Over the past several years, I've worked with many of these types of small businesses. In the days before Leopard Server -- the predecessor to Snow Leopard Server -- and Server Preferences, I usually wound up installing a server and being on call for even the most routine tasks, like adding or deleting new users, adjusting access rights to services or file shares, and verifying backups. Once Leopard Server arrived in 2007, my direct involvement dropped, since companies finally had a familiar and easy-to-use means of handling these tasks.
Regardless of my own involvement, I often recommended that these small firms (typically anywhere from one to a few dozen employees with basic needs) buy Apple's server software and install it on a Mac Mini. Although not big on size or raw computing power, the Mac Mini has always had at least enough power to meet the needs of these less-than-demanding environments. That's also why I was immediately taken with Apple's decision to launch the Mac Mini server configuration (as was Macworld's Jason Snell.)
A true small-business server
The Mac Mini server offers a very small footprint and low power requirements, and it runs cooler than virtually any desktop computer. Those features make it ideal for small-business environments. Its size -- 6.5 inches square and 2 inches high -- means it can be placed in a small locked closet or ventilated storage cabinet for easy security.
Price is also a big draw. For $999, businesses get a server with unlimited client access licensing to all the features that can be run on Snow Leopard Server. And the hardware, while not cutting-edge, is solid: There's a dual-core 2.53GHz Core 2 Duo processor, the Nvidia GeForce 9400M integrated graphics chip set, five USB 2.0 ports, one Gigabit Ethernet connection and a FireWire 800 port. This contrasts sharply with Microsoft's Windows Small Business Server 2008, for instance. It starts at $1,089 for just the server license -- without the hardware -- and five client access licenses. (Additional client licenses can be purchased singly for $77, in packs of five for $385 or 20 for $1540.)
It's also important to note that a Mac Mini server isn't restricted to using the built-in Server Preferences. If more-varied features like client management and small-scale workstation deployments are needed, the more robust management tools for Snow Leopard Server are available. This allows companies to get the most value from their small investment because they can take advantage of more features as their needs change or business grows.
Small companies also represent a fairly strong market for the iPhone, iPod Touch and the soon-to-be-released iPad. Many of the collaboration tools built into Snow Leopard Server (regardless of the management tools) are designed to pair well with the iPhone platform. That makes the Mac Mini server a logical choice for businesses interested in both Mac and Windows clients -- Mac OS X Server supports both platforms as well as other Unix/Linux flavors, along with its support for Apple's mobile devices.