Microsoft Drops Windows Small Business Server

Paul Mah

Microsoft last week took the wraps off the various editions of Windows Server 2012 that will be generally available in September this year. The software giant says the new lineup delivers a dramatically simplified licensing experience, paring the selection down to just four editions of Windows Server 2012 based on organizational size and virtualization needs.

The entry-level edition will be the OEM-only Foundation edition for use as a general purpose server with no virtualization rights. While the Foundation edition is limited to just 15 user accounts, the Essentials edition for small business environments increases that to a 25-user account limit and can be purchased as a separate component from the server hardware. The Essentials edition also has no virtualization rights and is priced at $425.

Higher up the chain is the Standard edition, which provides full Windows Server functionality with two virtual instances, while the Datacenter extends this to unlimited virtual instances. The Standard edition costs $882, while the Datacenter edition costs $4,809, and aside for the need to purchase CALs (Client Access Licenses), has no account limit imposed on them.

It is quickly evident that there is no longer a Windows Small Business Server (SBS) edition in the new lineup, a special edition of Windows Server targeted at smaller businesses. For SMBs that find themselves perpetually shorthanded, this edition has served to help administrators save time by incorporating capabilities such as file storage, remote access and collaboration tools such as SharePoint and Exchange email into a single, all-in-one operation system installation.

As reported on TheVARGuy.com, Microsoft claims that Windows Server 2012 Essentials with a separate Exchange Server deployment or Office 365 in the cloud "easily fills the SBS void." Even as the report concedes that this decision to drop SBS isn't a "black-and-white" one, it also says that the reason "Microsoft hasn't spoken about actual SBS sales in recent years" is really due to the shrinking small business server market.

Personally, I think the days of on-premise deployments for small businesses are over. While SMBs in the past had no other options but to purchase physical servers and use them to set up services such as file sharing, email and collaboration, these same features can now be found in the cloud at highly affordable rates. Indeed, Microsoft's own Office 365 offers a range of powerful capabilities that include voice and collaboration on a solid cloud platform. Readers not familiar with Office 365 can read my SMB primer for Microsoft's Office 365 or my move to Microsoft's Office 365.

So while I do consider it a loss that Microsoft has decided to drop the well-known Small Business Server brand, the inability to access an all-in-one server edition will only serve to accelerate SMBs towards equally robust cloud options that will help them save on capital expenses.

Is your SMB using Small Business Server at the moment? How does Microsoft's decision to drop SBS affect your plans with regards to adopting Windows Server 2012?

