In this video, Nav explains what Acronis Files Connect is, the new features in version 10.6, and a brief overview of licensing and purchasing options.
The presence of Apple Macs in business is growing and IT administrators must take special steps to ensure that Mac users can effectively utilise basic services like network file access, searching, sharing, and printing.
These basic services become even more important when employees using Macs are highly collaborative creative professionals like designers, publishers, and video editors who perform much more frequent network-based files-related activities than the typical worker, and often on much larger files.
The unique IT requirements of creative professionals include software (e.g., design application suites like Adobe Creative Cloud), hardware (e.g., Apple desktops and tablets, and more scalable storage), high-performance search capabilities through large-scale file libraries, and the ability to easily share files with Windows servers and desktops.
Anyone who has worked in a mixed Mac/Windows shop knows that the two environments have significant compatibility issues. Creatives on Macs often suffer server performance and usability handicaps that severely and adversely affect their productivity and satisfaction with their work environment.
Problem 1: Connecting Macs to file-sharing systems
A first-response solution might be to use an Apple solution. However, the problem with this approach is that Apple servers have severe scaling limitations and they struggle to accommodate businesses with anywhere near 100 employees. A useful discussion of this topic can be found here. Worse, Apple discontinued the Xserve in 2011 and it is inevitable that Xserve product support will be discontinued eventually, too.
The only real solution to accommodate large heterogeneous Mac/Windows workloads is to use a Windows File Server, in combination with network-attached storage (NAS) or a storage-area network (SAN). This requires the use of Microsoft’s file-sharing protocol, Server Message Block (SMB), which presents significant compatibility issues in mixed Mac/Windows environments.
Apple has its own protocol for network file sharing – Apple Filing Protocol (AFP) – but most NAS devices and Windows file servers natively communicate only via SMB. The vast majority of businesses rely on SMB, SAN, and NAS for file sharing and storage.
Problem 2: Editing files directly on file servers
Creative organisations and departments share a common need to edit files directly from a server. Adobe does not support direct volume mounting. However: “Adobe Technical Support only supports using Photoshop and Adobe Bridge on a local hard disk. It’s difficult to re-create or accurately identify network and peripheral-configuration problems.”
This presents an obstacle for users of popular Adobe design applications, notably Photoshop. The alternative to pointing Photoshop at a mounted server volume (a controversial practice) is copying files directly to the Mac to edit. This turns out to be an untenable solution when dealing with many large files. Though not officially supported, many companies want Adobe’s software to point at mounted volumes, as this approach streamlines work processes and enables multiple users to work from a centralised storage location.
Problem 3: Macs searching through file shares
Creative professionals rely heavily on Apple Spotlight and its ability to provide fast, sophisticated filename and content searches through multiple servers containing thousands or even millions of files. They expect and need this network-based file search function to work the same way it does on their local hard drives.
This is a big problem, as Spotlight’s search functionality is not supported when Macs connect to NAS devices or Windows servers through SMB. As a result, content search from Macs does not work on Windows servers and most NAS devices, and ordinary file searches can take minutes or hours, instead of seconds. This greatly diminished search functionality has a hugely adverse effect on a Mac user’s productivity.
How Acronis Access Connect solves these problems
Acronis Access Connect allows Macs to connect to Windows file shares using AFP – Apple’s native file sharing protocol – by acting as an AFP file server running directly on a Windows server.
With Acronis Access Connect, organisations can quickly install a simple solution that eliminates these stubborn incompatibility problems, enabling Mac users to exist harmoniously and work productively in a Windows-based environment. Apple Spotlight search works properly. Problems with file naming, file access permissions, network printing, unreliable file transfers, and slow server performance disappear.
Consider the examples of two companies that overcame their Mac/Windows compatibility issues by using Acronis Access Connect:
Quad/Graphics’ Media division faced compatibility issues that impeded its ability to share files across the organisation. It sought to integrate a mixed Mac/Windows environment of 600 Mac desktops and 50 Windows Servers, but the systems struggled to communicate. Quad/Graphics implemented Acronis Access Connect to give its Mac users fast and immediate access to Windows file servers. Acronis offered the only Windows-based AFP server solution to support all Mac versions.
The results were extremely positive, and later, Quad/Graphics had expanded its print operations to 30 sites worldwide. Their IT infrastructure was able to develop and expand, free of any Mac/Windows compatibility restrictions.
Phoenix Printing Plates Ltd.
Phoenix Printing Plates initially opted to create a Mac/Windows environment without Acronis Access Connect. They suffered from the common misconception that Apple/Microsoft compatibility issues had dwindled over time and that Apple’s official support of Microsoft SMB had eliminated the old incompatibility problems.
They quickly discovered that this was not the case. Mac to Windows Server connections were possible, but they suffered from a range of stubborn problems: long delays, the inability to rename or move files, time-consuming and inaccurate searches, and overall slow performance. Phoenix Printing Plates had looked to a new Windows server infrastructure to improve productivity and enable their team’s objectives, but it wasn’t until deploying Acronis Access Connect that they were truly able to do so. Restoration of full Spotlight search functionality and performance and fast, trouble-free file sharing with Windows servers made Phoenix Printing Plates’ Mac users productive and happy again.
If you want to try Acronis Access Connect, you can sign up for a 21 day free trial here.
This blog originally appeared on the official Acronis blog, which you can read here.
Acronis are offering 25 Access Connect licences for the price of 10, 50 for the price of 25 and 100 for the price of 50 for new customers, so if you’re looking to buy, now’s the time.
Is Acronis Access Connect right for your organisation?
