Readers send tips on SBS 2003

By Brian Livingston

The last issue of Brian’s Buzz on Jan. 29 featured a review of Small Business Server (SBS) 2003, Microsoft’s new bundle of Windows Server 2003, Exchange Server 2003, Outlook 2003, and other products. The thrust of my article was that the list price of SBS 2003 with 5 users ($599 in U.S. dollars) was far below the list price of a similar configuration of Windows Server 2003 ($999) and Exchange Server 2003 ($1,034) alone, not to mention the price of the other components that are included in the new version of SBS. Microsoft, under competitive pressure in the small-server space from Linux, is definitely making its bundled pricing very attractive.

This article stimulated a number of very thoughtful tips that were sent in by readers. I’ve included as many of these below as possible. My thanks to everyone who submitted suggestions, even those I couldn’t print because of duplication or whatever.

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A few other readers sent in brief, worried comments along the lines of, “How can you recommend another Microsoft product?” and “Aren’t Microsoft products buggy?”

I’d like to reassure those correspondents, and all of my readers, that I’ll always remain critical of Microsoft when it’s done something dumb. I’m not wedded to Microsoft products. My own Web sites – BriansBuzz.com, BrianLivingston.com, and others that are still in development – are located on a Linux Web host running Apache software and my own in-house code written in PHP.

At the same time, when Microsoft is offering a bundle of software with a list price that’s only 1/3 of its customary list, I think it’s news that’s worth seriously looking into.

My review specifically stated that SBS 2003 was primarily for small businesses that have decided to install a network based on Windows Server 2003 and Exchange Server 2003. If that’s not the direction you’re heading in, then SBS 2003 won’t be very interesting to you. In my own small business office, most of my staff’s half-dozen PCs – which now log on to an SBS 2003 server – will continue to run Windows 2000 rather than being upgraded to Windows XP, because W2K is a solid product and my dislike of many XP “features” is well known.

Having said that, let’s get right into the useful tips that readers have sent in about the new edition of Small Business Server:

Don’t overlook Windows Server for Small Business Server
Mike Smith writes in about a separate product called, confusingly, Windows Server for Small Business Server 2003.

  • “Besides SBS 2003, Microsoft also has a product named Windows Server for Small Business. The Open License ERP with 5 CALS is $379, additional CALS are 5 for $303. I don’t know if a retail package is available. Uses of this include providing application terminal services (no longer possible on SBS 2003, it was on SBS 2000), additional domain controllers, SQL servers, etc. I do not believe that you are required to have SBS 2003 in order to purchase this.”

Windows Server for Small Business Server is a limited server product, which includes the same version of Windows Server 2003 that is in SBS 2003 but without Exchange Server 2003, Outlook 2003, or any of the other bundled products. In addition, the limited server can support only up to 15 concurrent users, not 75 as with SBS 2003.

Microsoft says the list price for Windows Server for Small Business Server is $479 with 5 user Client Access Licenses (CALs). Up to 10 additional CALs can be purchased for a list of $79 each. Street prices are shown in reader Smith’s remarks above.

For information about this product, visit Microsoft’s FAQ page on SBS 2003. Click the box that says, “View all answers.” After the FAQ has expanded to show both questions and answers, search the page for “Windows Server 2003 for Small Business Server” and “Windows Server for Small Business Server” (these are two separate Q-and-A sections).

Retail may offer better support
Peter MacEwen compares his experience of buying retail versions of SBS with OEM versions:

  • “The big difference we have seen with OEM vs. retail copies of SBS is the support offered. OEM copies require that the OEM support the product, which some do well, others not well at all. Retail copies, while requiring you to do a full install, receive support from MS. We have found MS support for SBS much better than the OEMs.

    “Nice to see that SBS now installs from the DVD, SBS 2000 included the DVD but could not be installed from it.

    “Oh, one other thing. We have long suggested that users use a proper hardware router to connect their network to the Internet, rather than rely on MS’s rather porous and hard to configure software firewall.”

