Set up a Basic Workgroup File Server

For Mac users in small businesses, or even on home networks, one issue arises when they want to find an efficient way to share files-how to set up a Mac as a shared file server for a workgroup so that multiple users can create, modify, and delete files and folders on that machine. The geekier readers know about permissions issues related to users modifying files and folders created by other users, setting up accounts for users and groups, or even, under Mac OS X 10.5, setting up sharing only accounts.

But when you think about it, in many environments, there's no need to use a complicated solution when a simple one might be sufficient. 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-administrative account (name it Workgroup, Family 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. (Though you could create, in the account's Documents folder, a group of folders with user's names, if necessary.) If someone leaves the group, you'll probably want to change the account's password, which will require giving this password to the other users. You can't implement fine levels of control over which workgroup users can modify which files and folders.

While there is much to be said for the granular protection of a user and group based solution, this is certainly overkill for many situations. With this solution, you can share files easily, with little set-up, and keep your users happy.

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