Microsoft finally shipped Windows Small Business Server (SBS) 2008 last Wednesday, ending the long wait for the next iteration of Microsoft's small business offering. In addition, Microsoft's first-ever offering for mid-sized business, Windows Essential Business Server (EBS) 2008, was simultaneously launched. Both the SBS and EBS products are branded under the Windows Essential Server Solutions line and come as part of Microsoft's $6.5 billion annual investments in products, support programs and incentives designed to attract customers from the SMB segment.
SBS 2008 comes with Windows Server 2008, Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, Microsoft SQL Server 2008 and Windows SharePoint Services 3.0. EBS 2008, on the other hand includes Windows Server 2008, Microsoft System Centre Essentials 2007, Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, Forefront Threat Management Gateway and Microsoft SQL Server 2008.
Beyond the included software products, the differentiator in the EBS 2008 bundle is that it has been assembled and priced to support up to 300 users or PCs. This allows Microsoft to target what it defines as midmarket customers, as well as acting as an upgrade path for existing small business users who are already at 65 and 70 users -- near the limit for SBS.
So what does SBS 2008 bring us?
The key difference to most customers would probably be the inclusion of Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, which replaces Exchange 2003. Do note that Exchange 2007 runs only on 64-bit platforms, which means any form of an in-place upgrade will be impossible for most customers.
Still, it would probably still be worth an upgrade just for Exchange 2007 alone, as it brings with it a host of tangible improvements on a number of fronts. Among other enhancements, expect a much improved Web interface, more features oriented towards Microsoft's push mail solution, and better management and flexibility in deployment.
Pricing for SBS and EBS varies depending on locality, of course. Believe me when I say most SMBs can expect to pay significantly less with SBS compared to acquiring the various products and CALs separately. Also, expect a much faster setup and easier maintenance due to the integration work that Microsoft has already done. This in turn means either a low headcount in the IT department, or fewer billable hours in the scenario where IT contractors are used.
What are you waiting for, check it out now!