Introduction to Microsoft Small Business Server 2003

A few weeks back, I attended a Microsoft Event which was supposed to provide a technical overview of Microsoft Small Business Server (SBS) 2003. I was a bit disappointed with the quality of the event (and it looks like I wasn’t the only one) but it did at least give me a chance to see SBS, a product to which I have had very little exposure, mostly because my work tends to be with medium and large corporate environments and SBS is aimed at smaller businesses.

Despite its small business focus, SBS does seem to have quite a following and there were clearly many people in the audience with significant experience of the product – some of the links at the end of this post may also be useful for further information.

The principle behind SBS is the provision of an environment which runs on a single server, encompassing many of the facilities which would more typically be spread across a number of servers in a corporate environment, but which remains easy for a small business to deploy and manage. This does cause some complications (e.g. likely resource conflicts from the presence of SQL Server and Exchange Server on the same physical server) and also means that some of the product versions on which SBS is based are not the latest versions available as a standalone product (e.g. ISA Server 2000 – not 2004).

SBS is available in two editions – standard and premium. Both versions have the same base components (Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition, Exchange Server 2003 Standard Edition, Windows SharePoint Services Business Intranet, routing and remote access services, mobile user/device support, remote web workplace, shared network resources, backup/restore and task based management), but the enterprise edition is extended to include ISA Server 2000, SQL Server 2000 and FrontPage 2003.

From a management perspective, SBS is intended to allow a small business to be self-sufficient, with separate Administrator and Power User management consoles allowing easy management of users and computers along with wizards to assist in backing up and restoring data (including monitoring and reporting). Remote access is simplified with a number of wizards and the remote web workplace (http://servername/remote/) whilst intranet creation is handled with the WSS-based business intranet (http://servername/companyweb/), e-mail capabilities are provided through Exchange and enterprise edition users have access to SQL Server databases and improved internet security through ISA Server (SBS standard edition includes the standard Windows Firewall, which may be adequate for many small businesses but might not be flexible enough for others – having said that, I would probably place standard edition behind an Internet router with its own firewall capabilities).

Overall, SBS looks good, but the co-hosting of so many components on a single device (and Microsoft’s deliberate restrictions on scalability) mean that there are many gotchas to watch out for. To find out more, check out the following links:

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