Summary.

I don't think every product that Microsoft ships is great, one or two embarrass me. Most are good. But this one is brilliant. It gives me the same great feeling I get when I open Visual Studio to start working on a new project.

Details.

I just sat in on 1.5 hr demo of Small Business Server 2008. My first impression was "Wow, it's changed". My perception of SBS was based my exposure to it in the late '90's. It was junk. The only reason you'd deploy it was because it was cheaper that buying all the individual components; Exchange, SQL, SMS etc separately. The problem was the products did not work well together on the same box. It was clearly a marketing price point thing consisting of crippled version of the full products & it showed. The only time I used it was when trying to assist partners who'd got into trouble installing it at their customers. So any business I worked on, we installed the full versions of Exchange, SQL etc.

This new product is very different. Its actually worth looking at. 

You can see it has been designed from the ground up to meet the needs of a smaller company. One who's IT Dept is likely to be the receptionist. My second feeling was "I'd really like to take time off work, find a small business & set them up on it". It is so cool, is just fun to play with. You'd be in & out in no time, & have the whole company singing your praises. It presents them with a system that is not jargon. 

What's cool about it?

  • It does what they want. One of the setup options asked "Would you like your business to be on the Internet?". If yes, it asked you a few questions, asked for your credit card & set you up. It registered a domain name, gave you a home page, correctly set the security etc. My dad could do it.
  • I loved the checklist (with wizards) to ask you about your business, give you an explanation of the ramifications of your choices  & then setup that part of the system. Again in fairly plain English.

SBS_BusinessCapacity

  • It creates an Internal & External Website called CompanyWeb (but the wizard can quickly change it to your company name.) It is sharepoint, but with better explanations of what to do next.
  • It sets up Shared folders & Websites.  Employees can use the Internet to get secure access files on office PC's & Servers. Sure VPN & tunnelling is not new but has been beyond the capability of most small business to set it up securely. Now it is easy. 
  • They get email based on the Exchange engine. And Server based security; users & groups.
  • best of all there is the Windows Small Business Server 2008 Best Practices Analyzer which will examine the whole system & highlight configuration errors & issues that someone may need to review.
    • This reduces the cost of having an external IT person remotely give the system the once over.

Final thoughts.

Note: it is limited to 75 employees. There is a big brother product called Windows Essential Business Server 2008. It too is nice, but much closer to what you already get with the individual products. The most unique thing is you buy 1 product but install different pieces of it over a range of servers; Exchange on one, Systems Centre on another, fileserver on another. The Premium edition ships with SQL Server 2008 Standard. (the 2003 version only had SQL Workgroup) So now you get access to BI, Data Mining, ETL tools & a lot more capability in your database.

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