Getting WebDAV working with OS X Lion server

Written on:April 28, 2012
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Last year I wrote about creating My Own Cloud with WebDAV on my MacMini running Snow Leopard. I had planned to write another article outlining how to setup WebDAV on my OS X server since I had not found any articles on that subject, but never got around it for two reasons:

  1. as it turned out the server admin GUI based app was rather limited in functionality; and therefore 
  2. using the non-server setup work without any changes on the Snow Leopard server; and last but not least
  3. Lion was announced to be released very soon.

I had no problem during my two trips in September and October connecting my iPad to the Snow Leopard server.

I finally upgraded the server to Lion after my return in November only to find that my 10+ websites stopped working. I quickly found that Apple had elimninated the OS X 10.6 Server’s Server Admin utility, and replace with a new Lion Server. All it provided was to add sites, specify the ports and the web root directory, and set up some basic access controls. Anything more than that, you’re on you own, requiring to use the terminal mode to edit the configuration files directly. Not that this is a problem for me, have done this since working with computers for the last 35 years. It took me a day editing the various configuration files and testing the different setups to get everything backup running.

Actually, not everything worked, as I found out two weekends ago, my WebDAV setup did not worked on my Lion Server (LS). The reason I never noticed it was that I had not travel lately and therefore never had any need to connect. This changed when I spend a weekend in Napa and needed a file that was not on my iPad. What a surprise!

Interesting enough the apache web server setting for my websites was left untouched since updating three times to 10.7.3, something that was always a worry updating 10.6.x. Reading up about the latest release, Apple had updated the Server app to address many of the 10.6.x web server configuration issues, as well as including a WebDAV file sharing option. With that information at hand, I got ready to restore the web server configuration to factory and used the Server app to reconfigure the setup. The good news, my MacMini Lion Server (10.7.3) is now working using the configuration created by the GUI based Server app instead of my manual editing these files.

The bad news, the WebDAV setup did not work at all! After three days of trying countless suggestions found in online forums, without solving the problem, I decided to regrouped and try my second server. The server is currently deployed as regular non-server system, standing by as backup in case my main server system has a hardware problem. 

It only took a few minutes to get the file sharing with WebDav going by using the same steps as on my main server, simply turning on file sharing via the Server App, selecting a share point and user that has access to it. 

Both systems are identical in hardware and OS X version. So what are the differences? For starters, the second server has no web server running. My next step was, using the Server app, to turn the Web Server with the default web site on, nothing more. The result, the file sharing still works with WebDAV.

Next step, adding a second web site, nothing special just a simple page. The result, no more file sharing via WebDav. Turing off the web server restored WebDav file sharing. Deleting the second web site and turning on the web server, again allowed WebDav based file sharing.

Conclusion, deploying under Lion Server 10.7.3 multiple websites breaks WebDav based file sharing.

My next step was a call to Apple Support, which called me promply back. To make a long story short, after spending two days with Apple Support, their Engineering confirmed that currently WebDAV file sharing, enabled using the Server app, does not work with multiple web sites deployed. 

During the two days, I decided to check why during my upgrade from Snow Leopard to Lion, my hardcoded WebDAV setup failed. It turned out to be a very simple thing; during the upgrade the /etc/apache2/extra/httpd-dav.conf was overwritten with the default code. All that was needed was to restore it to the way it was before (see step 4 of my Your own Mac Cloud (WebDAV) Service article). Apple’s Engineering department has taken note of that setup and promised it would work on a solution to be part of future updates. My hope is that it will be fixed in the upcoming Mountain Lion release.

As a sidebar: I now have setup my Lion Server with a single document share point that I access internally, and externally when traveling, from any of my devices. Doing so provides me with a single document storage location instead of having my documents spread over a number of devices. In other words, I got my own document cloud storage. This article was started on my Mac at home and finished and published using my iPad from my hotel room.

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