Small Business Server 2008, the successor to SBS 2003, will ship on November 12. The first few months will reveal any lingering issues and clarify the procedure for migrating to the new platform from SBS 2003. In early 2009, I’ll be talking about it to my clients with SBS 2003 running on servers that are more than three years old – it will be time to refresh the hardware that runs the business, part of my long-time belief that it is always preferable to replace a computer on your schedule rather than the computer’s breakdown schedule.

In some ways, SBS 2008 sounds similar to SBS 2003 – a single server for small businesses to handle file storage and Exchange mailboxes, plus remote access and some other nice features. Many of the differences result from six years of progress on the underlying products – Windows Server 2008, Exchange Server 2007, Sharepoint Services 3.0, and more. That steps up the hardware requirements – new 64-bit boxes with lots of memory are required. Existing SBS 2003 servers will be relegated to backup roles or retired. Here are some notes I wrote about SBS 2008 a few months ago.

There are architectural differences based on the increasing need that all businesses feel for 24/7 reliable computing. Small businesses have frequently relied on a single server, creating a single point of failure that can paralyze the entire business. That will still be true in part, but the Premium edition of SBS 2008 will include a license to run Windows Server 2008 on a second server and will include SQL Server 2008 Standard Edition, making it far more cost-efficient to run a line-of-business application on a second server. Law offices, for example, will be more likely to move their case management or accounting programs onto a second server, leaving the SBS 2008 server free to focus on file and printer sharing and running the huge, active mailboxes that we’re all accumulating.


SBS 2008 will integrate deeply with Office 2007 and Microsoft’s online Office services, making it easier for small businesses to begin using online file storage and collaboration tools.

Windows Live OneCare for Server is a new product that will be included with SBS 2008. Details are hazy but at a minimum it will provide antivirus and spyware protection for the servers, currently difficult to accomplish with SBS 2003 (third party products are available but they are quirky and frequently too complex for a small business relying on an offsite consultant). Apparently the server OneCare program will finally allow central management of OneCare on the individual desktops and facilitate backups of files on the individual computers.

It’s going to be an interesting year. Now that a nearly final version of SBS 2008 is available for testing, I’ve just ordered a server that I’ll be using for learning and breaking things and in general, feeling that my brain is too small.

Small businesses that have not yet installed a server do not have to wait; it’s possible to buy a license for SBS 2003 with “Software Assurance” that will minimize the cost of the licenses to upgrade to SBS 2008 next year. Adding a server with SBS 2003 can be a tremendously important step for a growing business! In a slowing economy, though, businesses that want to postpone taking that step would be well advised to plan on next spring for their new servers.

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