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Review: Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2003

Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2003 (SBS) bundle represents a nice compromise between packaging and functionality. It ties together several essential services into one, cohesive package that allows small-business owners to focus on running their businesses, instead of running their networks. Yet it is easy enough to set up and simple to use. Lest you think this means VARs and integrators are cut out of the equation--on the contrary, Microsoft has created a platform by which savvy resellers can augment their software-licensing revenue with professional services.

SBS 2003 comes in two editions: Standard and Premium. Both include Windows Server 2003 as well as Exchange Server 2003, Outlook 2003, SharePoint Services--Microsoft's intranet and portal-services package--Internet Information Server, backup, help desk and fax services. This basic bundle does an excellent job of integrating essential (and some nonessential) network services into a single package. The Premium edition addresses those companies with robust Internet needs by including Internet Security and Acceleration Server (ISA) 2000, SQL Server 2000 and FrontPage 2003.

Integrated Applications
The key benefit of SBS is the tight integration of its network services. Instead of installing the operating system, the e-mail server, the Web server and backup software separately, Microsoft has successfully created a unified installation that is designed to minimize setup and configuration time. It's hard not to be impressed when, within an hour of installing the software, users are able to send e-mail, visit the company's intranet site, and send and receive faxes through Outlook. Additionally, the integrated help-desk facility makes it easy to organize and track support issues when they arise.

The real simplicity of SBS becomes evident when setting up users and configuring client computers. Through the Manage User utility on the server, the server administrator is not only able to create the user account and set permissions, but also configure the client computers at the same time, including adding applications and configuring Outlook. Because Exchange installs by default on the server, it makes sense to automatically configure the Outlook clients to connect to the Exchange server in one, simple step.

Another slick management tool is the Remote Web Workplace (see screenshot). With only a browser and an Internet connection, the administrator has access to virtually all server services, including logging into the server as different users. Resellers will find this feature provides a nice vehicle for additional revenue by building managed services on top of the initial hardware and software sale.

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