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Recommended Host for Mac
What is Mac Hosting?
While most Web hosting providers only carry hosting plans designed for Linux or Windows operating systems, many have also responded to the increasing demand for plans which work with Mac operating systems as well.
About Mac Hosting
While researching general hosting plans, you'll like encounter many highly definitive opinions on whether to choose Windows or Linux as the operating system for your web server. However, it is also possible to find a specialty provider who can provide a web hosted server that is running OS X or iOS - the operating systems for Apple devices.
First - it should be noted to novice web developers - the operating system for your web site does not need to match the operating system of your computer. A website hosted on a Microsoft IIS server will work on any operating system, just as a website hosted on a Linux server will run on any operating system.
Also, it is possible to run a web server like Apache or NodeJS from your Macbook, but you can just as easily run a similar web server on a Linux web host. In fact, both Linux and Mac are Unix based operating systems - the terminal prompt takes the same Unix commands, and many software packages can be installed in very similar ways. However, at the core of both the OS X and Linux operating system is an operating system Kernel - which interprets the hardware for use by the applications.
Different "flavors" of Linux use different Kernals, while OS X is based on the "Darwin" Kernal. Generally, developers choose to run Linux web servers because they are Unix based, but they are also free - not having a license cost - which OS X does have. Additionally, Linux can run without an X server - which is the controller of the visual interface that allows a computer to be controlled with a monitor.
With that clarified, Mac hosting options do exist, usually with the purpose of handling specific software applications for the OS X platform - such as running a remote iCloud service or some custom projects which cannot run on any other operating system. If you're running applications that require the Apple OS X operating system, or are developing content for OS X or the iPhone's iOS, then you may want to look into finding a Mac host. Many hosting providers who specialize in Macs do so to provide remote computing environments that replace or supplement existing ones. Hosting your server and running it remotely combines the power of (for example) a MacPro server with the reliability and uptime guarantees that come with your provider's data center.
Features of Mac Hosting
Mac hosting generally involves a data center which has a multitude of Mac computers prepared and ready for rental. A Mac computer could also be hosted on a virtual machine as part of either shared hosting or a virtual private server. This still requires a license though, but might be less expensive than finding a direct hardware hosting provider. At a high level, a Mac hosting environment can provide a way to have a remote desktop at your fingertips - but there are a variety of other popular uses:
- Web & Email Hosting - for generic web needs
- Jenkins & Xcode Server Integration - integration servers for combining data across the web for consumption on a Mac. Xcode is the language used for Apple devices, and a Mac server can either run this code or be used as part of the development cycle.
- OS X Software Automated Testing - emulating a Mac environment isn't always the same as running an application on the intended hardware. For automated testing in OS X, renting remote servers is much cheaper than buying a variety of hardware & devices.
- Daylite / CRM Hosting - Daylite is a an information aggregator for all data in the Mac ecosystem, with a ton of business functions which includes shared native support for iCal, address books, task management and creative servers.
- Filemaker / Database hosting - Filemaker is a relational database platform which runs on Apple devices. It has a graphical interface, allows scripting, and has existed in some form since 1992!
- Remote Rendering - with a high powered remote Mac computer that has 3D modeling software installed - an array of computers could be used where each one renders a segment of video and then the results are transfered back locally.
While a Mac hosted website is a good concept for workflow management and team-based solutions, it is not often used for enterprise level web applications. When choosing to purchase web hosting with a Mac OS - try to figure out ahead of time what the purpose of the server might be.
Installation and Getting Started
To start running applications on your hosted Mac server, or to set up Mac-driven hosting for your website, you'll first need to identify which hosting providers offer Mac servers.
Once you've gathered a few top contenders, simply compare their plans until you find the one which best suits your needs. Be sure to list out all of your requirements ahead of time and make sure that an OS X server is the right tool for the job.
Once you have your server ready, a combination of remote desktop, SSH, or some other remote connection platform will need to be used - based on whatever those requirements might be.
Mac Hosting Frequently Asked Questions
Are there any software compatibility issues I should be worried about with Mac hosting?
There are some restrictions. MacOS doesn't support cPanel, but does support other cPanel-like software. But ultimately, you should be able to develop any website you want fairly easily using popular open source software like WordPress without any compatibility issues.
Can I run a blog or standard ecommerce site with a Mac host?
Yes. If your Mac host is only using Mac hardware, then running an ecommerce site is a simple matter like any other host. If your Mac host is running MacOS, then many php/MySQL functions will still work since MacOS is a Unix-based system. What's more, there are plenty of Mac-OS shopping carts out there that you can use to get your site up and running.
I do all my work on a Mac — do I need a Mac host?
No. It doesn't matter what desktop you're using when you choose a server. You can run a Windows server with a Macbook Pro just as well as you can run a Mac server with a Windows 95 Dell. Just because you have a Mac doesn't mean you need a Mac host.
Do Mac hosts use different hardware from Windows and Linux hosts?
Just like there are multiple configurations of Windows and Linux hosts, Mac hosts also come in a variety of flavors. Some hosts will offer Mac software only, allowing a testing environment for iOS, for example. However, they'll be run on standard hardware (often Dell or custom built servers). Other hosts offer an end-to-end Mac solution, running Mac software on Mac machines, usually the Mac Mini or the Mac Pro.
What OS do Mac hosts normally use?
Mac hosts often offer a large range of potential operating systems, including the usual gamut of Unix-based systems like FreeBSD, Linux and it's derivatives like CentOS and Ubuntu, and of course MacOS and OS X. Many hosts running Mac hardware will even offer Windows hosting software. VMware is also a common Mac host OS product offering.
Can I do everything with a Mac host that I could do with a Linux or Windows host?
In general, yes. When you're using a server, you usually interact via a web browser-based interface, remote desktop, SSH, or FTP system. All of these are largely independent of whatever software you're running on the server itself. So while the backend might operate slightly different, your experience will be the same regardless of whether your server is a Mac, Windows, or Linux.
What are the advantages of using Mac hosting?
The most common reason to seek out a Mac hosting environment is for testing new applications and program in a Mac environment. If you're developing a new app for iOS, you might want to do your development testing with a Mac server running MacOS.
Can I use .NET and other OS-specific technologies with Mac hosting?
There are some technologies that you're unable to access with MacOS software. Microsoft, in particular, offers its hosting customers unique OS-specific technologies in .NET and MSSQL. However, for most webmasters, there are other tools on Mac and Linux that can do the same thing. But if you know you have to use .NET or other MS-only software, then you're best to steer clear of Mac hosting.
Macs are usually more expensive than other computers on the market. Is the same true for Mac hosts?
It depends. Linux-based operating systems are often favored by hosting companies because they're open-source and thus, free. MacOS, however, does require licensing agreements.
And while it's relatively cheap, it is still an increased cost. So Mac hosting might be slightly more expensive than Linux-based hosting for that reason alone. However, Windows hosting has similar licensing costs, so when compared to Windows hosting, Mac hosting is likely to be comparably priced.
Does Mac hosting offer shared, VPS, cloud, and dedicated hosting?
Yes. Not every Mac host will offer every product, but you can get shared, VPS, cloud, or dedicated hosting on Mac hardware or software somewhere online. And while it is less common that Linux and Windows hosting, there are plenty of providers out there. You just need to find the one that works for you.
How does Mac hosting compare with things like uptime guarantees and support?
Like all Linux and Windows hosting, it depends on the specific host. There are plenty of good Mac hosts out there and plenty of not-so-good ones. Make sure you read independent reviews to learn which host is going to work for you.