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Server line-up for small businesses (and home) is increasing in options (or complexity for some) - SBS 2008, Home, Foundation, Windows Standard Server or BPOS - how do you choose?
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This is a long running question that people ask me - how to position the various server options from Microsoft for small businesses.  The more choice Microsoft offers, the more complex it can become if you do not have a starting point to find the right product for a customer.  So, Home Server, Foundation Server and SBS - what is it all about, especially when you look at something like Windows 7 or BPOS too? 

N.B. To get a detailed feature comparison between SBS 2003 and SBS 2008 have a look at the excellent work of Sean at http://sbs.seandaniel.com/2008/08/what-different-between-sbs-2003-and-sbs.html.

Well, in the home or the smaller sized business market (think sweet spot of 1-7 users IMHO) there are a number of MS products that could fit the bill…

  • Windows Client PC as a server (don't do this for businesses)
  • Windows Home Server
  • Foundation server
  • Windows Server
  • Small Business Server
  • Online solution

Server Options

I suspect people know the options here, but here is a very short run-down on each and why you might or might not look at them:

Windows 7 Client PC as a server

Great to share files between a few PCs on a trusted network.  Only with Windows 7 do you start to get better sharing security via the home group and many server oriented pieces of software can't run on it.  Great for home hub (my Media Center does a bit of this), but please save your self trouble and get a server for the work environment.  You will save of time and money of management very quickly in a business.  Also note that server software will often not install on a Client PC.

Windows Home Server

This is a fantastic home hub server with functionality to hold and protect your shared files by duplicating them, backing up desktop PCs and providing remote access.  Today it is built on Windows Server 2003 technology, but it does the job well.  If in a business you simply want a place to store files and backups without managed security or any other server functionality and web based accessed to those files, it can do an OK job.  For more info of the use in the business environment, look at the Home Office / Small Office server - http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/winfamily/windowshomeserver/soho/default.mspx

Foundation server

A simple implementation of Windows Standard server with a limitation of 15 users on the server, it must be the root of the domain and cannot have trust relationships.  There are no SBS-like wizards, so this is pure Windows Server management.  You can add products like Windows SharePoint Services to this product.  One nice feature is no requirement for the Windows CAL (all other CALs still required).  Also some software may refuse to work on Foundation Server.  More information at http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2008/en/us/foundation.aspx

Windows Standard Server

The fully functional base platform of all Windows Servers.  This provides Web, File sharing, domain security and management and a platform for other tools such as WSUS and WSS.  As there are so many options and configuration choices for Windows Server some might find this overwhelming and beyond their understanding.  While there are wizards they are focused on configuration rather than simplifying overall IT setup for a small business.

Small Business Server

 A Server designed to be easy to configure and use for small businesses that provides all their Server IT in one package.  This provides file server functionality, intranet and internet access and management, server and security management, remote access, e-mail, calendar and contact functionality and much more.  The configuration process is all designed to be simple and driven by business need rather than technical implementation and wizards translate the business need into technical changes.

Online solution

 An online solution, such as BPOS enables all e-mail, calendar and contact management, as well as Instant Messenger and presence information and hosted SharePoint to be made available to users without the need to install a server to deliver this.  You must be connected to the internet to use this functionality and it does not solve any "in-house" IT functions which means these need to be separately managed.

Comparison Table

Below are some of the key features and differences in using each of the products.  If something is not clear, please just post a comment and I can get back to you.  Also, this is my own information and view on the world and is not an official statement in anyway from Microsoft, which means there might be errors too.

 

Windows 7

Foundation

Windows Server Standard

Home Server

SBS (current non-R2 version)

Purely Online

Operating System Foundation Windows 7 Server 2008 R2 (x64 only) Server 2008 R2 (x64 only) Server 2003 (32-bit only) Server 2008 (x64 only) Not relevant
Objective General Desktop solution General Server General Server SOHO Solution Small Business Solution Cloud Solution
Skills required Technical Deep Technical Deep Technical Home User / some technical Technical / some business Some Technical / some business

Disk Protection

Raid in h/w

Raid

Raid

Disk duplication

Raid

Host provided

Network Security

None

WSUS as option

WSUS as option

None

WSUS with wizard

None

e-Mail

None / BPOS

None / BPOS

None / BPOS

None / BPOS

Exchange, but Wizard driven

None / BPOS

Management

Traditional Windows

Traditional Windows

Traditional Windows

Wizard

Wizard

Web wizard for online - none for local

FAX integration

Standard Services on a per PC basis

Standard Services

Standard Services

None

Wizard

per PC only

Reporting None None None Alerts via balloon popups E-mail and in Console None / e-mail

Account Management

Workgroup

Workgroup or Domain

Workgroup or Domain

Workgroup

Domain, but wizard driven

Workgroup

User Limit

20

15

Unlimited

10 (or perhaps higher)

75

Unlimited

User licensing

No CALs

No CALs

CALs

No CALs

CAL

Subscription only

DNS / remote site access

None

None

None

Wizard

Wizard and Office Live

None

Remote access to PC's inside LAN None None None   Yes via web portal None

Windows SharePoint Services

Hosted Only

As an option on server or hosted

As an option on server or hosted

Hosted Only

Pre-built, Hosted or Office Live

Hosted only

2nd Server option for SQL / RDS

No

As an option

As an option

No

Premium Edition

Yes

Server Software support No Yes (mostly) Yes No Yes (mostly) No
Additional Software over standard server None None None
  • Client PC backup
  • Remote Access Site
  • WHS Wizards
  • Exchange Server 2007
  • Windows SharePoint Services v3
  • WSUS v3
  • SBS Wizards
None