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Aug 17, 2012 7:48 PM Jesse Jesse  says:
I am a Microsoft partner. I have many clients who run SBS in one version or the other. The pricing points and functionality is unmatched. When compared to the price of 50 mailboxes on the cloud, vs CALs On Prem Exchange wins hands down, escpecially over the 5-6 year life of the SBS box. I have many clients who refuse to allow their data onto the cloud no matter how 'secure' it is touted to be. When it is time to upgrade servers after SBS 2011 is no longer open to purchase i will simply switch to a non-MS server solution such as ClearOS. MS screwed its partners in this deal so I will no longer support them. Reply
Sep 29, 2012 9:13 AM Karl Karl  says: in response to Jesse
Agree 100%. I am a small business owner (17 employees) with a physical on-site server running SBS 2003. Our data is client payroll and accounting data - while I'm not especially paranoid in general, there's simply no way I would entrust that data to any third party cloud provider under any circumstances. I think Microsoft is catering to its resellers and didn't bother to check with its end users. Small business owners in general are NOT OK with putting their company's data on the cloud and outside of their control. I'm upgrading to SBS 2011 but not to 2012 or beyond in order to retain that local control (including Exchange). Karl Reply
Oct 2, 2012 8:20 PM daboomer daboomer  says: in response to Karl
A little upset with having to pretty much start my directory over with Novells move to linux with no clear upgrade path, I have been considering MS SBE. I was trying to do a price compare and came across this post. WOW. Makes it pretty easy for me. Once the Linux box is up and running it pretty well manages itself andremote desktop with zen is so functional. and free LAN messenger. I am an I.T. guy in a small organization. The one benefit of having an IT guy is that you don't have to reach across the internet for your data... it's a big benefit!!! Why on earth would we want to reach across the net for our data... We Wouldn't! Going with NOWS SBE... Full steam ahead!!! Reply
Nov 12, 2012 11:41 AM gazza gazza  says: in response to Karl
I am in very much the same position, Currenly run SBS2003 and use pretty most of its server facilities. We heavily use exchange for email and public folders, much of the data being used purely internally. Why would I ever want this data in the 'Cloud' ? If my internet connection goes down I would be screwed with the cloud, rendering internal communication impossible. I am now having to make the decision to upgrade to SBS2011, or pay extra for an exchange server, or possibly Junk MS server products all together. Reply
Nov 20, 2012 9:22 AM larryl larryl  says:
I too am done. I haven't cared for Ballmer's guidance for awhile now, and I'm really tired of dealing with the Microsoft tendency to pickup and put down technology products and directions, much as a child might do. The problem is that when I take the time and make the effort to prepare to sell their latest and greatest, I'm left in the lurch when they recede from the market place. They've done this recently with Essential Servers, and their VoIP phone solutions, and now Small Business Server. The fact is that their cloud offering is not fully baked, they've had a couple of multi-day outages recently, and the infrastructure here in the States is not such that access and utilization is fast, efficient, or guaranteed. Yet, they are so intent on herding us up to the cloud, that they are willing to overlook their shortcomings - I'm not - so count me out of the fold. Reply
Nov 28, 2012 2:41 PM Jeff Jeff  says:
One thing that has ben mentioned VERY little is the network infrastructure when going to cloud services. I have to agree with Larrys comment about the network infrastructure and ask why would someone want to go to a100 Mbps connection or even aGB connection to your data down to what ever your Internet connection speed is? That could be 3Mbps to MAYBE as high as 25 Mbps. That's a big hit in network speed and if your connection goes down you are stuck from doing almost anything since you can't access your data. Like other's who have posted here I'm not ready to put my data into the hands of someone else! Reply
Nov 30, 2012 9:53 PM osman osman  says:
i am a microsoft partner. many clients are using sbs 2011,sbs2008 and were used to use 2003 and 2000 previously. now game is over. bad news for all small businesses. Reply
Dec 13, 2012 12:00 PM Steve Davis Steve Davis  says:
This change caused my business some problems and we had to get a Server Recovery business to sort out our server. The business we got to do this was great they were really efficient and available at a great price. Reply
Jan 31, 2013 3:22 AM Rick Rick  says:
This really stinks I have the way MS does this types of things they do it with programming languages and everything else. Reply
Feb 7, 2013 5:26 AM MattC MattC  says:
I came across this post and read all of the comments. I agree with every one of them including the reference to changes since Balmer took the reigns. More and more the IT software/service providers are pushing for the 'cloud'. Yet every day you hear of instances where websites have been hacked and date and identities stolen. Yet those same companies that are 'hacked' are the same ones pushing the internet's 'security'. Obviously if they didn't push it they would be out of business. Its instances like this that add to the comments about putting my company's or my clients' data on a server belonging to someone I do not know. Then decreasing my bandwidth to my data while at the same time increasing the possibility of not being able to access it at all because my internet connection went down? In an age of redundancy we have decreased our connectivity to a single point of failure in a little circuit??? Not only MS but all of these 'cloud' provider's are pushing 'snake oil' that will eventually kill, or at a minimum stifle, the small business. Reply
Feb 28, 2013 10:50 PM JamieT JamieT  says:
It does look to be a slippery slope. I'm looking to get my Synology NASs running my internal systems. Reasonable costs and highly functional, especially with the latest DSM (currently in beta). Reply
