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« New FIRST4TECH 'Virus removal service' | Main | Microsoft Small Business Server 2008 »

Microsoft Small Business Server 2011

As promised, here is a follow up to my previous post about Microsoft Small Business 2008 now that I have had chance to take a look at the newly released SBS 2011.

The first thing with Microsoft Small Business Server 2011 is the addition of a new ‘flavour’ of the product known as Essentials. Whilst unfortunately not available to test at the time of writing this, it appears to be a quite different version of the SBS package to what we’re used to seeing. It allows a maximum of 25 users (with no CAL’s required for user access) and seems very much based around cloud services such as Hosted Exchange for email and Sharepoint for file storage. I do have reservations about cloud computing when so many parts of the UK (particularly in the South West) struggle to get a reliable broadband connection to support its use. I hope to do a better review of SBS 2011 Essentials later in the year when it becomes available.

SBS 2011 Standard delivers the same as the previous 2008 version but with an upgrade to Exchange 2010 and Sharepoint 2010 all running under Windows 2008 R2.  Most significantly, this change has dramatically increased the minimum requirements for the server hardware. The minimum recommended spec is now a Quad Core processor with 10Gb RAM!  This could prove to be quite a financial hit and potential barrier to entry for a small business purchasing a new server, adding at least a few hundred pounds on to the hardware costs. Exchange 2010 appears to be the driving force behind the hike in system requirements; however Exchange 2010 feels very similar in operation and to the normal business with users running Microsoft Outlook I am not entirely sure they will ever notice a difference. There are some very nice improvements, albeit mostly aesthetic, to Outlook Web Access.

Sharepoint 2010 now runs the Remote Web Workplace platform which from initial testing looks to be much improved upon, allowing users to log in and access email and shared folders as well as the ability to create Remote Desktop Connections to designated workstations (or a Terminal Server).  All of this is accessed via a single login web interface. I can certainly see this eventually becoming used a lot more among remote/home workers, with the potential to supersede the traditional dial-up VPN, mapped network drives or manual RDP sessions that are so commonplace at the moment.

There is also a Premium add-on of SBS 2011 which comes with SQL Server 2008 R2 for Small Business.  This can be added to both Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials and Standard, providing the ability to run a vast number of line-of-business applications on an additional server. In most cases this should drastically reduce licensing costs and offer greater flexibility in deployment options. I like this!

So would I use it?  Well, in a word, yes! Whilst there are not any massive changes to the previous 2008 product I still think SBS 2011 offers the best and most economical way of delivering a very good small business server platform and it looks to have built on the previous 2003 and 2008 versions in a very nice way. It has some much improved migration tools (at last!) for those upgrading from older versions of SBS which is a very welcome addition. The hike in system requirements and subsequent increase of hardware cost are a pain and I have doubts that the new features are significant enough that would look to upgrade an existing SBS 2008 deployment to 2011. That said, for a business with a Small Business Server 2003 that’s approaching end of life then this looks to be the perfect solution.

Overall a good product refresh from Microsoft in my opinion.


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