 

This leaves some simple questions to ask to qualify which products are available to your customers:

  1. How many users will access the system - if <15 then all available, if > 20 then only Windows Server, SBS or hosted are options
  2. Do they want a common management of users with the ability to log in on any PC and see their files, if so only Domain Account Management will work for them
  3. How much control over e-mail, quotas and the rest of their IT destiny do they want (BPOS has little control without cost impact and all others except SBS do not have e-mail at all)

I appreciate there are many more questions, but I hope this makes it easier to see where it all fits.  Hopefully the two diagrams below will help a little.  You may notice that I have not included on-line solutions in the model below because they either only overlap with SBS 2008 (Exchange and SharePoint) or the answer depends on the task at hand as to where it fits and who is providing it.

Product Complexity to Manage

Server Features

ttfn

David


Posted Thu, Dec 31 2009 7:47 AM by David Overton

Comments

Robert Crane wrote re: Server line-up for small businesses (and home) is increasing in options (or complexity for some) - SBS 2008, Home, Foundation, Windows Standard Server or BPOS - how do you choose?
on Fri, Jan 1 2010 4:51 AM

Dave,

Excellent article, however I reckon you have overlooked 2 important points. I've covered the issues in my blog article:

supportweb.ciaops.net.au/.../two-more-points.aspx

let me know what u think.

Thanks

Robert

David Overton wrote re: Server line-up for small businesses (and home) is increasing in options (or complexity for some) - SBS 2008, Home, Foundation, Windows Standard Server or BPOS - how do you choose?
on Fri, Jan 1 2010 1:22 PM

Robert,

as I posted on your site, the purpose of this post was to position the various Microsoft server products, not to discuss Cloud vs on-premise.

I agree that many businesses with move to a mixed future which is why for things like e-mail I put None/BPOS meaning none provided, but could work with BPOS.

thanks for your comment.  I will write about the Cloud vs on-premise over the holiday period.

ttfn

David

Robert Crane wrote re: Server line-up for small businesses (and home) is increasing in options (or complexity for some) - SBS 2008, Home, Foundation, Windows Standard Server or BPOS - how do you choose?
on Sat, Jan 2 2010 4:40 AM

Dave,

I do understand what you were trying to say here, however I don't think that people simply look at the abilities of products individually any more. Typically it is a case of what finger will fill this hole!

Anyway, your article was though provoking and I look forward to your upcoming article on Clud vs on-premise.

Thanks

Robert

Simon Orebi Gann wrote re: Server line-up for small businesses (and home) is increasing in options (or complexity for some) - SBS 2008, Home, Foundation, Windows Standard Server or BPOS - how do you choose?
on Sat, Feb 27 2010 11:23 PM

As a long term SBS user (2003 then 2008), I am now moving to a platform of windows 7 PCs linked though the home network feature, WHS for backup and shared storage (6TB) and email from BPOS.

It seems to offer everything except logon to multiple PCs with the same credentials, and for a small business of up to 15 people I can cope with that.

Planning the migration from SBS 2008 is an interesting challenge.  There is a notable lack of instructions from any who has done it before so I'll keep notes!

David Overton wrote re: Server line-up for small businesses (and home) is increasing in options (or complexity for some) - SBS 2008, Home, Foundation, Windows Standard Server or BPOS - how do you choose?
on Mon, Mar 1 2010 7:15 AM

Hi Simon,

The use of the MS tools in this way can be very good.  As for transfering, it is a very manual process.  The ACLs on shared files would need to be set by hand - use robocopy to copy files without permissions (the default setting) onto a USB disk or over the network and then place in the shares for each user (or the public shares).

The credentials would need to be re-created and the PC's would need some work.  This is probably best done by exporting the current user settings using the Easy Transfer Wizard, disconnecting from the domain, creating a non-domain account (as the domain credentials would expire over time withour SBS there) and then importing from the easy transfer wizard again.

Finally, BPOS has some import tools which would enable you to transfer the e-mail.

Good luck!!

David

nike jordan wrote re: Server line-up for small businesses (and home) is increasing in options (or complexity for some) - SBS 2008, Home, Foundation, Windows Standard Server or BPOS - how do you choose?
on Mon, Mar 29 2010 10:02 AM

The use of the MS tools in this way can be very good.  As for transfering, it is a very manual process.  The ACLs on shared files would need to be set by hand - use robocopy to copy files without permissions (the default setting) onto a USB disk or over the network and then place in the shares for each user (or the public shares).

Salat wrote re: Server line-up for small businesses (and home) is increasing in options (or complexity for some) - SBS 2008, Home, Foundation, Windows Standard Server or BPOS - how do you choose?
on Wed, Sep 15 2010 10:31 AM

Great info Dave. Very informative. The one I would like to know and have not been able to get answer yet is the User Limit. On SBS, it is listed as 75. However, as I understand it on SBS, the system adds a few users of its own to the user list. Does these users that the system created/added count towards the User Limit? Or is 75 means the number of users connecting concurrently to the server?

Thanks,

Salat

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