What You'll Learn
What is Mac hosting? What are its benefits and uses? How do I run a web server from my Mac?
What do I need to know about hosting OS X and iOS applications I'm developing on my Mac? How do I find good Mac hosting?
You'll learn this, and more. Plus I'll share my personal recommendations for Mac hosting. Let's dive into Mac hosting and see what it's all about!
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 to 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 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 website 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. Similarly, a website hosted on a Linux server will run on any operating system.
Running Web Servers on Your Mac
Node.js is known to always be up-to-date for both Mac and Windows.
Also, it is possible to run a Node.js or Apache web server from your Mac, 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. Many software packages can operate system Kernel — which interprets the hardware for use by the applications.
Comparison of Mac, Linux, and Windows
Different "flavors" of Linux use different Kernels, while OS X is based on the "Darwin" Kernel.
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.
To kick things off right, let's take a brief look at Mac, Windows and Linux side-by-side:
|Linux||Cheap||Low to High-end||Open-source||Extremely Safe|
|Windows||Moderate||Minimum CPU and RAM requirements||Closed||Moderately Safe|
|Mac||Moderate||Apple only||Closed||Extremely Safe|
Mac Hosting for Applications
With that clarified, Mac hosting options do exist. With the purpose of handling specific software applications for the OS X platform, they can run 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 datacenter.
6 Useful Features of Mac Hosting
Mac hosting generally involves a datacenter 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.
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 and Email Hosting
- Jenkins and Xcode Server Integration
- OS X Software Automated Testing
- Daylite CRM Hosting
- Filemaker Database Hosting
- Remote Rendering
Web and E-mail Hosting
Generic web hosting and e-mail services are an expected feature, as standard. Mac hosting environments are generally user-friendly, especially for e-mail related services.
Jenkins and Xcode Server Integration
Xcode is the Apple IDE used for developing apps for Apple devices. "Continuous integration" refers to a software improvement process — using Xcode and Xcode Server — that spans automation, testing, and analysis.
It includes using your Mac to create apps in Xcode, pushing the code to a repository, then pushing it from there to Xcode Server.
Apple's diagram of the Xcode continuous integration workflow. Note that on your Mac you'll be creating and deploying bots to the server from within Xcode.
The Jenkins plugin for Xcode facilitates automating this continuous integration workflow.
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 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!
You can easily create and share database-related apps even from templates.
Filemaker: not just your dad's database app!
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 transferred 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.
Find The Best Mac Hosting For You
Getting Started with Mac Hosting
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.
Does a Mac OS X Server Suffice for You?
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 a Mac OS X server is the right tool for the job.
When your server is ready, a combination of remote desktop, SSH, or another remote connection platform will need to be used — based on whatever those requirements might be.
Host Your Own Server With a Mac Mini
Buying a Mac Mini will set you back some serious buck.
A Mac Mini is simply a desktop computer packed into a small package. A Mac Mini is not as powerful as a normal Mac desktop, but would still have enough power to power most basic webservers.
If you have the technical skills required for setting up a webserver, it's a potential solution for you instead of going with a traditional host company. It would have it's own Mac address, and you could install any Mac firewall you wanted.
Buying a Mac Mini just to host a website is a more expensive investment upfront. If you have the right technical skills to maintain it, you do however save money on monthly hosting costs.
Enable Web Sharing on Your Mac in 6 Quick Steps
Additionally, you can actually use your own Mac for personalized Web Sharing, since Macs are equipped with the Apache web server software. Here is how you can enable web sharing using VirtualHostX:
- Download MAMP
- Install MAMP
- Relocate Virtual Hosts
- Set Default Web Server
- Run the Setup Wizard
- Apply and Launch
MAMP has a clean interface and is easy to use.
Download MAMP (MyApache, MySQL, PHP). MAMP does not have a separate installer for the free version, but we can get around this pothole in the next step.
Once you've downloaded MAMP, proceed to install it. To use the free version, ensure you click 'customize' and un-tick the option for MAMP Pro.
Relocate Virtual Hosts
After you have successfully installed MAMP, place your virtual hosts into the following directory: "/applications/MAMP/htdocs"
Set Default Web Server
If you haven't done so yet, go to your VirtualHostX preferences and set MAMP as your default web server. This is located in the general settings section.
Run the Setup Wizard
Go to your VirtualHostX menu. Look for an option named VirtualHostX Setup Wizard. Run it.
Apply and Launch
Before you close this window, be sure to select 'apply' so your settings are saved. You are ready to launch MAMP!
If you are still confused, check out this video tutorial.
Here's What Your Mac Hosting Needs To Offer
Almost all web servers are Linux or Windows based. But there are also Mac web servers. Although hosting plans are offered almost exclusively with Linux or Windows platforms, it is possible to get Mac based hosting services. People often want this because of the remote desktop, but there are a number of other features as well. We recommend using SiteGround for Mac hosting.
My 3 Top Choices for Mac Hosting
For the most part, you can purchase any hosting plan and manage it with your Mac, even if your host isn't using Mac servers. While you may run into some problems, picking the right host will reduce the chance of any issues. Here are my top 3 hosts.
First is SiteGround, who has custom made plans specifically for Mac users. They have great support documentation, with a large number of support articles specifically built for Mac users.
These plans all let you read and manage your e-mail account through Mac Mail, instead of the default webmail applications that others force you to use. They also support RapidWeaver, a simple web design program you can use on your Mac OS. The pricing is competitive, and the servers are relatively high performance.
My next recommendation is Liquid Web, who have incredibly high-performance servers, although they also cost more than most hosts.
The biggest thing that Liquid Web offers Mac users is what they call their "heroic" support, which is a highly trained support team that's available 24/7/365. If you run into any problems, they will go above and beyond to help you overcome them. Liquid Web has a wide variety of plans, which typically include a dedicated IP address and root access.
It's also a host dedicated to helping the environment, as it's powered purely by renewable energy. Each hosting plan comes with SSH command line access, meaning that you can interact with them from your Mac terminal. There's also a 30-day money back guarantee and 24/7 support available through live chat, email, or phone.
Pros and Cons of Mac Hosting
- More reliable — On a Mac OS server, you can run all the same software you use locally with no issues.
- You can use programs like Mac Mail to manage emails.
- Easier to use as a Mac user since you're more used to Mac software.
- Hosts that offer Mac servers are hard to find.
- Mac servers often cost more because they're in less demand.
- Most software can be run just fine on a Linux server.
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.
Although 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.
Although it is less common than 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.