Advice running two Nethservers on virtual machine

As usual, I show my lack of knowledge!

I’d like to run a ‘test’ Nethserver so as not to disrupt my working server. My Nethserver runs on a Mac using VirtualBox. I think I know how to install another Nethserver there. But what I don’t know is if I can have two running at the same time because of how I have my router and ‘port forwarding’ set up.

At the moment, for example, when my router gets a request for port 993 it forwards to the LAN IP address for my Nethserver. So obviously I can have only one port forward for 993.

I’m sure there’s a proper way to do this!


I really wouldn’t recommend running a production system under VirtualBox in any event. But yes, you can have any number of Neth instances running at the same time (as long as your system resources will support it)–I have two Neth VMs, and another instance on dedicated hardware, running on my LAN right now. As you surmise, however, you can’t forward the same port to two different places. A couple of possibilities:

  • If your testing can be done over the LAN, great–no port forwarding is needed in that case.
  • If your testing is going to require accessing the server over the Internet, consider spinning up a VPS. If the testing is something that wouldn’t take much time, I’d seriously look at Digital Ocean–set up a CentOS 7 droplet, install Neth over that, and do your testing. Once you’re satisfied with the results, destroy the droplet. They only bill for the time the droplet exists, so particularly for quick testing, this can be very inexpensive. If you’d be keeping the VM around for a while, I’d look at Contabo instead; you get a lot more bang for your buck on the VPS. But they bill a month at a time, and they also bill a nominal setup charge for the VPS, so they aren’t nearly as suitable for a quick test.

Are you saying don’t run a production system under any virtualisation or you don’t like VirtualBox in particular?

I’ve had good luck running a server locally so far although I understand the risks. One problem running in a remote data centre is we have a lot of data on disk to share as well as security concerns.

We also know how Mac’s work!

Running a test server on the LAN is a good idea, I’ll do that.

But, if I have a ‘shared server’ at a host, how do they route the correct requests to the correct virtual server? Don’t some of these shared servers share an IP address?

Thanks again.

The shared experience about VirtualBox on this forum is quite non-existant. Many Proxmox fans, some ESXi/ESX users, few KVM.
As a desktop virtualizer i use VMWare Player (my computer is windows based).
VirtualBox is a quite nice product (and freely available for MacOSX, AFAIK, not the same for VMWare Fusion) but it’s just… tool-less sometimes. And quite janky if not managed correctly (storage management on the host side is far less intuitive than other products)

I don’t know what’s your goal in the future for installation, but considering that option “sub optimal”, a good used business desktop PC with a consumer-grade SSD and a bunch of ram could serve you quite good as a test server, and if users are few, even for “starter” production environment. This arrangement could ease a lot of issues that can happens with virtual machines if the sysadmin is not familiar with some of their issues.

Running NethServer virtualized in production shouldn’t be a problem, but running it in a type2 hypervisor (Virtualbox is a Type2 hypervisor) I wouldn’t recommend since you create an extra layer of things that can break. For testing purposes it is just fine, In production, I’d like it on a Type1 hypervisor.
As @danb35 already pointed out, it all depends what your needs are.
You mention port 993. That typically is the port for IMAPS. I take it, you won’t have 2 mailservers on your local LAN?

I like VirtualBox just fine, just not for running infrastructure.

Contabo and DO both give you a dedicated IP address.

I have a Nethserver running email with CalDAV and CardDAV via NextCloud. I’d like to see how WebTop works with email, CalDAV and CardDAV so, yes, two mailservers! but one has a FQDN and I’ll run a test NS via its LAN address.

Replacement of a Mac Server. Apple have given up on Server, either as hardware (we have Mac mini Servers) or macOS Server. I have one Nethserver running as a replacement, about to do another. Light use in a small ofice.

If you look for replacement of your Apple server, I would suggest to look for a small, low energy server. I used to have a HP microserver gen7. This one has a bit of a performance issue (relatively slow processor) but the Gen8 might be just doing the trick. It is easily expandable with extra disks and memory.
Install a Type1 Hypervisor (KVM, ProxMox, HyperV, ESXi) and then run your NethServer VM’s there.
As mentioned before, there is quite some experience with Proxmox here. You will like the flexibility and the easy to use webinterface.
I don’t know if it is possible, but you could try to install Proxmox on your Mac Server.
I found this article about installing Proxmox on a Mac pro. Maybe it can work on Mac Server too.



