SBS 2011 Review: A 'No Brainer' for Small Shops

For shops of 25 to 75 seats with traditional IT requirements, the on-premises version of Microsoft Small Business Server still makes a lot of sense, and the new release contains a lot for partners and IT to like.

By J. Peter Bruzzese May 01, 2011

The newcomer to the Windows Small Business Server (SBS) world, called SBS Essentials (formerly known as "Aurora"), may have everyone talking about the cloud, but there's a huge population of existing SBS shops that want to know what this means to their existing on-premises solutions. The answer? Don't worry. SBS 2011 is split into two different offerings, and although the cloud-based Essentials flavor is an option, the Standard and Premium options also exist for you on-premises folks.

Target Audience When you read about the cloud-based Essentials, it's hard not to feel like a dinosaur for wanting to maintain an on-premises server. Everything is all about the cloud these days, but unless you have a shop of 25 or fewer systems, Essentials just isn't for you. That's the cut off right now. Where SBS 2011 Standard provides consistency is in the 75-user limit, so existing SBS users that fall within that range don't have to feel pressured into the cloud just yet.

The features in SBS 2011 are what you've come to expect, but the caliber of the server itself (based on Windows Server 2008 R2) -- and the applications included -- has been kicked up more than a notch. You're looking at an on-premises Exchange Server 2010 SP1, a SharePoint Foundation 2010 server (which is the next flavor of SharePoint Services) and Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) 2.0 SP2. For an easier migration, SBS 2011 includes migration tools with pre-migration analysis tools.

Note that the Migration Preparation Tool is run off the DVD on the source (legacy) SBS server and it scans the health of the existing domain to look for whatever issues might prevent a smooth migration. One example would be if Exchange doesn't have the right service pack installed to allow for co-existence and migration. The tool will raise the forest functional level of the existing domain/forest to 2003. It will extend the Active Directory schema and make adjustments to Exchange to run in Native Mode (SBS 2003 only). Once you install it, you have a 14-day window to start the migration. If you miss your window you have to re-run the tool. The tool will help create an answer file for use when installing the SBS 2011 server.

If you need a little more from your SBS environment, you can opt for the Premium Add-on, which includes Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard with SQL Server 2008 R2 Standard for Small Business, an add-on available for both Standard and Essentials clients. This add-on option allows your company to run a variety of line-of-business (LOB) apps in tandem with your SBS servers.

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