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A simple way to set up a basic workgroup file server Network
Over the years, we've run a number of hints detailing solutions to a seemingly simple issue: how to set up a Mac as a shared file server for a workgroup, such that multiple users can create, modify, and delete files and folders on that machine. (There are permissions issues related to users modifying files and folders created by other users.) The solutions I've linked to here all solve the problem in one way or another, and do so with some measure of security remaining in place.

Last weekend, though, while browsing the Macworld forums, I came across a post that contained an amazingly easy alternative solution -- one that inspired one of those "D'oh! Why didn't I think of that?" reactions. On the machine that you want to use as the shared file server (it could be a standalone Mac, or even another user's Mac, if the group is small and the workload not too heavy), create a new non-adminstrative account (name it Workgroup or whatever). Login to the new account, and create the folder structure you'd like the users to see, and copy any files to the server that the users will need to access.

As the last step, share the login name and password for that account with the users in the workgroup. Set up each member of the workgroup to connect to the shared Mac using the special shared account, and you won't have any permissions issues at all -- since everyone will be logged in as the same user, everyone will be able to create, delete, and modify files at will.

There are obviously some downsides to this method. There's no ability to see which files and folders were created or modified by which users. If someone leaves the group, you'll probably want to change the account's password, which will require redoing the connections for the other users. You can't implement fine levels of control over which workgroup users can modify which files and folders. I'm sure there are more downsides, but for a workgroup with simple sharing needs, this solution should work just fine. Or have I overlooked some major issue that would prevent this from being a viable simple file server solution?
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A simple way to set up a basic workgroup file server
Authored by: gabester on May 16, '08 07:49:18AM

I have done something similar at a number of sites where I have helped set up servers. Usually I have had the advantage of imaging all the machines in question, so I was able to set them up with identical sets of accounts. As a final couple of steps, add each user to the workgroup user's group membership, then delete the workgroup user account (the group will be retained because it has other members). As long as everyone has the same group membership the permissions issue is few and only the occasional periodic "chmod -R g+rwx" away.



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"ignore permissions on this drive"?
Authored by: jspivack on May 16, '08 01:46:29PM

Maybe i'm just being silly, but can't you just attach an external drivee, say "ignor permissions on this drive", and share it (I seem to recall that you need a utility to share an external drve)?



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"ignore permissions on this drive"?
Authored by: leamanc on May 16, '08 06:01:55PM

"Ignore permissions" would only pertain to the drive being used locally. Once it is shared via AFP or SMB, the default permissions scheme of either protocol would be in effect.



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A simple way to set up a basic workgroup file server
Authored by: leamanc on May 16, '08 05:58:46PM
Or have I overlooked some major issue that would prevent this from being a viable simple file server solution?

While nothing prevents this method from working as a simple file server, it's not that much extra effort to get a better setup.

In Leopard, it's easy to add File Sharing-only users. In previous versions, the donation-ware Share Points makes it easy also.

With everybody logging in with the same account, you lose the ability to see exactly who made changes, or who has a particular file open. Excel and Word, for instance, in a standard file server setup, will tell you "Joe User" has a file open, and do you want to open read-only or be notified when it's available for writing?

I guess this hint would be OK in a very small setup, where all users can be trusted and won't ever leave. If it was a major hassle to set up additional user accounts, I'd see more value in this hint, but it literally just takes minutes with Leopard's built-in capabilities, or with Share Points in 10.4 or below. If the main impetus behind this hint is not worrying about maintaining permissions, you could just make all your share points read/write for everyone.



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A simple way to set up a basic workgroup file server
Authored by: kikjou on May 16, '08 10:16:35PM

The problem is that in the non-server version of Leopard (and maybe the previous OSs too) a file or folder created by a user will get the permissions rw-r--r--. This means that other users cannot write to a file crated by the owner even if they are in the same group. It is possible that Sharepoint can work around this but a non-altered Leopard will not. There are probably other workarounds but the hint was about a simple solution using an existing Leopard installation.



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The nice way to do this
Authored by: strunx on May 16, '08 11:03:06PM
enter SharePoints
http://www.hornware.com/sharepoints/
has been around for a while and works beautifully for non-server servers.

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The nice way to do this
Authored by: Eddie the Elder on May 18, '08 11:30:48AM

SharePoints is indeed great, and I make use of the "Inherit parent folder privileges" option. Periodically, however, that seems to fail and new items created within a shared folder fail to inherit the parental privileges.



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Copying files
Authored by: baatezu on May 19, '08 10:09:56PM
There are several cons of that method...
  • First - you need to copy files - that's not right because sometimes you don't need ANOTHER copy of some files.

    I'm advising to use links. As MAC OS X is, at least from 10.5, a certified unix system you have an ability to simply create a link using command line or you can create a "pseudonym" using context menu (but I'm not sure that it will be ok, better use a "ln" command). After that you can simply manage acces policy for this "pseudonyms" and you will be free for changing them as you wish independently from it's origin.

    By the way it'll work in 10.4 too.

    I'll try to explain briefly.
    There are two types of links in *nix:hard and symbolic. Second one is easy to explain... in simple words it's like a link in Windows, when you just have another way to access the file and if you delete it - nothing happens with the object that it was linked. Hard linking means in simple words when you delete a link - you delete an object it linked with. In detail you can read it in, for example,

    man ln

  • Another problem - is sharing a username and password. Maybe you should just create a user "anonymous" and open an FTP-access for it. In some FTP clients there will be some problems with default password if you set it to blank but in common case that's ok.

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  • A simple way to set up a basic workgroup file server
    Authored by: JimMueller on May 20, '08 01:48:55PM

    We stumbled on this method back when we were running MacOS 10.2 on our file server & G4 Sawtooth and 9 on the TiBook. The small workgroup was my wife & I, and it resolved all the "you can not edit this file" & "you do not have sufficient rights to view the contents of this folder" alerts that were driving her bonkers.
    I looked at SharePoints but as I do not speak the language of real servers its jargon appeared beyond me at the time.



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    A simple way to set up a basic workgroup file server
    Authored by: windrag on May 06, '10 03:00:10PM

    I like this, but what about the user whose machine is hosting the fileserver account? Is there a way for this user to save files to the server account without inheriting that user's permissions, without fiddling with the permissions (which is what we're trying to avoid)?

    ---
    windrag | 2.4GHz MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo | 160GB HD | 2GB RAM | OS X 10.6.2



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