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Automounting Share Points—It’s About More than Just Connecting Them

If a share point resides on a server that is part of a directory domain (either as an Open directory server or as a supporting server bound to a domain), you can use the Network Mount tab to make that share point into an automount. Automounts are share points that are established with a mount record in a shared directory. Automounts automatically mount in the Network globe of workstations that are bound to a directory when the computer starts up. They mount regardless of user login to the workstation.

To configure a share point as an automount, select it from the Share Points tab in the left pane of the Workgroup Manager window and then select the Network Mount tab in the right pane. You need to authenticate as an administrator of the domain by clicking the lock icon next the Where pop-up menu. Make certain that the directory domain you want to use is selected in the Where pop-up menu. Generally, servers should be bound to only a single domain, and that domain should be listed. If the server is also hosting the domain, it will be listed as LDAPv3/127.0.0.1. If the server is not hosting the domain, the IP address of the LDAP master should be listed. NetInfo domains will list the appropriate NetInfo tag.

After you have authenticated to the domain, check the Create A Mount Record For This Share Point checkbox. Choose AFP from the Protocol pop-up menu. You then have an option that says Use For that lists four radio buttons: User Home Directories, Shared Applications, Shared Library, and Custom Mount Path. Each of these determines not so much what the automount is used for, but where it is mounted (as I’ll explain shortly). After selecting the option, click the Save button to create the mount record. Reboot any workstations bound to the domain and they will mount the specified share point at startup.

Generally, automounts are mounted as Guest user (meaning Guest access must be enabled for both the AFP service and the share point being used as an automount). The primary exceptions are automounts used for home directories. When a user logs into a workstation, the user information is used for access to home directory automounts because such information is needed for proper access to the user’s home directory and is passed to the AFP service by the Login Window application.

Automounts designated for home directories are mounted in /Network/Servers on Mac OS X workstations, which is the location in which a share must be mounted for workstations to recognize a user’s network home directory properly. Therefore, shares intended to host home directories need to be automounts with this specification. However, you can designate any share point as being used for User Home Directories if you want to automount it in this location on all workstations bound to a directory domain. This includes group folders and other share points that you want all users of the domain (including Guest users) to be able to access. In fact, this is easiest way to specify any kind of automount because it requires no configuration of the workstation itself.

In addition to designating an automount to be used for home directories, you can designate automounts for shared applications and shared libraries. They mount the designated share point in /Network/Applications and /Network/Library, respectively. This feature was introduced in Mac OS X (client and server) 10.3. Designating a share point as a shared library includes that /Library folder as part of the search process that Mac OS X uses to locate library items, such as fonts, ColorSync profiles, and screensavers. The library search process includes a Library automount (if one is specified), the Library folder on a workstation’s hard drive, and the Library folder in a user’s home directory. Library automounts allow you to include specific Library items across all workstations without placing them in users’ home directories or on local workstations. They are particularly useful for graphic design purposes as a way of making additional fonts and ColorSync profiles available.

Application automounts serve much the same function as library automounts, except that they are designed to share applications. Application automounts are something of a double-edged sword, however. They allow you to make applications available to all workstations in a directory domain, but if even a few users begin using applications in an application automount, you can see a significant increase in network traffic versus placing the applications on individual workstations. Also, application performance will be impacted by network performance and will be noticeably below what it would be if the application were located on a workstation directly. In virtually every situation, you will be far better off deploying applications by actually installing them on workstations (either by manual installation or by a remote deployment tool, such as that built into Apple Remote Desktop).

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