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One-Stop Shopping for Small Business Customers

Small Business Server is the first step for your customers needing to integrate their business infrastructure.

The idea behind Microsoft's Small Business Server 2003-Premium Edition (SBS-PE) is to have a "one-stop shop," providing everything a customer will need to keep their small business humming along.

SBS-PE packs a huge amount of Microsoft software, tools and services into one package, all configured to run on one server.

The only caveat is SBS-PE has a hard limit of support for 75 client computers before requiring an upgrade to more server capacity. The SBS-PE package includes:

  • Windows Server 2003: This is the baseline OS that runs the additional components, and provides file and print services and dial-up/VPN services via Routing and Remote Access Services (RRAS).
  • Windows SharePoint Services: This allows for inter-office collaboration on documents, calendars and tasks.
  • Exchange Server 2003: The Microsoft e-mail platform includes Outlook Web Access to let users check their corporate e-mail accounts from home or on the road.
  • Shared Fax Service: This lets users send, receive, print and store faxes right from their desks.
  • SQL Server 2000: Applications that need to draw on data repositories use Microsoft's database service to store that data. For instance, Microsoft's CRM application (available separately) will use the built-in SQL Server as its data repository.
  • FrontPage 2003: Comes with SBS-PE so your customers can design their own Web pages to get to SharePoint Services or other Web services.
  • ISA Server 2000: This is Microsoft's industrial-strength firewall for outside protection (see "Get in the Security Door with ISA" ).
  • CALs: Both the standard and premium editions of Windows Small Business Server 2003 support up to 75 client licenses (CALs).

Installing SBS-PE is easy, as it's wizard-driven, like most Microsoft products. Any customer with a little Windows exposure can handle the install process. Once the package is installed, it's also quite easy for your customers to get their first users into the system and get going with e-mail and other basic functions.

Windows Small Business Server 2003-Premium Edition
Release: Standard Edition shipped in October 2003

Base Price: $1,499 with 5 CALs; Windows Small Business Server-Standard Edition: $599 with 5 CALs

Microsoft.com/SBS

The fact that all the components are meant to—and indeed do—run on one server is one of the most amazing aspects of SBS-PE. In larger environments, any IT professional worth his salt would be laughed at for putting all those components on just one box.

Microsoft seems to realize that's a lot to expect from one server, so it has thoughtfully written up an SBS hardware guide to help your customer determine which servers might make the best candidates. If a customer expresses concern about running all of SBS-PE on a single server, you can assure them that it is relatively straightforward to add server capacity with the Add Server Computer Wizard.

A server with multiple processors is another option. SBS-PE can support two physical processors, or as many as four logical processors using hyper-threading, which makes the operating system see a single physical processor as two. In my experience, running all the SBS-PE components on just one box usually works quite well, as long as that box has sufficient capacity.

Competitive Landscape
Microsoft is far and away the leader in this space. A handful of other vendors—including Novell, IBM and Nitix—are pushing for an "all-in-one" design similar to Redmond's comprehensive package, but they're really playing catch-up to SBS-PE.

Novell Small Business Suite 6.5 comes in a license bundle for up to 100 users and includes NetWare 6.5, GroupWise 6.5, BorderManager 3.8, ZENworks for Desktops 4.0 and Nterprise Branch Office.

The IBM Small Business Suite for Linux includes IBM Suites Installer, Lotus Domino Application Server for Linux, Lotus Notes for Windows, IBM DB2 Universal Database Workgroup Edition for Linux, IBM WebSphere Application Server for Linux, IBM HTTP Server for Linux, Lotus SmartSuite for Windows, IBM WebSphere Studio Entry Edition, Lotus Domino Designer for Windows and IBM WebSphere Homepage Builder for Linux.

Nitix includes Web, e-mail, file and print services, plus additional security, backup and disaster recovery features. Nitix is interoperable with existing Windows, Macintosh and Linux desktops, as well as Microsoft, Novell and Red Hat servers, so customers don't have to overhaul their IT infrastructure. Also, customers can run Nitix on entry-level and older computers, thereby increasing server hardware life cycles.

All three of these solutions use Linux as the back end, however. If Windows is what you want, Microsoft is really the only game in town.

What isn't as obvious at first glance is that Microsoft's real competitor to SBS is Microsoft itself. Indeed, Microsoft's own Windows 2003 Standard Edition and Enterprise Edition compete with SBS, which sometimes gets treated as a second-class citizen. For instance, SBS has its own service packs that always come out after the equivalent service pack for the full versions of Windows.

For customers that outgrow SBS and need to move on to something bigger, Microsoft has a Transition Pack that removes the 75-license limit. However, this Transition Pack doesn't do the actual work of making the transition. That job is left to you, as the VAR or consultant. Enterprising folks like those at SBSmigration.com make a living out of migrating companies from SBS. The company even has a "Swing-it!" kit specifically meant to guide technical staff through this process.

Spotlight Highlights

Key Features

  • Includes comprehensive package of small business software
  • All software designed to run on a single server
  • Easy, wizard-driven configuration
  • Flexible growth pattern—simple process to add server capacity if needed or get around 75-client maximum

Competitors

  • Novell Small Business Suite 6.5
  • IBM Small Business Suite for Linux
  • Nitix
  • Microsoft's own Windows 2003 Standard and Enterprise Editions

Opportunity Assessment

  • Designed for small businesses; also good choice for new customers
  • Ability to sell additional products and services when businesses grow out of SBS
  • Programs from Microsoft to sell SBS with Microsoft CRM

Marketing and Sales
SBS is an important focus area for Microsoft these days, and its Web site is packed with quality marketing and sales material. You'll find case studies, general details about positioning SBS, comparisons of SBS-Standard Edition and SBS-Premium Edition, and descriptions of some of its marketing programs—specifically how you can capitalize on the release of SBS-PE with SP1 and how Redmond is encouraging partners to co-market SBS with Microsoft Business Solutions CRM (Microsoft CRM).

With the release of SBS-PE with SP 1, you have the opportunity to contact your existing SBS customers and sell them additional services and other Microsoft small business products. By upgrading your customers to this version, you can assure them they have the latest service packs for all the individual components.

Customer relationship management (CRM) also presents a prime marketing opportunity for SBS. If your small business customers need to better manage sales opportunities and customer information, encourage them to consider Microsoft CRM in conjunction with SBS-PE. The benefits to you include incremental services revenue; the opportunity to offer your customers a complete solution and build your relationship; and the ability to drive sales of SBS-PE, Office 2003 and Windows XP.

In early February, Microsoft announced special pricing on Microsoft CRM for SBS customers, where they can save up to 50 percent of the purchase price.

The Final Word
Microsoft's SBS-PE really is at the top of the small-business server game. It's easy to install, easy to maintain, has wide support and there are lots of potential customers. Those are the major upsides.

The potential issue of outgrowing and upgrading from SBS is a job in itself. While that is a potential concern that you should be prepared to address, it could also represent opportunity for additional sales and service revenues down the road.

With that said, if you're looking to get your foot in the door with new customers who might not have an integrated technology infrastructure, SBS-PE is an excellent choice with which to get started.