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Replace Google products with a Mac mini server

It's been interesting to watch as Apple, and Tim Cook specifically, begins to peck away at Google and the way it makes money. When iOS 9 is released, it will have a system-wide way to disable ads on the web. The early looks at this tech is pretty jarring the way it simplifies the web. Some people have said this is bad for bloggers. That may be true, but bloggers are a resourceful bunch and they have proven their ability to adapt. Plus, in general, they respect their readers and want them to have a good experience while also earning an income themselves. They'll be fine.


In reality, I wonder for Google more. The overwhelming majority of their profit comes from ads on websites and searches. As mobile viewers become more dominate, and iOS has a high percentage of all mobile viewers, that will be a big hit for Google. Imagine if Apple takes away 50% of the ad revenue from Google. Thermonuclear indeed. 


In the last couple years, Tim Cook has weighed in on these issues and why he prefers the way that Apple does business. This quote from an open letter written by Tim is pretty clear:


"Our business model is very straightforward: We sell great products. We don't build a profile based on your email content or web browsing habits to sell to advertisers. We don't "monetize" the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud. And we don't read your email or your messages to get information to market to you. Our software and services are designed to make our devices better. Plain and simple."


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In that same vein, we've seen more and more people and small businesses come to us looking for ways to own their own data and servers. With a Mac mini server, it's more simple than you think. Obviously, we sell the service and benefits of hosting the mac mini in a data center, but I hope this will be useful for anyone looking for some more control over their data.


Below is a list of apps that you can run on your own machine, usually free or low in cost. Most are fairly simple to set up, though we can also get you the help you need. And best of all, they run on your hardware with your privacy controls.


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OS X Server is the most obvious place to start though I think it's often overlooked. It is available on the Mac App Store for just $20. (And if you're a developer for Apple, you're entitled to a free copy.) What can you do with Server?


Mail is simple to setup and run. You have options to limit mailbox sizes, filter junk mail and run virtual domains. Also, your email isn't scanned by a large company to put ads up against it or put surprises in your search results.


The mail service also offers push notifications, which Gmail dropped a couple years ago. And if you're running a business, you can setup unlimited users on the machine as there is no per-person cost.


The Calendar Server in OS X Server will let you share calendars, schedule meetings even book conference rooms or other shared resources for a company. You can also send invitations by email. And of course, push notifications can be enabled.


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The Contacts Server is equally as powerful. You can sync and share contacts for the company and each person.


There are other great options built into OS X Server, but I think that those are the big three that can replace Google services and keep your data private. It also has File Sharing, though I think it is lacking a bit there. Other services you might look at are a Profile Manager to configure and deploy Macs and iOS Devices, a VPN that you can connect to while traveling, or a Messages Server to collaborate with your team. (But seriously, Slack is so good that I'd probably still go with that. Hopefully they aren't bought by Google anytime soon.)


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Piwik is a great alternative to Google Analytics. When you install the free and open-source software on your machine you have complete data ownership. But more than that, it really protects the privacy of your readers and customers and supports "do not track." Google Analytics is so simple and quick to get started (Confessions: we use it right now too but plan to change soon) but the data collected on individuals must be enormous.


BitTorrent Sync is a powerful alternative to Google Drive. With Sync, the data and files that you share never reside on hardware that you don't own. The encryption and speed are really amazing too, usually faster than services like Google Drive and Dropbox. It's so simple (and even fun) to setup.


I want to recommend a good alternative to Google Docs, but I just don't think there is a self-hosted one worth recommending yet. Hopefully soon. (If you know of one, let us know.)


We'll add to this list as we find other great options. The options listed above should be sufficient to get most small businesses onto servers that they own and control. And, most likely it will even save you and your business some money.


About Macminicolo


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Macminicolo, a Las Vegas based company, has been hosting Mac minis since their introduction in January 2005. We are the leaders in this niche market and are known for our personal service and advanced data center. We currently host hundreds of Mac minis for satisfied customers located in 56 different countries around the world. Find us on Twitter @macminicolo or on our company blog.