Test Center review: Small Business Server 2008 gets "small" right
Microsoft's revamp of SBS takes the sting out of setup and admin for IT-challenged shops, without sacrificing the functionality that all businesses needFollow @infoworld
A small business is not necessarily a simple business. That rather basic lesson has taken much of the computer industry far too many years to learn. Successful SaaS vendors have realized that small businesses need the same sort of functions and support that large enterprises get – just in smaller quantities. Clearly Microsoft has come to the same realization with the release of Small Business Server 2008.
Small Business Server (SBS) is designed to be the only software sitting at the center of a small-business network. The wealth of functionality includes Windows Server 2008, Exchange Server 2007, Office Live Small Business 2008, Windows SharePoint Services, and Windows Server Update Services. Network and server security are available with SBS, though they’re not included in the basic price. You’ll get a trial license for ForeFront and Windows Live OneCare, which extend malware coverage to Exchange and all Windows clients on the network. If you want to continue to use them, though, you’ll have to pay for additional on-going licenses.
[ See the Test Center's reviews of other Microsoft servers: Windows Server 2008, Hyper-V and Virtual Machine Manager, Exchange Server 2007 and Office Communications Server 2007, InfoPath 2007 and Office Forms Server 2007, Office Groove Server 2007, and Office SharePoint Server 2007. ]
If you opt for Small Business Server Premium, you'll also get SQL Server 2008 configured to run on a separate server. That second server could also function as a Terminal Services server, opening up thin-client and point-of-sale options for many deployments.
Sound expensive? In fact (wonder of wonders), Microsoft has come up with a licensing model that should make it easier for a small businesses in the real world to afford SBS. Microsoft has also made it easy for IT staff – be they internal or contracted – to configure and maintain all SBS functions. Administration of the package is extremely well done.
The two-tiered staff
When I spoke with Microsoft reps before beginning the review process, they told me that focus groups pointed out a two-tier model for IT support in many small businesses. The first tier is internal IT staff, usually a single individual whose business card should probably read "utility infielder." This IT generalist has to keep up with all the server, client, and application software for the company, as well as tend to all the hardware. Their knowledge is broad, but may not be terribly deep on any given topic. Deep product expertise, when it's needed, typically comes from an outside contractor assigned to specific projects, like setting up servers or applications. That's the second tier.