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
Microsoft's response to this two-tier support structure provides two distinct ways of making most things happen within SBS. The first tier is a series of wizards and control panels that draw heavily from Vista's look and feel. For most basic tasks, these work well and provide just enough hand-holding to keep you from getting lost if you don't spend your working life on this one product.
The trade-off for ease of use is fine-grain control; there are levels of functionality that you just can't get to from the bright colors and big buttons. For tasks where you do need to get more intimately involved with SBS's inner workings, the Windows Management Console is available. Consultants and specialists who spend a good deal of time working with Windows Server will quickly take to this familiar interface.
Small Business Server doesn’t wrap all the management functions for the server-based applications into a single interface, and you can’t say that all the applications (in their various versions) use a consistent interface. SBS does, however, provide the dual interfaces for the operating system, and all the applications are consistent in the use of Windows Management Console at the highest level.
Setting up SBS
If you're like the vast majority of folks who buy Windows Small Business Server, you won't care about the hardware requirements for the operating system because it will come pre-installed from a vendor. If you want to install SBS on a machine you already have, make sure the hardware has a 64-bit processor, at least 4GB of RAM, and at least 60GB free on the hard disk. Oh, yes, you'll also need a bootable DVD-ROM (not simply a CD-ROM) from which to install the software.
Note that SBS will run on a single-core platform, though you'll almost certainly be happier with at least a dual-core CPU. In my testing, I found one piece of hardware that could be a huge problem if you're installing on existing hardware: the NIC. Because Microsoft assumes that most companies will buy SBS pre-installed on hardware the vendor has configured, it didn't spend a lot of time writing hundreds of drivers for legacy NICs. I suspect that the list of supported NICs will grow as SBS goes through the early release stages (I was looking at various release candidates, which tend to be solid but incomplete). In any case, you'll want to examine carefully Microsoft's technical and release notes before committing to installation on existing hardware.
Setting up SBS involves stepping through a wide swath of the first-tier configuration and administration interface. After you enter basic information like time zone and language, SBS begins to make suggestions to help you along the way. You can override the suggestions, of course, but it's quite possible to get a basic network established by simply clicking "OK" repeatedly. Once the network connections are established, you launch into setting up the various accounts and services required to actually use the server.
A series of "Getting Started Tasks" takes you through the rest of the process, beginning with more detailed network setup. Early on, you have to configure communications with your firewall and tell the firewall that SBS will be handling DHCP for the network. SBS really, truly wants to handle DHCP; it doesn't absolutely have to, but pieces of the built-in security and network management will be quite grumpy if you let the firewall do it. My recommendation is to let SBS do the job.