Upgrading macOS Server to High Sierra: You May Not Want To Do It

Along with the many other recent operating system upgrades, macOS Server was quietly bumped up to version 5.4 on Sept. 25, 2017. While all of the other upgrades added new features and functionality, the macOS Server 5.4 upgrade moved some services into High Sierra and removed other functions that some organizations may find critical. Before you consider upgrading any macOS Server to High Sierra and installing version 5.4, it’s important that you know about the changes.

File Transfer Protocol (FTP) Server
FTP has been a mainstay for moving files over the internet since the early days, but apparently Apple feels that it is too much of a security risk in the modern era. As a result, upgrading to High Sierra/macOS Server 5.4 removes FTP support.

For organizations that used FTP server as a way to upload media files or website code to a macOS Server, you’ll need to find another way of handling those transfers.

iOS File Sharing
In the previous version of macOS Server, an administrator could set up a shared repository for iOS devices. Anything placed in the repository became available to designated users, meaning that it was a useful way to share PDF files, documents, templates, and so on. In macOS Server 5.4, iOS File Sharing has removed and any iOS devices that connect to the server report that file sharing has been disabled on the server.

What can you do instead? Consider using WebDAV, or collaboration using the shared document features of Apple’s iWork suite (Pages, Numbers, and Keynote).

Services That Have Moved
As noted in the lead paragraph, Apple has moved some services out of macOS Server and into the heart of macOS High Sierra. As a result, the services are no longer found in the server dashboard. Instead, they’ve moved into System Preferences on High Sierra.

Caching Service: One of the best features of macOS Server for workgroups with many devices to update and maintain, the Caching Service makes it possible for one Mac to serve as a network cache for iCloud data, app updates, and other Apple-supplied code. By caching the information on one Mac, which then passes that information on to other devices in the workgroup, bandwidth requirements for updates are reduced.

Content Caching is now a feature on any Mac running macOS High Sierra

Content Caching is now a feature on any Mac running macOS High Sierra

This service is now available on any macOS High Sierra machine (see screenshot above), so one Mac on a network can be identified as a caching server for the other devices on that network. To set up this up, launch System Preferences, then select Sharing > Content Caching.

File Sharing: System Preferences > Sharing is now where all file sharing is configured. While it’s possible to use both Server Message Block (SMB) and Apple Filing Protocol (AFP) to share with others, some restrictions will disable sharing over AFP your Mac is using the new Apple File System (APFS) format.

Open Directory: Apple has hidden Open Directory on macOS Server 5.4 as it is no longer required for user and group profile management.

Time Machine: To share a folder for Time Machine backups, you’re now just going to use SMB File Sharing, once again using System Preferences > Sharing to set up the shared folder. From each Mac that needs to be backed up to the server, the user simply points Time Machine to the shared folder using System Preferences > Time Machine.

Xcode Server: The functionality of Xcode server is now part of Xcode 9, with Xcode server now being deprecated.


Why These Changes?
That’s a good question, but it’s most likely because Apple feels that the future of services lies in the Cloud, not on local servers. Over the past ten years, Apple has moved from a pricy and separate server operating system to an inexpensive app that provides server functionality. The company also stopped selling server hardware, all pointing to the eventual demise of local Mac servers.

As pointed out in several of the articles in our 2017 macOS Server tutorial, there are devices and services that provide workgroups with the functions that previously required a local server. Most of the devices and services are much more powerful (a local NAS device, for example) and less expensive (shared cloud services for collaboration), and there’s probably more of a potential revenue stream for Apple from iCloud accounts than macOS Server ever produced.

How do you feel about the changes in macOS Server 5.4? Do you feel that the days of macOS Server are numbered? Leave your comments below.


LEAVE A COMMENT


  • Lee, all Apple cares about is the 90% anymore. The remaining 10% simply don’t matter (Pros, business, “real” computer users).

    They are moving ever more to the disposable, consumer gadget market. Just like those users, Apple is only concerned with instant gratification and not long term productivity.




  • Mac OS “high” Sierra is a beta. The “Server” is a joke. The Pro user is being killed off. Its all home user rubbish, watches, phones, TV sets etc… Plan B is Linux, time for me to start switching over




  • Big problem I have after upgrading is I can no longer use High Sierra for Time Machine server for El Capitan. I cannot even use it to share files with El Capitan.




  • WebDAV is hopelessly broken in Sierra and Server 5.3.1. I tried to directly use Apache’s WebDAV, Apple has mucked with Apacahe enough that it’s dysfunctional.

    OWC’s NASes are enterprise scale. For smaller scale Synology’s NASes are great. I installed one at a client, it “just works” with Snow Leopard through Sierra, and Windows 7 through 10.




  • Yet another move away from becoming a more consumer oriented and abandoning the enterprise world.

    The “Pros” will be next on the chopping block, though probably a slower progression.

    Apple would much rather have people with iPhones and Apple Watches that replace them every year or two than someone spending $3000 or more on a pro machine that wants to hang on to it for 6 or more years. And the business world is even more loathe at upgrading computers.




  • AFP has been deprecated for a long time now, so the move to SMB shouldn’t surprise anyone and has nothing to do with the Server app. But I’m sure the Server app is on its way out as well, so anyone who feels it’s mission critical might want to consider a plan B.




  • Cloud services may be the way the world is going, but until file transfers can be as fast a Gigabit Ethernet it’s a non-starter for any workgroup requiring large files: think high resolution photographs and video. And, in he future–in these days of neglected infrastructure–will the internet backbone and other services be as stable and reliable as our MacMini with a dozen hard drives housed in multi-bay enclosures whirring in the corner? Will the cost for several dozen terabytes of data storage be competitive with our server?




    • Even worse when you have your main clients on a 8 gbps FC network…

      I have been hoping the Server app would grow to be a corporate iCloud of sorts, enabling better support for iOS clients (we have about 15 essential wired clients, and another 40 tertiary iOS clients)




  • Do you have to do anything on the client side to get other Macs to use the “Shared Content”?




  • I currently run El Capitan and use FTP to transfer work files to colleagues.

    Will I be able to do so if I upgrade to High Sierra?




    • It looks like sftp is still supported, though.




      • I too use the built in FTP server to transfer files to and from my *Android* devices. It makes downloading relatively painless so long as the connection doesn’t waver. Losing it means yet another unnecessary hurdle, and it makes Apple look like they’re trying to force the iOS walled garden on you for transfers since they’re slowly but surely nuking transfers to so many other platforms outside of SMB.

        They’ve gone from “It just works” to “It just doesn’t work anymore”. And that isn’t even factoring in the hoops you have to jump through to avoid forced APFS conversion on SSDs.




  • “Along with the many other recent operating system upgrades, macOS Server was quietly bumped up to version 5.4 on Sept. 25, 2017.”

    What’s particularly annoying is, after seeing all these changes, and going to the link on Apple’s developer site to version 5.3, is getting redirected to v5.4.

    Complaining to Apple is useless. If you don’t already have v5.3 on all the machines you’d like, you’re not going to ever get it. Period.