The new Mac mini with Snow Leopard Server has surely been taking tips from Doctor Who's TARDIS – despite being cut from a single block of aluminium, it must somehow be bigger on the inside – how else could one shoehorn that amount of hardware into such a small form-factor?
Like its predecessors, it comes without monitor, keyboard, or indeed mouse. (While it can be set up remotely, it's a good idea to connect it up to a monitor and keyboard for initial setup.) An optical drive is sacrificed for a second 500GB drive for a total of 1TB storage, while the external power brick is notable only by its absence – that's tucked inside too.
Its most cunning design element is a twist-off base, which makes upgrading the supplied 4GB memory to 8GB a snap.
It's quiet in use, consuming just 11W when idle, and it seems determined not to heat up, however much you thrash it.
The 10.6 Server software comes pre-installed, ready for setup. If you need to reinstall, you have to attach an external drive or share a drive, á la Macbook Air. Setup is straightforward, and if you use the same login name and password, local Mac clients are offered Calendar and Address Book sharing the first time they log in.
Server 10.6 includes Mail, Address Book, Wiki Server 2, Time Machine, and web server tools, both to logged-in clients and via a web portal. It supports Podcast Producer too. For design and software functionality, it's clearly value for money.
The competition – Windows Small Business Server with its perclient licensing – is more expensive. Server 10.6 provides more functionality than a generic network attached storage (NAS) box. If you are worried about support because of its bundled nature, an extra Apple Care cost of £130 includes three years' hardware and software support.
Small offices might consider cloud services such as Google Docs or Dropbox an alternative, but with the Mac mini you know exactly where your files are.
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