Baby BackOffice: Small Business Server 2000
For smaller businesses, BackOffice-based Small Business
Server may be the answer.
- By Harry Brelsford
- January 01, 2001
Small Business Server 2000 is a BackOffice-based
solution for small businesses running 50 client
computers or fewer without a full-time technology
professional on staff (talk about a ready-made
opportunity for MCSE consultants!). It’s been
priced aggressively to fit the small business
budget, with five-user configurations starting
at around $1,500.
You might be interested to note that the 50-client
computer limit really understates the capabilities
of SBS. If you’ve worked with small businesses,
you know that many small businesses can have hundreds
of employees, but fewer than 50 client computers.
An Alaskan fishing company based in the Seattle
area, counting seasonal employees, had a full-time
head count approaching 1,000 people at times.
However, it only had 25 client computers in a
relatively small office, making it an ideal candidate
for SBS. The other employees were on the boats
in Bristol Bay, Alaska, and other out-of-the-way
spots like the Bering Sea.
It’s important to understand that with the release
of SBS 2000 and BackOffice 2000 Server, MCSEs
in organizations of all sizes can now truly say
they have more in common than keeps them apart.
How can that be, after an era where SBS was so
dramatically different from any other Microsoft
server solution? Simple. The development teams
are essentially one and the same for these releases.
Not surprisingly, the functionality of both products
is largely the same, if you ignore a few differences
in applications that I’ll explain in a moment.
If you learn the Administrator Console in SBS,
then consider yourself knowledgeable about the
one in BackOffice 2000. More importantly, if you
learn one of the products, you can leverage and
be successful with the other. This is good news.
MCSEs serving MORGs can easily scale down to serve
small businesses. More importantly, MCSEs working
with SBS can more easily scale up to pursue work
My suggestion for rookie MCSEs looking to break
into the world of MORG and enterprise-level consulting
would be to consider starting with SBS. By learning
the bundle of BackOffice applications and Windows
2000 Server in small-business environments, you’re
bound to have a gentler learning curve and gain
your confidence before joining in the big leagues.
Any mistake you make early on at SBS is valuable
learning without hurting a large company (not
to say you should go out and necessarily hurt
small companies either, but you get the point).
This strategy of playing farm ball to start is
consistent with how many consultants break into
the profession. Once you have a few clients on
the reference sheet from the SBS community, you
can land your first MORG engagement, ultimately
leading to enterprise-level gigs if that’s your
SBS 2000 contains the same applications as BackOffice
2000 Server — Windows 2000 Server, Microsoft Exchange
2000 Server, SQL Server 2000, ISA Server 2000,
shared modem and fax, and wizards and consoles
— with two exceptions. SBS 2000 doesn’t include
Host Integration Server 2000 or System Management
Server 2.0. Why? These two components fit better
at the MORG-level. Small businesses running SBS
2000 rarely have mainframe or mid-range hosts.
There are also a few subtle differences between
SBS 2000 and BackOffice 2000 Server, one obvious
and the other nearly hidden.
The To Do List is Different
The SBS 2000 To Do List (see Figure A), accessed
via the Small Business Server Administrator Console,
was developed to be more friendly than both the
BackOffice Server 2000 To Do List (see
Figure 5 in "Resizing BackOffice) and
using tools in the Administrative Tools folder
such as Active Directory Users and Computers.
|Figure A. The
SBS 2000 To Do List offers more options than
BackOffice Server 2000.
|Figure B. SBS
2000’s POP3 Gateway is unique to SBS and translates
POP3 email into Exchange-based email...
|Figure C. ...while
BackOffice 2000 has no such POP3 Gateway capability.
The design paradigm behind the SBS 2000 To Do
List is to provide ease of administration capabilities
wherever and whenever possible. You can see this
keep-it-simple-stupid methodology with the Add
Clients Licenses (SBS 2000 enforces client access
licenses with the 50-client computer cap), Add
Users, Add Printer and other links on the To Do
List. I can attest that from both functional usability
and user interface viewpoints, the SBS 2000 To
Do List works very well with small businesses
(and their consultants!). More important, selecting
a To Do List link in the background launches a
sophisticated scripting process, largely hidden
from view, which would require numerous under-the-hood
keystrokes for the network administrator to replicate.
For example, the Add User link launches the Add
User Wizard that allows you to:
Add a Windows 2000 user account to Active
Add an Exchange Server mailbox for the user.
Add the user to both security and distribution
Deploy software on the user’s client computer.
To replicate this functionality in BackOffice
Server 2000, which has no Add User link on its
To Do List, requires the use of several tools,
many more keystrokes than clicking “Next” several
times in SBS 2000’s Add User Wizard, and even
the dreaded software installation component of
Group Policy or the software installation capabilities
of SMS 2.0. As an aside, it’s interesting to note
that the SBS 2000 software installation capabilities
in the Add User Wizard (or alternatively accessed
via the Define Client Applications link) doesn’t
make use of Group Policy and its homogeneous Windows
2000 client requirements. This process in SBS
2000 (which you can customize to include specific
applications) simply requires a Windows installer
file (.MSI) that silently installs without direct
user intervention. Building a Windows installer
file isn’t an especially difficult scripting assignment.
For a backgrounder, read Michael Chacon’s February
2000 NT Insider column, “Inside
POP3 Mailboxes for Exchange
The SBS team developed the Microsoft Connector
for POP3 mailboxes for Exchange Server tool to
fill a critical gap in Exchange 2000 Server. This
tool translates existing POP3 email into Exchange-based
e-mail that’s stored in the Exchange Information
Store (IS). The SBS development team found that
small businesses, prior to the implementation
of SBS, typically used dial-up POP3 accounts such
as email@example.com. Because Internet identities
are hard to shed, these small businesses aren’t
willing to part with POP3 accounts after the introduction
of SBS 2000 (and Exchange Server-based e-mail).
So the POP3 gateway allows small business users
to keep their POP3 e-mail accounts indefinitely.
You might have noticed another interesting email
implementation scenario in Figures B
and C. You can configure
Exchange 2000 Server under SBS 2000 to support
both the POP3 gateway and the native SMTP e-mail
capabilities. Why would you want to do this? Because
when SBS 2000 is introduced into an environment
that previously relied on POP3 e-mail, and has
thus built up a significant Internet identity
around the existing POP3 e-mail address, a reasonable
transition period is required to introduce the
native SMTP e-mail address. In other words, much
like moving to a new house, you need to inform
(and then enforce upon) everyone that you have
a new address.
One of the strongest reasons to consider SBS
2000 (when appropriate) is because of its improvements
in reliability. The first release of SBS (named
version 4.0) had some bad mojo working on it.
Not everything worked correctly when it came to
the SBS Console and its wizards. Hardware restrictions
were bothersome, such as the modem requirements.
This has all changed in SBS 2000. The underlying
Windows 2000 Server installation uses the same
installation steps as you’d use at the MORG and
enterprise level. The modem and other special
hardware requirements are gone. In short, some
of the “BS” has been removed from SBS, making
this product much less mystical and much more
practical in its latest release.