SAYING GOODBYE TO THE OS X SERVER File Sharing SERVICE

Sort of.

High Sierra and the latest Server.app saw the removal of File Sharing from the stable of goodies that OS X Server had at its disposal, and there's no getting around the fact that this caused a lot of people in my line of work a lot of... discomfort. Okay, maybe discomfort isn't the word I'm looking for; it was more like this:

 

liam_neeson_why.gif

Exactly, Liam Neeson. Why?

File Sharing was something that OS X Server did. It was something that it was good at. Reliable. Solid. Secure. Dependable. A large part of the reason why people shelled out good money for nice servers and backups and quality storage. The years rolled by and changes came and went, but File Sharing was always there, always a constant. And now it was gone.

Well, not really. macOS has always been good about sharing and generally playing nice with other people, and one of the reasons that File Sharing was a thing at all was because essentially it was built into the OS and not just into the Server product. Sure, there were more tools available if you had the Server.app, but you could always duck into the Sharing prefpane on clients, check a few boxes and presto, you were sharing files (albeit in a basic way). That's still there, although now with some extra tricks up its sleeve (which is welcome), but it's moved out of the Server.app to get there (which isn't).

It annoys me, but on the other hand it's not much of an inconvenience. In the old Server.app you'd configure the shares you wanted to make in the File Sharing portion of Server and then - often as not - noodle on over to the Storage tab in the Server.app to tweak and fine tune, so in a very real sense you're still likely to want to go to two different places to set up and tweak your shares, so really all is well. 

Except that the Sharing prefpane is awful. It takes an eternity to make a share, longer to delete on, and if you want to use FTP or WebDAV then you might as well turn off your computer, open a window, take a deep breath of cleansing spring air, and then throw yourself out of it. Okay, that might be going a little far - particularly as there are solutions to cure a lot of those problems.

The first - and biggest - problem out of the gate is setting up shares. It is often abysmally slow, but thanks to the sharing command you can do a lot of the work very quickly and simply from the command line. It's super-simple - give the sharing command a protocol to work with (AFP, SMB and... wait for it... FTP), a path and a share name and you're off to the races. For example:

sharing -a /Volumes/MyServer/Shared\ Items/ -A My_New_AFP_Share

sharing -a /Volumes/MyServer/Shared\ Items/ -S My_New_SMB_Share

sharing -a /Volumes/MyServer/Shared\ Items/ -F My_New_FTP_Share

You can then tweak users, groups and permissions as needed through the Storage tab in the Server.app

Fixing WebDAV is a little trickier, and it's worth checking that your DNS/hostname setup are in good working order before going forward. Assuming that they are, then you can fire up the wfsctl command thus:

wfsctl start

...and add a share simply by feeding the command a path, like so:

wfsctl share /Volumes/MyServer/Shared\ Items My_WebDAV_Share

The real sin here is that there was - at least as far as I can see - no tangible reason for Apple to pull this functionality out of OS X Server. Sure, FTP and its assorted permutations are pretty dusty, but now and again you run into a circumstance that makes them suddenly very important. WebDAV is even more puzzling; as something that was a value-add to Apple's push to get iOS into the workplace it did stalwart service, and its sudden and unheralded removal from the Server.app has been a cause of head-scratching consternation. We can only hope that the new and improved Server product they've hinted at this Spring will cure some of what ails...