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Microsoft Small Business Server 2008
With Microsoft Small Business Server 2008, Microsoft has added big business functionality to an affordable SME tool.
- Most affordable SBS yet
- Purchase price not as low as Linux
With the release of Small Business Server 2008, Microsoft shows signs of understanding that small businesses have a wider range of server options than ever before. For most small companies, SBS 2008 will provide the basic functions necessary for the business in a package that is easy to set up and administer, and that integrates readily with Microsoft Windows Vista and XP clients. The purchase price won't be as low as Linux, but the polish and ease of use are both high, and the single-user CAL makes SBS 2008 the most affordable SBS yet. Microsoft has been listening — and this time, it shows.
Setting up SBS
If you're like the vast majority of folks who buy Windows Small Business Server, you won't care about the hardware requirements for the operating system because it will come pre-installed from a vendor. If you want to install SBS on a machine you already have, make sure the hardware has a 64-bit processor, at least 4GB of RAM, and at least 60GB free on the hard disk. Oh, yes, you'll also need a bootable DVD-ROM (not simply a CD-ROM) from which to install the software.
Note that SBS will run on a single-core platform, though you'll almost certainly be happier with at least a dual-core CPU. In our testing, we found one piece of hardware that could be a huge problem if you're installing on existing hardware: the NIC.
Because Microsoft assumes that most companies will buy SBS pre-installed on hardware the vendor has configured, it didn't spend a lot of time writing hundreds of drivers for legacy NICs. We suspect that the list of supported NICs will grow as SBS goes through the early release stages (we were looking at various release candidates, which tend to be solid but incomplete). In any case, you'll want to examine carefully Microsoft's technical and release notes before committing to installation on existing hardware.
Setting up SBS involves stepping through a wide swath of the first-tier configuration and administration interface. After you enter basic information such as time zone and language, SBS begins to make suggestions to help you along the way. You can override the suggestions, of course, but it's quite possible to get a basic network established by simply clicking "ok" repeatedly. Once the network connections are established, you launch into setting up the various accounts and services required to actually use the server.
A series of "Getting Started Tasks" takes you through the rest of the process, beginning with more detailed network setup. Early on, you have to configure communications with your firewall and tell the firewall that SBS will be handling DHCP for the network. SBS really, truly wants to handle DHCP; it doesn't absolutely have to, but pieces of the built-in security and network management will be quite grumpy if you let the firewall do it. Our recommendation is to let SBS do the job.
The Internet Setup Task requires basic knowledge of your domain and registrar information, though a wizard will connect you to a registrar and help walk you through the process if you don't already have a domain in place. In early release candidates, there was a single registrar shown; Microsoft says that they will have several options for domain registration in the final version.
One of the good things about the SBS setup is that it walks you through the process of creating a backup program. In a nod to higher-capacity storage systems and lower-cost USB hard drives, the assumption is that you'll attach one or more USB drives to the system for backup.
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