Microsofts SBS 2000 Puts Power in Bundle

The much-anticipated gold code of Microsoft Corp.'s Small Business Server 2000 comprises a solid suite of products

The much-anticipated gold code of Microsoft Corp.s Small Business Server 2000 comprises a solid suite of products for small- to midsize businesses at an affordable price.

eWeek Labs tests showed that SBS 2000 gold, released last month for $1,499, is a good choice for startups and those installing a computer environment for the first time (with a maximum of 50 clients). However, its diversity of applications and Windows base will mean that most companies will have to hire a Windows 2000 professional to manage the environment. This added expense could be too much for some companies.

Nevertheless, SBS 2000 covers the basics in this third-generation release. Aimed at e-business use, strengthening customer relationships and improving employee productivity, SBS 2000 provides small businesses with standard .Net enterprise servers. In doing so, SBS 2000 offers a one-stop package of e-mail, fax, database and secure shared Internet access capabilities.

Inclusion of the Windows 2000 Server provides businesses with a complex but flexible server, which includes file/print, Internet Information Server 5.0 Web server, Microsoft routing and remote access services, and shared applications.

Exchange 2000 Server, which includes Outlook 2000 clients, offers users a messaging and collaboration server featuring e-mail, shared calendaring, task management, shared contacts, instant messaging and Microsoft NetMeeting conferencing functions. Shared Fax Service allows users to send faxes from their PC via a shared fax modem or interface that administrators can configure for optimal performance.

Microsoft SQL Server 2000 provides a relational DBMS and engine on top of which administrators can run or build line-of-business software systems, and offers an easier way to publish database information via the Internet. ISA Server 2000 provides an Internet firewall and Web cache to protect the network while enabling management of individualized Web policies.

SBS 2000 includes all these components for much less than they would cost if purchased separately. Although a company might not immediately use all these applications, the "extras" could come in handy down the line as the enterprise expands.

Stiff Competition

SBS faces formidable rivals that can also help a small business get its moneys worth. Novell Inc.s Small Business Suite 5.1 bundle offers many of the same or very comparable capabilities and is less expensive, at $1,295. But Small Business Suite requires a Novell professional to set up and manage the network.

IBMs $499 Small Business Pack for Linux is a good alternative for open-source aficionados because it scales to more users. However, it does not include an operating system and falls short of SBS 2000 on security.

SBS 2000s price includes one server license and five client licenses. SBS 2000 includes a Windows 2000 Server and standard editions of Microsofts Exchange 2000 Server, Internet Security and Acceleration Server 2000, SQL Server 2000, and Shared Fax Service.

We tested SBS 2000 with one server and four clients. The testbed included two clients running Windows 98 Server Edition, one running Windows NT Workstation 4.0 and one running Windows 2000 Professional.

Installation took a lot of space on the server—Microsoft recommends at least 256MB of RAM and 4GB of disk space. The integrated setup routine includes help wizards that expedite every step of configuring SBS 2000s applications. It was simple to create user names and add client machines to the network. Administrators can select the policies and programs users receive. Users can then download these programs in one quick step.

A handy installation feature allows administrators to deploy server applications gradually. This gave us the flexibility to allocate some applications to some users, while other users received all applications.

The administrator must assign the SBS 2000 server as the root Domain Controller in the Active Directory, so the SBS server cannot be set up as a divisional server in a large organization with an installed Active Directory.

The Microsoft Management Console allows centralized monitoring and management of services and users. A Health Monitor feature warns administrators of network problems—a key factor for preventing downtime in a network. No rival products offer this.

SBS 2000s included ISA 2000 server supports two-way Web caching, intrusion detection, bandwidth control and integrated virtual private networking and maintains server performance via caching.

Managing SBS 2000 could overwhelm a shop with few IT resources, but the Terminal Services included in Windows 2000 make it easier for a server and host or application service provider to manage the network.