Limitations of SBS and when it’s appropriate
Frank Revi provides an excellent overview of the pros and cons of choosing SBS, especially the difficulties when a business already has an Active Directory installation:

  • “You might want to mention some of the limitations inherent in Windows Server in SBS. As an IT consultant in the target space, I find the following things relevant:

    • SBS must be installed at the root of a new Active Directory domain structure and must perform all the Operations Master Roles;

    • Domain trusts are disabled.

    “This combination makes it difficult and expensive to integrate into existing Active Directory environments, which a lot of small businesses already have.

    “Also, the included Exchange Server and SQL Server components must run on the SBS server machine itself, which is much different than the regular licenses for these products.

    “Even in firms with only a handful of people, best practices are to put these functions (and even the AD domain controller functions) on different machines. That way they can be maintained separately, and when any one of the major pieces breaks, the others don’t have to come down to fix it. Even if not done initially, it’s shortsighted to foreclose those options.

    “So I find SBS appropriate only in situations where there’s little existing infrastructure and where the IT system is not mission critical to the operation of the business. Or where budget trumps absolutely everything, but that typically precludes the professional help you astutely recommend for its implementation.”

SharePoint is part of Office XP, not Office 2003
In my review, I didn’t include a list price for SharePoint Services, which is included with SBS 2003, because I said it was a part of Office 2003. Mike Walsh, a reader in Helsinki, Finland, points out that it’s actually a part of Office XP:

  • “I found your SBS 2003 article very interesting, but noticed a minor error in the list of products included with SBS 2003 Standard Edition.

    “SharePoint Services (actually correctly named Windows SharePoint Services) is not part of Office 2003.

    “Whereas the earlier SharePoint Team Services (STS) product was supplied with FP [FrontPage] 2002 and with Office XP versions that included FP 2002, Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) is considered by Microsoft to be a (free) add-on to Windows 2003 Server.

    “It is included in Project Server 2003 and SBS 2003; and is the foundation of SharePoint Portal Server 2003 but is not included in any Office 2003 package beyond those.

    “Although development work on it was (and is) done by the Office team at Microsoft, you will find the support page for it at the Windows Server 2003 part of the Microsoft site.”

Customer Relationship Management now bundled
A reader named Eric sent word of another bundling deal that’s being offered to entice small-business owners to install yet another Microsoft product:

  • “Microsoft recently announced an offer that includes with SBS 2003 Premium a bundle of MS CRM with 5 Standard Sales Clients. That’s about $3,000 of CRM software included in the bundle.

    “Just as you suggested on the install of the server software, find a technology partner to help. Best to find a certified CRM partner that has actually assisted a company with CRM before. With the new license of CRM, any MS partner can sell it. And there is a very big difference between SQL knowledge and Customer Relationship Management knowledge.”

According to a recent article in CRN, formerly Computer Reseller News, Microsoft in January starting offering remarkably cheap pricing on its CRM product to owners of SBS 2003 Premium, the SBS version that includes SQL Server 2000 as well as Exchange Server 2003. The offer is available solely to users of SBS 2003 Premium because Microsoft’s CRM software requires SQL Server.

SBS 2003 Premium owners can now get copies of Microsoft CRM Sales 1.2 for up to five users at only $99 per seat, CRM says. The list price for the CRM 1.2 product, which became available near the New Year, is $395 per named user.

If you’re interested, Microsoft has a TechNet page with several tips about using MS CRM Server with SBS 2000, most of which should also apply to SBS 2003.

Thanks to you, too
Finally, I’d like to take a moment to print a compliment. Alex Bakaysa was one of several readers who sent in remarks such as the following, lauding me for installing SBS 2003 and describing its features and quirks in simple language:

  • “The January 29, 2004, Issue 22, on SBS 2003 was simply fantastic. CALs, installation hassles, tips, etc. Thanks for your explanations! You boiled down a lot of technical stuff with easy ‘how to’ stuff and tips. I never had the patience to try to understand the official Microsoft spiel on the basics that you went over.”

It makes all the research I do for Brian’s Buzz worthwhile when I hear that the information I dig up on the wide world of Windows is helpful to you out there. In case I haven’t said so recently, thanks again to everyone for sending in the tips that spark my research into all the various dark corners of computing.

To send me more information about SBS 2003, or to send me your findings on any other subject, visit WindowsSecrets.com/contact.

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2004-02-12: