One of the most common and widely-used services found on a
server is file sharing. According to Wikipedia, “File sharing
is the practice of distributing
or providing access to digitally stored information.”

It is this very
reason — alongside the ease of management — that makes server-based file sharing ideal
for both end users and administrators alike. The centralized model structure
allows for admins to authorize (or deny) access to objects, ranging from
singular files to entire directories with minimal effort. The security
implementation also makes the process simple for groups of users to gain access
based on common permissions, plus fine-grain tuning for a specific user, if necessary. 

Let’s take a closer look at file sharing on OS X Server. 

I. 
Setting
up the File Sharing service

Follow these steps to set up the file sharing service on your OS X Server: 

  1. Launch Server.app from the Applications folder
    and select the OS X Server you wish to manage (Figure A)
    Figure A
  2. Login with Administrative credentials (Figure B)
    Figure B
  3. Once the console launches, click File
    Sharing from the services pane (Figure
    C
    )
    Figure C
  4. By default, File Sharing is turned off with OS X, so toggling the switch from OFF to ON will start the file sharing
    service* (Figure D)
    Figure D

* Note: Turning on the file sharing service is
only part of the task. As files/folders are added, additional steps will be
necessary to add them to the server for end users to access. Also, security
needs may change what type of access specific users will require, while other
groups of users may even be denied access altogether to
sensitive documents.

II. 
Add/Modify
Share Points

Here are the steps to add or modify Share Points in OS X Server:

  1. From the Share Points tab of the File Sharing
    services pane, all folders identified as shared resources will be listed (and
    may be edited here as well)
  2. To add a new shared folder, click the plus sign [+] (Figure E)
    Figure E
  3. Click the New
    Folder button from the list or select an existing folder (Figure F)
    Figure F
  4. If you’re creating a new folder, provide a name for the
    directory and click the Create button (Figure G)
    Figure G
  5. Once it’s created, select the newly created folder to
    highlight it, and then click the Choose button to add the folder to the list (Figure
    H
    )
    Figure H

III. 
Configuring
Share Point access

Follow these steps to configure Share Point access:

  1. Click on the directory you wish to modify access
    to from the File Sharing pane, then click the cogwheel icon and select Edit Share Point… from the drop-down
    menu (Figure I)
    Figure I
  2. In the settings menu for the directory, user
    accounts and/or security groups can be added or removed as desired (Figure J)
    Figure J
  3. You can specify how the directory will be shared with clients — Windows, Apple, or iOS — and restrict Guest
    access or AFP protocol access for home directories as needs arise. Click Done to
    commit changes to the directory.
  4. Lastly, an optional greeting message can
    be configured to display to users when trying to access shared resources. To
    configure a message that pertains to all shared folders, click the cogwheel icon and select “Edit Greeting…” from the
    drop-down menu (Figure K)
    Figure K
  5. From the new window that opens, enter
    your message to clients that will be connecting to the share(s), and click Save (Figure L)
    Figure L

File sharing can be both a simple and difficult task for an
administrator to implement and manage securely and successfully. The key (and
best practice) is to plan effectively first and double-check your
implementation before (and after) placing it onto a production environment.

Consider the old carpentry motto, “Measure twice, cut once.” Not only will this help you sniff out
any possible security issues before they occur, but it may also allow for a more
effective way to implement access by using security groups strategically in a
targeted manner as a means to cover as much of the generic access as possible.

Have you run into any difficulties with file sharing on your OS X Server? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.