Jun 18, 2013 9:00 PM The Tech Centre The Tech Centre  says:
This biggest problem going to the cloud is the internet connections most small businesses tend to have. The connections will tend to be slower and the cost to add a second line for resilience just isn’t there. Though the problem with SBS is the programs that it’s trying to fit into one box, the hardware requirements are getting insane. Reply
Jul 1, 2013 7:27 AM JnrK JnrK  says:
Narrow minded decision from MS. Especially in emerging markets and developing countries internet connectivity is not/limited available and in best case unstable. For modern countries you have to sign an SLA based internet access contract with your provider or establish a second connection as fallback. In both cases you will never reach the ROI when moving to the cloud. Most SMBs I know had been reluctant to move their data to the cloud and now in the post PRISM era they are proven to be right with this decision. MS is going to loose a lot of SMB business and MS SMB solution selling partners. There are enough on premise alternatives around. Reply
Jul 18, 2013 2:15 AM Dan Dan Dan Dan  says:
How can any IT admin stomach the idea of a company sending data to "the cloud", where it can be bought, sold, stolen and requisitioned by the government? Have people collectively lost their minds? If a cloud service provider goes bankrupt, and someone else acquires their assets, that INCLUDES YOUR DATA. Reply
Aug 30, 2013 12:32 PM Robert Robert  says:
Once again, Microsoft is abandoning the little guys in business, who are working their butts off to become big guys, and now have lost their upgrade path. Microsoft Office Accounting, gone. Microsoft Money, gone. Reply
Oct 1, 2013 9:00 PM Troy Troy  says:
All well and good MS trying to force us to the cloud - but not everywhere has reliable, highspeed internet. In South Africa, cloud isn't a viable option at this point. Reply
Oct 22, 2013 11:47 PM Pierre Pierre  says:
Microsoft has cooked its goose and now the table is set for others to pick up the segment. Microsoft has messed around with everyone for too long. Its time they took a hit. There are alternatives to Windows SBS Server and Office that are free and work well. They've kicked their partners by selling direct and they've kicked their customers but ripping away their segments. Microsoft better fix their nonsense or over time their won't be much nonsense for them to fix. The cloud may be a new alternative but as some realize, not proven safe or bullet proof. Reply
Dec 13, 2013 3:57 PM Don Don  says:
Can someone give me the names of some of the alternative to Window's Server that are free and relatively simple to install and maintain for a small business with fewer than 10 to 20 computers. Reply
Dec 23, 2013 11:21 AM Al_Al Al_Al  says:
Can't fault any of the comments on here. Been a staunch SBS user since 2003, currently running 2011. Looks like this will be my last version of SBS. Like other commentators, there is no way I'm moving my data onto the Cloud. Dodgy T&C's and lack of Bandwidth and reliable broadband make it a 'no-go' option. I can't believe that MS would do something stupid like drop the Small Business segment like it has done. You wonder about the mentality behind the decision. I'll be looking around for alternatives from other vendors. Reply
Jan 2, 2014 4:52 AM Eugp Eugp  says: in response to Al_Al
I'm sorry to also have to chime in and say I am now looking to replace old faithful SBS with something other than MS. Linux, Kerio, Google (Oh how it hurts to say that), but there is no way we'll move forward with a MS on-premise, or cloud (not likely given the security, speed and reliability concerns), solution. What is particularly disturbing is that there was no team voice loud enough within MS to sway them to maintain or grow SBS. It shows how "cloudy" their vision has become. Look for a continued drop in market share. Reply
Jan 20, 2014 9:46 PM Bwc Bwc  says:
I administer an SBS server for 25 users. The Cloud is not an option from a per user price point or from a security point. You will get us off SBS only with alot of kicking an screaming. Forcing us to buy two servers - exchange and a file server - is a HUGE cost burden for a small to medium business. Reply
Mar 10, 2014 8:32 PM InConclusion InConclusion  says: in response to Jesse
My Cloud & Sentinel DX4000 are an example of the direction Microsoft should be pursuing. On site PERSONAL/SMALL BUSINESS CLOUD security and autonomy. The technology affordability are here to do this. That is the very dynamic that large companies are leveraging by now offering their "cloudy" services. So what is cloud giving users? Convenience? At the loss of security, access and autonomy. Then entrapment and Inconvenience when costs accumulate and are increased incrementally every year. Soft losses (loss of business you didn't know you might have had). Onasis started his fortune by eavesdropping on hotel client's phone calls. The time for Open source replacement package for SBS is ripe. The cloud is over our heads and it is going to reign on us. Reply
Apr 1, 2014 2:14 PM RECiPHER RECiPHER  says:
This is such a shame...as the first posters (Jesse & Karl) mentioned, Microsoft has effectively just dropped us long standing Small Business Specialists and Microsoft Partners. It's ironic really....it was only 6 years ago that Microsoft was holding events to inform us all of the great Small Business statistics...now they just dump it & us...thanks. It really is a silly time for Microsoft to risk such a move...like others have alluded...finding alternate solutions that are reliable and secure these days is fairly easy! The monopoly is over and Microsoft pull these stunts!?!?! BILL?!? Reply
Jul 20, 2015 2:23 PM Spectra Spectra  says:
That makes it sound much easier to execute. I need to learn more of these. Reply
Oct 25, 2015 2:50 PM Robert Robert  says:
With Talk Talk being hacked and data breached I am not wanting to put any of my companies data online and before anyone comments I know TT;s data was hacked from THEIR servers. Why can't MS just understand that some companies don't want to put their data onlineor work from online platforms and prefer working with Software they have purchased on a PHYSICAL PC/SERVER at their location. Reply

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