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Microsoft Previews Small Business Server 7

Built on Windows Server 2008 R2, the office-oriented server suite for businesses with 25 to 75 users, includes Exchange Server 2010 SP1, SharePoint Foundation 2010 and Hyper-V support.
According to Leworthy, the SBS servers "reflect ten to fifteen years of best practices understanding how businesses are using servers... we take that and build simplified architectures. So they are less flexible and customizable than buying traditional servers like Windows Server Standard or Enterprise -- which usually require an IT partner -- but they are easier to install, deploy and manage. When you deploy Windows Small Business Server, everything is already integrated."

"With Small Business Server, Microsoft has created a product packaged and simplified so that small businesses don't have to put the pieces together," says Al Gillen, Program VP, System Software, IDC. "With a traditional Windows system, you buy products and assemble and integrate them yourselves. Small Business Server is pre-configured, you can pretty much install it in one swoop, it's almost turnkey ready- to-use. And the more turnkey a product is, the less it costs a small business to do the deployment."

Many small businesses don't have any servers, and some are starting to use SaaS or other online services, says Gillen, "But this remote approach doesn't provide the ability to have local server services you'd want like print and file, or being able to do backups locally. So if you need all or most of the components in SBS, it becomes attractive."

According to Leworthy, "SBS7 is part of the family of our next generation of solution servers committed to providing small business customers with a highly manageable, low complexity solution to help cut costs, save time and be more efficient. SBS7 offers, on-premise, email and collaboration suite functionalities that Aurora's customers can add through online services."

Key functions in SBS 7 include backup and restore, file and printer serving, file sharing and collaboration, along with integrated Exchange Server 2010 and Microsoft Outlook Web Access (OWA).

The three main new things in SBS7, according to Leworthy, are:

-- Outlook and Exchange 2010. "Exchange 2010 has a host of new features that SBS users have been asking for, like Outlook web access from the Internet, mobile support, and a unified inbox," says Leworthy.

-- Office Web Apps, which let users access, view, and edit documents directly from a web browser.

-- Remote access. "The new remote web access capability, which we've had, we've extended," says Leworthy. "We have made a simple portal for users to login and be able to access information, including web applications, line-of-business applications and more."

Other new features, according to Microsoft, include secure access all of their communications -- email, voice mail, instant messaging and more from virtually any web browser or mobile device.

The ability to view, edit and share Microsoft Office documents online with SharePoint Foundation 2010 and Microsoft Office Web Apps, gives Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote users the ability to access documents from virtually anywhere, using a browser, says Leworthy. "I can read, manipulate and work with files through my browser, including remotely. Ditto access email, internal documents... I can access and edit them through a browser with Office Web Apps."

Aside from new features, another reason companies currently using SBS 2000 or 2003 will want to consider buying SBS 7, Leworthy notes, is that "SBS 2000 is no longer part of Microsoft's extended support program, and mainstream support has ended for SBS 2003."

To smooth the migration, Microsoft offers, "enhanced migration tools, extensive pre-migration checks and prescriptive guidance included in the software."

The production version is currently expected, "sometime during the North America winter timeframe," according to Leworthy. No pricing is currently set. There is no separate upgrade pricing, but, Leworthy notes, "If you have Microsoft Software Assurance, this includes the new versions."

Also, unlike previous versions of SBS, "we're moving to an 'add-on' model," notes Leworthy. The basic version includes Windows Server, Exchange, SharePoint Foundation and Windows Update Service. SQL Server is available as an add-on, so companies can install SBS7, and purchase SQL Server if and when they need to -- previously, companies would had to decide at the time of purchase whether or not to purchase a more expensive edition that includes SQL Server -- or face expensive and IT effort to upgrade later."