Acronis Access Connect allows for seamless Mac to Windows integration with remote file access. It’s an excellent fit for organisations of all sizes, particularly where there are a number of Macs that need the same file and print services as Windows machines. While Macs are commonplace in any industry these days, the benefits of integration are greatest when users are working with a large number of files or involved with content production, such as artists, designers, video producers, students and writers. Access Connect will come in handy if you’re a part of any of the following sectors:
– Advertising and public relations
– Consumer products
– Professional services
– Publishing and printing
– Video production
– Engineering and architectural services
– Creative services groups within enterprises
– Digital media
– Scientific and research institutions
Acronis Access Connect is ideal for IT managers and systems admins, Mac desktop managers, Windows server managers, creative services and production managers.
Access Connect 25
Client server with 1 year of support (price per server) and a maximum of 25 supported devices allowed – Was £1295, discounted to £995.
Use the promo code AConn25.
Access Connect 50
Client server with 1 year of support (price per server) and a maximum of 50 supported devices allowed – Was £1895, discounted to £1295.
Use the promo code AConn50.
Access Connect 100
Client server with 1 year of support (price per server) and a maximum of 100 supported devices allowed – Was £2795, discounted to £1895.
Use the promo code AConn100.
The Ts and Cs
Promotion is only valid for new Access Connect customers only. This excludes co-term, which is for additional licence purchases. This cannot be combined with another promotion and cannot be combined with deal registration. Maintenance, renewals, and upgrades are excluded, and the promotion is only applicable in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The promotion expires on 31st March 2017.
There have been times in history when Mac computers and PC servers were less than friendly, but with iOS devices overrunning offices and people outside the design department asking for Macs, those days are long gone. OS X offers you tools to make integration easier than ever, and there are some great third party tools available, too.
Let’s start with the basics
It’s a myth that you can’t integrate Mac computers into a Windows environment. The latest version of OS X, Yosemite, even supports SMB 3.0, so everyone’s on the same file sharing protocol and integration is even easier.
However, to deliver the best user experience, your servers still need a little help…
While huge strides have been made, SMB 3.0 is only supported by Windows Server 2012 and OS X Yosemite, and Mac users in a Windows environment can still experience issues like seeing certain files as ‘greyed out’ and inaccessible, or be denied certain permissions that their PC counterparts have. There are also Mac-only features, such as Spotlight search, that aren’t supported if you’re just using Apple’s built-in integration tools, but which contribute a considerable amount to your Mac users’ productivity and the hassle-free user experience they expect from their Apple kit.
Acronis Access Connect (formerly known as ExtremeZ-IP) is a tried and tested solution for solving these issues. By allowing Mac computers to connect to Windows servers over AFP, it re-enables instant search and indexing, and allows Mac users to integrate their files with volumes and file structures on your Windows network. It also returns support for Time Machine, Apple’s built-in backup technology, to the Mac.
Part of Access Connect’s appeal is that it installs quickly, and automatically integrates with Active Directory accounts and NTFS permissions. It then allows end users running any version of OS X to connect using AFP. This results in better performance from their core apps (which are all optimised for AFP) and gives parity of functionality between users.
It also makes life easier for IT admins – not just because they don’t have to deal with incompatibility-based help desk queries, but because Access Connect supports key features like single sign on through Kerberos, DFS/network reshare, home directories, clustering, quotas, file name policies and advanced logging.
And don’t forget to back up…
If you need to back up your servers (hint: you do) but don’t have the money, capacity or desire to store all your backups locally (perhaps your office is a flood risk, or the office dog likes to gnaw through wires, or you’re just incredibly professional and thorough), then we can help there too.
Our Backup24 managed backup service allows you to back all your data up to our tier 2+ data centre. It’s based in the UK, so you know exactly where your data is, and we physically check that all backups have been successful every day. And if you’re feeling particularly worried about any particular day’s save, our team are only a phone call away. You can find out more here.
Using your Mac (whether that be iMac, Mac mini, MacBook Pro or MacBook Air) as a server is just one of the many uses Mac has within your business. We’ve been looking at the basic setup of Mac to a Server, using the Profile Manager tool, File Sharing and the benefits this can bring to your employees.
While we were sad to see Mac mini with OS X Server be discontinued earlier this year, we’re glad that you can download the Server app from the App Store here for £13.99 and run it this way. The Server app is fully compatible with OS X Yosemite and is easy to install, set up and manage within your business.
After you install the OS X Server software, the Server app walks you through the configuration process, whether you’re setting up a small business network or connecting to your companies existing networks. The Server app lets you quickly manage users and groups on the Server and, if you haven’t done so, set up all your key services.
The latest update to OS X Server brings more power, control and collaboration to your organisation, so everyone on your team can work together more effectively. Use your Server for File Sharing, Profile Manager, Caching Server, Xcode Server, Time Machine, Wiki Server, Calendar, Contacts and Mail Servers and Xsan 4. Here’s File Sharing…
File Sharing with OS X Server and Mac
Use your Mac-powered Server for File Sharing within the business. With the File Sharing tool you can share folders, exchange files and access documents on your Mac, iPad or PC. Once your devices are set up to your Server, your employees can access and share files with each other. Whether your employees are working onsite or remotely, they can safely share files without jeopardising the confidentially of the information they share. SMB3 is the new, super-fast protocol for sharing files in OS X Server. It works to protect against tampering and eavesdropping by encrypting and signing data ‘in flight’. There’s also file-sharing connection monitoring, so you can see who’s accessing your server, who’s connected and for how long.
For those of you thinking about or already running a Server for File Sharing, it’s worth noting that we offer a solution that allows integration between Macs to Windows file servers if that’s your thing. Take a look at Acronis’ “ExtremeZ-IP File and Print Server here.