra server power to good use.
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Tell us how you use your Mac server
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Do you have more software suggestions? Feel free to add them as a comment on our community forum. (And don’t be shy about sending your own software. We’re always happy to work with developers.)