OS X Server has always been something of a bargain compared to the various flavors of Windows Server. Unlike Microsoft, Apple never focused on a client access licensing model in which organizations must pay for the server software itself plus additional licenses for users or devices that connect to it. Apple also doesn’t break OS X Server down into multiple variations each with its own features, licensing needs, and upgrade limitations.
When you buy OS X Server, Apple gives you everything from file sharing to Internet and collaborative services like wikis and internal messaging through Mac and iOS device management. If you start as a small business with a single basic server and eventually grow to the point where you need to support and manage dozens or hundreds of Macs, PCs, and mobile devices, there are no limits imposed on licensing or data migration.
With Lion Server, Apple really began to focus on cost effectiveness to a level that was almost mind-boggling to anyone used to Microsoft’s Server platforms. Not only was licensing dead simple, but the cost for Lion Server was a scant $49.99 (on top of the $29.99 cost of Lion itself).
Apple is taking that bargain basement pricing one step further in Mountain Lion by offering Mountain Lion Server for $19.99 (on top of the $19.99 cost of Mountain Lion). That’s an impressive offering for a solution that can deliver a range of core business needs and it’s a great deal for many small to mid-size companies.
Mountain Lion Server also expands on the simplified setup and administration that Apple has been building into OS X Server since Leopard server – another plus for small business markets. That said, it remains to be seen how the final build of Mountain Lion Server will fare when it comes to advanced administration features.
Lion Server’s Server app and Profile Manager were great revolutionary steps for small businesses, but several advanced admin tools used in larger environments were stripped down compared to previous releases. Apple’s Mountain Lion Server site is focused on simple setup and administration with very few details about advanced features – the exception being the NetInstall feature that can be used for mass Mac and software deployments.