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March 21, 2013 2 min read

Apple currently makes two machines that come in a variation intended to be used as a server. The Mac Pro 5,1 Server has multiple options:
The Quad-core, the 8-core, the 6-core, and the 12-core. The other option is the 6,1 or 6,2 Mac Mini Server.

There are clearly a few differences between the decision to use the Mac Pro or Mac Mini as your server. The Mac Pro is highly upgradable whereas the Mini has limitations on how far it can be upgraded due to it's size. The other major difference is that the 5,1 Mac Pro uses ECC DIMMs while the Mini does not. Deciding between the two means you are essentially trading added stability (ECC) versus the much smaller foot print of the Mac Minis.

The difference in performance output between ECC and Non-ECC DIMMs is fairly small, but if your server's function is a critical operation such as a corporate mail or web server, it could certainly be worth the extra investment (of expense and space) to choose the Mac Pro instead of the Mac Mini. However, if the workload on the server is less demanding, the Mini is by and large a great machine with lots of overwhelmingly positive feedback, and is certainly up to the task with a maximum RAM allotment of 16GBs.

In either machine, if the speed of your operations is important and applications are being run on the server itself, looking at an SSD drive as a replacement or addition might be an excellent idea as well. Not only do SSDs access data and programs faster, but there are no moving parts, making the drive more stable, able to maintain the speed of the drive over time, and less prone to failure.