Monday, November 15, 2010

It's SBS Essentials, Not Aurora (Istanbul, Not Constantinople)

I posted some notes on the entry-level server line-up in my newsletter this morning and a few people recommended that I repost that here. Not sure why. Just subscribe to my newsletter at this link.

Anyway . . . This note covers the Microsoft Operating system options, not the hardware options available at the small end of SMB. There's quite an array of hardware options as well.

Right now in our office we are playing with Windows Home Server on HP OEM hardware, SBS 2008 on the Intel Hybrid Cloud (Lenovo hardware), Foundation server on HP OEM, and SBS on Proliants (of course). And tonight Mike tells me that we just took deliver of the new HP Micro Server. Yeee Haww! We're going to play with that for both Aurora/SBS 2011 Essentials and Foundation server.

So here's the re-broadcast of an article from today's SMB Email:
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A few release notes . . . SBS and Other Servers for the SMB Space

I have to learn to stop calling Aurora Aurora. It's now SBS Essentials.

I'm reminded of the song "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" . . .

Here's the basic line-up of Microsoft operating systems you might select for your small clients:

Windows Home Server - We call this one "Server Light"
WHS is sold as a storage server from HP and makes a VERY handy little package. It is great for onsite backups and central file storage. It also works well with cloud-based storage (files onsite, backed up to the cloud). Be aware that this operating system is limited to TEN users and has no active directory.

Sold as OEM throught HP and others.

Windows Server 2008 R2 Foundation
This is my current favorite server. Why? That's easy. 1) It exists and I can sell it to clients, and 2) It has active directory. While limited to FIFTEEN users and one processor, this O.S. is amazing in a small business. A.D. means that migration from SBS or "regular" Windows is a breeze. It won't take Exchange, but if you have hosted Exchange, this beauty will integrate onsite storage with A.D. security AND provide terminal services for up to 15 users.

Sold as OEM through HP and others.

Love, love, love the Foundation server.

Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials (formerly Aurora)
Due first quarter of 2011. That means first or second quarter to you and me. I think the expected release is Q1, but the official word is first half (in case there are issues). Supports up to 25 users. Like WHS and Found, there are no CALs and you can't expand beyond the limit.

The core role of Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials is to manage all your small business technology from one box - including connections to hosted services like Exchange, BPOS, and CRM. Official word is that it "will be available through all current Microsoft server licensing channels." I assume that means open licensing as well as OEM but I can't guarantee that.

Estimated retail pricing is $545 US.

Windows Small Business Server 2011 Standard (formally "SBS 7")
This is basically the newest version of the "Standard" SBS you've known for two versions already. It includes a backup solution, Exchange Server, Sharepoint, etc.

Expected release is December 2010 through Open License programs. Available through OEM and System Builder programs in February 2011. Those dates are specific enough that they are probably real.

75 user limit. Estimated retail pricing is $1,096 US, with CALs approximately $72 US.

Windows Small Business Server 2011 Premium Add-on is the new incarnation of our old friend SBS Premium edition. Now, the premium content is being sold as an "add-on" to either Standard or Essential versions. That's pretty cool. Premium Add-On includes a license for Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard and SQL Server 2008 R2 for Small Business.

You can use the additional server with the CALs you have on SBS (Essentials or Standard), but you'll need Premium Add-On CALs for access to SQL Server. Due in December 2010, along with Standard SBS 2011.

75 user limit. Estimated retail pricing is $1,604 US, with CALs approximately $92 US.

(Well hidden plea to Microsoft: PLEASE rev this to Server 2012 and SQL 2012, or whatever's next, without requiring a bunch of upgrade disks. Just ship the new stuff when it's released. thanks.)

. . . And, of course, you might also consider Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard.

