Microsoft Steps Up to the Small-Biz Plate

By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2001-03-26

Do your small-business customers want either a Linux or Windows 2000 server solution? If they do, youll be glad to know that there are several easy options you can pursue to bring a major-league operating system to their minor-league networks.

For your Microsoft customers, the best option may be Microsofts Small Business Server 2000 (SBS2K). It comes with the Windows 2000 server, Exchange 2000, Internet Security and Acceleration Server 2000 (firewall, Web cache and Net connectivity management), SQL Server 2000, and a shared fax service. The Win2000 server also includes Internet Information Server and other Net applications, such as FrontPage 2000, for small Web sites.

All of those programs, however, must run on a single server. Microsoft has done serious tuning on Exchange and SQL Server to make them fit on a single server. According to Microsoft, you can run SBS2K on as little as a Pentium II 300MHz processor with 128MB of RAM. The company recommends, though, that you use at least a 500MHz Pentium III with 256MB of RAM. We found even these recommended settings to be on the low side.

After trying lower-powered systems, we tested SBS2K on a Dell PowerEdge 1300 with twin 500MHz Pentium IIIs and half-a-gigabyte of RAM, where SBS2K ran well.

Dont get any starry-eyed ideas about using this $1,499 server and five-client access license (CAL) package for your regular SQL and Exchange customers. Both the OS and applications are limited to no more than 50 workstations.

SBS2K also enables you to easily manage multiple customers servers. The combination of remote management tools and the new Health Monitor—which not only monitors server conditions but also can be set to react to them—makes SBS2K very attractive to integrators with customers who need only part-time administrators.

The bad news is that SBS2K doesnt work and play well with other servers. The server must be set up as the root domain controller of an Active Directory (AD) forest. Forget about deploying it as a local branch-office server for a larger network. Adding insult to injury, you also cant establish trust relationships with external NT domains or other AD forests, and the SBS2K Exchange Server cant connect to other Exchange servers outside its own domain.

What all of that means is that SBS2K is strictly a small-business server package. If your client outgrows it, you really have no choice but to shift them over to the full-sized Business Office Server 2000. But if your customers are unlikely to grow beyond SBS2Ks hard limits, its an excellent choice.

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