Ok…so it is mid-afternoon on Monday, and I have spent parts of the past three days transfering our five workstations to Small Business Server 2003. And my overriding conclusion, is…this would be a very cool solution for a small business creating a new office, or a larger business establishing a new office. In other words, it is great if you can start from scratch. Otherwise, if you have to move things over from another combination of server/router/IP connection, it gets ugly.
I think the ideal would be to purchase a new server from Dell or HP with SBS installed. Be sure that this server has two network connections, thereby allowing the machine to serve as the office firewall. Set up the server and then set up the workstations, and I hope that they are new workstations, because the migration to a new domain will cause headaches, as the File and Transfer Settings Wizard is highly unreliable when dealing with important things, like…oh…your OutLook rules, and your OutLook eMail.
Finally, give up on centralized virus management, if using Symantec Anti-Virus, and just install the workstations as unmanaged. SBS’s default for the Windows XP Firewall, is to nail it down in the group policy, so you can’t turn it off at the workstation. And you have to be a local administrator on the workstation, (thereby eliminating a lot of the advantage of ratcheded down security policy) to be able to take advantage of things like the automated client installation of programs from the server to the workstations.
Also, while there may be some advantage to using Exchange as an eMail server, it seems to add another layer into chain of eMail, when you have existing POP accounts.
SBS wants it all. It has to be the first server in the domain. You must have DNS installed, and the server has to be the default DNS server listed in the IP settings for the workstations. (This DNS issue is the same with any Windows 2003 server using Active Directory as far as I can tell). Your life will be easier, if you are not attempting to integrate an external router, as SBS 2003 would prefer also, to be the router, the firewall, and DHCP server.
So what do you get with SBS 2003?
- A very nice server management interface
- A SharePoint server which looks very good for managing all kinds of internal business, such as document management with versions, a help desk application, and form repository. This is essentially an “internal” web site.
- Exchange, if you want it, for eMail, and also for group scheduling
- Microsoft OutLook 2003, (same as included in Office).
- 5 client (workstation) licenses
- A shared fax server, if you have a modem in the server, and a spare phone line. (who needs this? ) You can allocate faxes to eMail boxes.
- Windows 2003 server
- Terminal Services (in Management Mode)
- VPN and Remote Access
Like all server software, the more users and workstations that are spread out over the installation, the more cost-effective the installation will be. The basic list price for SBS is somewhere between $450 – $700. The basic server comes with 5 user access licenses.
On top of this, you need to have an Anti-Virus program. Most sites will have an external router, from Linksys or DLink.
At TFNP world headquarters, we’re not out of the woods yet. The UPS is still beeping, and the USB connection to the new server from the UPS doesn’t appear to be working. The Windows Update service is perpetually saying that we need to install updates, but they are always the same updates. I haven’t figured out how to use the VPN connections yet. But we do have a nice new (old…repurposed workstation), as our server which is running quietly, has working on/off switches, and a case which is completely enclosed.
I admit, I was a little surprised. I was thinking that the SBS setup would be considerably less involved than a Linux server with SAMBA, which has also got a lot of bits and pieces to get right.