On most Macs, Proxmox will install without issues. There are a few hardware versions (very few) which have an odd combination of hardware / nics / bluetooth that Proxmox hangs.

A HP Microserver Gen 10 gives even more bang for your buck, with a max of 32 GB RAM…

My 2 cents

…but not compared to hardware you already own…


Depending, Mac Minis with Mac Server came with a max of 16 GB RAM. (Last gen, quad core i7 CPU)
The Gen10 (was comparing to a Gen7/8) can handle 32 GB RAM…

A Mac Pro can handle more RAM, true, and handle a higher power bill easily too…

I use Mac a lot, have run Mac Pros as Proxmox (To run MacOS virtualized, legally!) and also Mac Minis. I even still have a couple running for clients.

As a old saying goes among database programmers: There’s only ONE replacement for RAM, and that’s MORE RAM !!! :slight_smile:

My 2 cents

I had a quick look, correct me if I’m wrong. Proxmox installs as an OS? VirtualBox runs on macOS, it has a dedicated macOS installer, all very easy and Mac like. My searches for “Proxmox Mac” returned mostly people having trouble getting macOS to run as a guest.

My current setup works for me. I’m file sharing via macOS Server, soon just via macOS as Server is discontinued. Mail, CardDav and CalDav are taken care of by Nethserver.

Yes, I have thought of a “PC”, an Intel NUC perhaps. If I did this I don’t really need a virtualiser, do I? I can just install NS on the machine.

Two things keep me with the Mac though. File sharing on Linux is hard. You can’t just plug a new hard drive in, there’a a whole bunch of command line fiddling about to mount it. You all may do this all the time and find it easy. It took me a couple of days just to mount one hard drive for NS to use as a backup. So I’ll also need new HDs, learn how to mount them, learn how to share to Macs via SMB and transfer the data over.

Backup is the other thing I know how to do on a Mac. We use ChronoSync extensively to backup Macs and hard drives to on and off-site locations. Its all set up and works very well automatically. I haven’t seen anything as nice in the PC world and although I’m sure Nethserver can do much the same, it will be a lot of setting up and monitoring.

But let me know where I’m wrong.



Proxmox does install “as an OS”, as you term it. It’s actually just as fast and as easy to setup on a Mac as MacOS.

I’ve used VirtualBox and Parallels on a Mac. It’s great for testing or playing around.

But I do networking for a job. Clients pay me to get the job done, and done well! Downtime costs money, my clients have to pay salaries for people who can’t work…

A Mac (I’m writing this on my 8 year MacBook Pro Retina 2012 right now!) is very solid, works as expected, but just can’t compare as a foundation. A Mac will easily need 12 or more reboots a year (Downtime!) if you keep your Mac up to date. Proxmox get’s far more updates than a Mac - but only needs 1 -2 reboots a year!

Besides which, a Mac OS needs and uses resources for GUI and other stuff, which Proxmox does NOT need!

NethServer Backups are quite easy to set up, after which it “just works”! I do my backups to a NAS, using NFS.

I can do live Backups on Proxmox of almost anything - no issues or slowing down. My Macbook uses TimeMachine, that works well. But the system is very much slower when backing up. Proxmox is much sleeker. I do all Backups to a NAS (Synology) but any NAS which can handle NFS is ok… Very fast to set up and runs automatically according to shedule. As much Backups as you want or need…

Administration is done almost fully from the web console, even desktops are in a html5 browser, and very quick too…

Sure you can do a “native” install of NethServer on any hardware. I did server native installs until about 2000, that concept is sooo dated!. No snapshots, no live backups - these are critical issues in a productive environment! Even for at home, a virtualized environment has a better WAF factor (Wife acceptency factor!), when things at home run smoothly!

Do it like the rest of the world does nowadays, a server is only installed virtualized, on a decent Hypervisor (like Proxmox, in my opinion the best!).