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- Official announcement of names and prices:

-Windows Small Business Server 2011 Standard datasheet:

- Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials datasheet:

- Windows Small Business Server Family overview brochure:

- To download previews of Windows SBS 2011 Standard and Essentials you can visit


Sunday, November 07, 2010

A $7,000 Server for SMB

I got my feedback from my presentation at SMB Nation. Thank you. 95%. I appreciate that.

But you know how it goes. One person made a comment that stuck me in the heart. So whoever that is, I hope you'll see and consider this response.

The comment was that SBS servers don't cost $7,000 (a figure I mentioned a couple of times when comparing the expense cycle of having a server on site vs. the monthly costs for cloud services that are pay-as-you-go).

My response to this objection is very simple: HUH?

Servers cost what they cost. I don't know what everyone else puts in at their clients, but for us it looks like this:

Proliant ML 350 G6
- 2.53 GHz Processor
- 6 or 8 GB RAM
- 12MB L3 cache
- RAID Controller
- Hot plug, 500 GB hard drives (2 mirrored for O.S. and 3 Drives configured in RAID 5)
- 3-year warranty
- RDX disk backup drive w/ 4 Cartridges
- SBS 2008 Premium
- 5 additional Client Access Licences
- Diskeeper defragmentation software
- Secure Certificate for three years
- Backup Exec Backup software

Now you might strip out the backup software, secure cert, Diskeeper, SBS, and maybe go cheap on some drives. If you did that you might say the "Server" is only $3,000. But a server without an operating system is useless when making a comparison against the Cloud (or anything else.

If you sell Dell instead of HP, you might have the option to get a nice dual Celeron machine for $600. But we only put our clients on quality equipment.

We believe the equipment list above is a great little server for small business client. And it comes in right at $7,000. I think the system we installed last week was exactly as specified here and sold for about $7,150 plus tax. There are only two changes to this configuration that I would give serious consideration to:

1) Go with three drives in RAID and then create C: and D: volumes on the single RAID array. With this client, that means we'll be selling them additional drives in the next three years. The additional cost today is less than $350 so the future hassles are easily avoided.

2) Maybe go with fewer backup drives. But even at $250 each, how many would you cut? You can't leave a clean with a tiny disc rotation or you have a very fragile disaster recovery plan.

Some people will go to an inferior machine, with no warranty or something that's not business class. But you don't really save much there. The core hardware component here is $3,000. So what are you going to save? Sell them a $2,500 server that's going to give disappointing performance after two years? That doesn't make sense.

The client we migrated last week (with zero downtime, of course) has now purchased four servers from us over the last dozen years. This last one lasted more than four years because of the recession. It only lasted that long because we sold them an appropriate business machine in the first place. Performance was not spectacular at the end of that last machine's life because every other machine in the office is so much faster than the server. But it was alive and it lasted so long because it was good quality from the start.

If I had decided to "save" the client $1,000 four years ago, they would have been very unhappy with their technology -- or they would have had to do some major upgrades along the way.

Quality Matters

I know there are many ways to cut costs. And we each have to run our businesses our own way. But I encourage you to only use good equipment. It seems obvious, but it's not.

When Mike came to work for us he was amazed that our clients basically never call. Things don't break. We never EVER worry about going home at 5:00 PM or going out of town on the weekend because stuff doesn't break.

I am always uncomfortable when consultants tell me that they have some server emergency, failed drives, etc. To me this always sounds like someone sold the wrong equipment in the first place and is now charging the client for fixing stuff that should never have broken. If I had to live in fear of going home at night because my clients' equipment might fail at any minute, I'd go into a different business tomorrow.

If you think you have to sell cheap equipment, I recommend you give the client alternatives. Give them a quote for cheap server and a quote for the server listed above. Let the client choose the server! When a client looks at the bottom line, they will often spend the extra money with a very simple calculation: How much extra does it cost each year? If the "expensive" server is $1,200 more, that's only $400 per year. How many hours of your time - plus downtime - do they need to save in order to make that worthwhile?

So yes, Virginia, there is a $7,000 server in the SMB space. In fact, the world's full of them.