Communication and collaboration are essential to any business — large or small. Thus, being able to effectively send and receive ideas in a timely manner is often crucial.
Email is ubiquitous. It's used by everyone and found on most devices. Instant Messaging, however, is still king when it comes to having words reach a recipient immediately after pressing send. There isn't any lag, send/receive limits, built-in delivery confirmation, or read receipts. Furthermore, it's available on just about every device — from computers to smart devices. Even basic cell phones can use SMS for text messages or MMS for on-the-go multimedia sharing.
While many free options exist, nothing compares to deploying your own messaging server, where messages can be secured via SSL encryption and tracked for auditing purposes. Additionally, access can be limited to local, company networks or expanded to include a domain spanning several WANs through federated server-to-server (S2S) capability.
Setting up the Messages service
Here are the requirements for setting up the Messages service on OS X:
- Apple computer with OS X Server (1.0+) installed
- Static IP assigned to OS X Server
- Broadband Internet access (Ethernet or Wi-Fi)
- Create users and groups
- Host name registered with 3rd-party name service *
- DNS entries registered with 3rd-party service and/or ISP *
- SSL Certificate registered with 3rd-party service **
- iChat servers or XMPP-compliant services
- Firewall configuration to allow TCP/UDP ports
Follow these steps to setup the Messages service:
- Launch Server.app and select the server you wish to manage
- Login with administrative credentials
- Select Messages from the Services pane (Figure
- Click the ON button to start the service (Figure B)
- The service is now active but will work only within the LAN. If multi-site connectivity is needed and/or the server requires Internet-facing access, continue to step #1 in the optional steps below.
Here are some optional configurations of the Messages service:
- Under the Settings section, check the box to Enable server-to-server federation (Figure C)
- Click the Edit… button to further configure the federation settings
- If you want to limit the scope of federated
domains, select the radio button next to Restrict federation to the following
domains, then click the plus sign [+] to add a new entry for the domain you wish to
authorize. Enter one domain per line, and click the OK button to save changes (Figure D).
- To enable secure, end-to-end
communications between federated servers, check the box next to Require secure
server-to-server federation, and then click the OK button (Figure E)
- Lastly, to enable transcripts of all chat sessions, check the box next to Archive all messages (Figure F). This
provides transparency in the collection of data communications to/from the
server and may be necessary to comply with any security or privacy rules. Stored transcripts can be found at this location on the server: /Library/Server/Messages/Data/message_archives
Messaging bridges multiple gaps. For example, distance, culture, and time are often overcome when taking part in a chat room brainstorming session with colleagues from all over the world, on multiple devices, and with varying data connections.
Being able to communicate is an ability that helps us both personally and professionally. In the enterprise, it's a necessity at all levels and throughout every department around the world.
* Optional, unless necessary to communicate with the Messages server via URL. By registering a domain name with a 3rd-party registrar, that host name can now be assigned to the Messaging server, ensuring that it can be reached on the web.
** Optional, unless enabling secure, server-to-server federation. In order to ensure communications are encrypted from end-to-end, a 3rd-party SSL certificate will need to be installed in the Certificates section under the Server pane. Additionally, the necessary DNS records must be added to bind the host name to the IP address of each federated server.
Have you setup the Messages services on OS X? What roadblocks, if any, did you experience along the way? Offer your additional tips and tricks in the discussion thread below.
Jesus Vigo is a Network Administrator by day and owner of Mac|Jesus, LLC, specializing in Mac and Windows integration and providing solutions to small- and medium-size businesses. He brings 15 years of experience and multiple certifications from several vendors, including Apple and CompTIA.