Here’s a friends Home Network, all running on Proxmox, even the firewall (OPNsense, open-source freeware like NethServer and Proxmox). This guy has two Macbooks, and a Mac Mini at home, besides an iPad and iPhone…

My 2 cents


Yes, you could, but there are a number of advantages to installing a virtualization platform (Proxmox/ESXi/xcp-ng), and then putting Neth on top of that. A few, in no particular order:

  • You can do other things with that hardware at the same time–you aren’t locked into just running Neth on that hardware.
  • This means it’s trivial to set up a test environment, a development environment, play with some new software, etc.
  • Proxmox, at least (and I’m sure the others do as well) supports snapshots of your VMs. I use this on my Neth test VM–I install everything, set it up for my basic environment, and then take a snapshot. I can then roll back to that snapshot as many times as I want, and see how (whatever I’m testing) works on a clean installation, without worry that it’s been corrupted or confused by something else.
  • Snapshots also help when you’re installing or upgrading something, and you aren’t sure how well it will work–take a snapshot before doing the installation/upgrade. If it doesn’t go well, you can roll back to your last known-good setup.
  • It’s easy to set up VM templates. For example, I play with a lot of different software, and most of it has documentation for installing on Ubuntu. I’ve done a basic Ubuntu server installation in a VM and made that a template. Now, any time I need a clean Ubuntu VM, I simply make a clone of that template–it can be up and running in a few seconds.
  • Backups can now be arranged centrally–the methods/targets/software supported by your guest OSs just don’t matter.

It’s true that a lot of this can be done with VirtualBox as well (though I’m not sure about the last two points)–and as I said, I like it just fine for desktop stuff. I run it on my Macbook when I want a Linux environment. But I haven’t found that it has the robustness or stability to be really suitable for running servers 24x7; that seems better suited to a different product.

Still not a fan of this, though–but whatever my philosophical feelings on the subject as a practical matter, my firewall is going to stay “on the metal”. It (and the Internet service entrance) are 60-70m away (and in a different building) from my main server rack.


I’m also NOT a fan of putting the firewall in a VM - but if the circumstances require it, or the client, or for testing…

As known, I prefer using a dedicated firewall box, in my case OPNsense.

My 2 cents

It’s worth more than 2c Andy.

So if I understand, your friend has a PC/Mac running Proxmox with five (?) virtual machines including Nethserver and Windows as well as OPNsence. If was to do this I wouldn’t use a Mac, that’s a waste of cash if I’m not using the Apple ecosystem. Especially as you’re suggesting use a NAS for file sharing.

What’s ABHO-PVE-1ILO? And is there an internet modem somewhere here? I’m going to guess either Nethserver or the Netgear switch act as a DHPC server? If my ISP happened to let me have more than one IP address would that be useful?

TimeMachine is terrible! Do yourself a favour and get ChronoSync! My ChronoSync runs in two directions, I’m backing up from here to a remote site and the remotes site’s Mac is backed up to here. Plus my MacBook is backing itself up locally over the LAN and via the WAN when I’m out and about. It’s that flexibility I like and assume is going to be hard to replicate if I remove a Mac from the server equation. What’s going to connect to my local server and back it up offsite?

Food for thought, thanks.


Almost ALL HP Proliant servers include HP-ILO (Integrated Lights Out), an out-of-band management interface (Using it’s own NIC) to start/stop/manage/install a HP server. Like a glorified IPMI…

The Internet Modem is not shown, as it’s a vDSL in Bridge Mode. It’s connected to the ABHO-OPNsense box, (That’s the firewall).IPs are given out from the firewall. It’s also the first starter on the VM, so if a reboot is needed, I can remote in with VPN after 2-3 minutes…

I’ve got a doctors place as a client, he’s running two Proxmox on two Mac Minis, and one on a big fat new HP Server. The Macs were too old to use 10.14, they were stuck at 10.13. Quite OK, as is, but we wanted all Macs to use the same system, 10.14…
The Mac Minis were too old to use as “Macs”, but more than good enough for Proxmox. (Both 16 GB RAM, SSD).

TimeMachine works well for me, and I store my images Off-Site too - I control the replication mechanism from my NAS using rsync… But I’ll still have a good look at Chronosync.
Life is also about learning new stuff… :slight_smile:

My 2 cents

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I use 3 ZOTAC ZBOXes CI 327nano to build an Proxmox HA-Cluster. Each one for round about 150 bucks from ebay with SSD und 16 GB RAM.

They are running with low energy and passiv cooling.

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I love these graphics. Do they come from Proxmox? Maybe that will persuade me!

So @capote, I wonder why you bought three Zotacs rather than one slightly bigger machine and run all the VMs from it?

Graphics are done i believe through Zabbix hosted on NS.