Microsoft Beefs Up SBS

Review: Business Server makes it easier to corral clients.

Many of the improvements Microsoft made to Windows Server between its 2003 and 2003 R2 releases dont apply to the single-server Microsoft Small Business Server 2003 R2, but users will nonetheless benefit from SBS new Windows Software Update Services and Windows SharePoint Services 2.0 SP2 functionality.

Windows SBS 2003 R2 offers companies of 75 or fewer employees access to Microsofts stack of popular back-end business servers at a price thats lower than the products would cost individually.

For organizations already running SBS—particularly those running the now-two-versions-old SBS 2000—an upgrade to SBS 2003 R2 is worth considering. Companies that are out to bring moderately sized packs of free-range Windows clients under control should also consider deploying SBS 2003 R2, as it offers a fairly easy route to rolling out core Windows services to previously unmanaged workgroups of Windows clients.

However, while SBS 2003 R2 can deliver the services required for getting a small organizations IT affairs in order, the product is no silver bullet—companies deploying SBS 2003 R2 would do well to seek the support of a services provider for help with planning and implementation. Also, companies considering SBS 2003 R2 should check out other options, including remotely hosted solutions and some of the emerging Linux-based small-business server products. (See related story on this page.)

Windows SBS 2003 R2 comes with Windows Server 2003, Windows SharePoint Services, Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 SP2, Outlook 2003, Windows Server Update Services and Microsoft Shared Fax service. The product, released this summer, costs $599 and comes with five CALs (client access licenses). One CAL is required for each user or computer within a domain, so an SBS configuration thats maxed out with 75 users would cost about $7,300.

Microsoft also offers a premium version of SBS, which costs $1,299 and adds Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Workgroup Edition, Microsoft Internet and Security Acceleration Server 2004, and Microsoft Office FrontPage 2003.

Microsoft Delivered

SBS 2003 R2 to eWeek Labs preinstalled on a Dell PowerEdge 830 server with a dual-core Intel Pentium D processor and 2GB of RAM. Microsoft recommends running SBS on a system with at least a 750MHz processor and 512MB of RAM. For best results, Microsoft recommends running SBS on a system with at least a 1GHz processor and 1GB of RAM.

We plugged our test server and two clients—one running Windows XP SP2 and one running Windows Vista Build 5744—into a Netgear router that supported configuration via unplug and play.

Our SBS 2003 R2 setup ran relatively smoothly, although we encountered one hiccup: When we shut off our Netgear routers DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) server and instructed SBS to take on the servers duties, SBS did not install a DHCP server as directed. A Microsoft representative told us that, after shutting off DHCP on our router, we should have power cycled the router to ensure that SBS installed its own DHCP server properly. Instead, we had to install the Windows DHCP component through the Add/Remove Windows Components tool.

We appreciated the way that SBS 2003 R2 streamlined the process of configuring clients by enabling us to join clients to our SBS domain and to install, for example, Outlook 2003 by running an ActiveX control from the SBS server.

The latter step entailed adding our SBS server as a trusted site in our clients copies of Internet Explorer. However, after running the SBS client setup, we had to manually disable or reconfigure our clients firewall to manage or take control of the client from our SBS box. Wed like to see the SBS client setup routine push down the needed client firewall configurations as part of the initial client connection routine.

On our Vista test box, we had to right-click IE and choose Run as Administrator to use the ActiveX control, since administrative users (other than the disabled-by-default Administrator account) under Vista run by default as standard-rights users.

We found it somewhat puzzling that SBS 2003 R2, a product charged with bringing Windows clients into a managed environment, opted to create new accounts on our client Windows XP machines with Administrator rights. Under this rights scheme, the users we created were free to do whatever they pleased to the machines wed added to our domain.

Advanced Technologies Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at

Evaluation Shortlist

Collaxs Collax Business Server A Linux-based small-business server thats fronted by a Web management interface (