Will Windows For Small Businesses Be A Big Business?

Microsoft says its newest and cheapest server operating system can be deployed in about the time it takes for a coffee break.

John Foley, Editor, InformationWeek

October 1, 2003

2 Min Read

Microsoft's newest, cheapest, and easiest-to-deploy server operating system is ready to ship. Small Business Server 2003 will be formally unveiled next week at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference in New Orleans, but company officials are already talking up the new platform.

The operating system, which succeeds a small-business edition of Windows 2000 Server, is aimed at companies with 100 or fewer employees. Microsoft estimates there are 8 million companies of that size in the United States and that only 19% have one or more servers connecting their desktop PCs. "Server-based computing has stayed a niche technology in the small-business segment," says Katy Hunter, group product manager for Small Business Server 2003.

The product will be offered in a new entry-level "standard" edition that sells for $599. A premium version, which includes Microsoft's SQL Server database and Internet Security and Acceleration Server firewall, sells for $1,499, the same price as Small Business Server 2000. Both editions of SBS 2003 come with five client-access licenses. Additional client-access licenses are $100 each, compared with $60 each with SBS 2000. Included with Small Business Server 2003 are Microsoft's Exchange messaging software, Outlook client, and Windows SharePoint Services collaboration technology.

Orlando Ayala, the senior VP in charge of Microsoft's efforts to develop and sell products for small and medium-sized businesses, says Small Business Server 2003 has been designed for added simplicity in installation and management, as well as for improved security and connectivity. Microsoft claims the system can be ready to use within 15 minutes of installation, a process that previously took several hours.

The $599 price of Small Business Server 2003 standard edition, combined with low-cost Intel servers, could turn into a "massive market," Ayala predicts. He says previous Windows servers have been too expensive for many small businesses. "Frankly, I think in the past we got the price point wrong for this market," he says.

Early adopter Chess Financial, a financial-planning company that caters to 130 affluent customers, is using Small Business Server 2003 to bring new capabilities and automation to its 20-employee business. New portals, for instance, will be used to consolidate information on customers and tax laws. "We're making a move to go to a paperless office," says John Marino, a Chess Financial client-service manager and shareholder.

The company doesn't have a dedicated IT manager. Administrative associate Laura Capuozzo deals with minor day-to-day issues, while value-added reseller Ross-Tek Information Systems Inc. provides ongoing support. Ross-Tek has installed more than 200 computers running Small Business Server since the operating system was introduced six years ago. Ross-Tek president and CIO Frederick Johnson says the two capabilities in SBS 2003 that will catch the attention of small-business owners are its ability to support remote workers through a feature called Remote Web Workplace and SharePoint's collaboration tools.

About the Author(s)

John Foley

Editor, InformationWeek

John Foley is director, strategic communications, for Oracle Corp. and a former editor of InformationWeek Government.

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