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Do we need the Standard or Premium edition of Windows Small Business Server 2003?

Dear Experts,

    The small business in which I work wants to purchase SBS2003 for the VPN features, which will allow our employees to access files on the local network when working from home.

        * Do we need Premium edition for this, or will Standard edition do?

        * What is ISA? It seems to be relevant, and only comes with the Premium edition.

Thanks very much in advance for your help.
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JamieVicary
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JamieVicary
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3 Solutions
 
JamieVicaryAuthor Commented:
Of course, it goes without saying that we need to be confident that our VPN is secure, especially as remote users will have read-write access to a lot of stuff.
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
You are better off going with a hardware VPN solution - it will be faster.

ISA server is Microsoft's proxy server and firewall with some other features as well.  VPN though is supported with Standard server.
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JamieVicaryAuthor Commented:
Thanks leew. Will it really be that slow? Given that everything's having to go through a 512 kbps pipe anyway, will it really make that much difference? Also, many of the files needing to be accessed will be on the Windows Server machine anyway, so that machine can't avoid being involved.
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
VPN is noticeably slower than non-VPN.  How many users will connect at the same time?  512 is not much.
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The_IT_GarageCommented:
Run with Leew's comments, the savings between Standard and Premium SBS will offset the price for the hardware VPN solution. They want SBS *just* for the VPN? What server OS are you running now?
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Jeffrey Kane - TechSoEasyPrincipal ConsultantCommented:
I think it's first important to know what you are planning on running via the VPN.  It's important for you to also realize that SBS must be the central core of your network... essentially, if you only want VPN, then you don't want SBS.

However, if you want true mobility functionality that supports users from home accessing their computer at work, users that have laptops and users that have Mobile SmartPhones or PDA's then SBS would be a good thing to do and you would NOT want to use a hardware firewall because of the ease of integration with SBS.

Take a look at the other features of SBS though and make sure it's right for you:  http://sbsurl.com/features

As for the needing ISA?  That's a decision you have to make yourself... I only have two clients out of 16 that I currently manage that have deployed ISA.  SBS on it's own is pretty secure if you configure and manage it properly... unless you are a company that has highly sensitive data (or need to be HIPAA compliant or some such thing) then I'd go with Standard at first, you can always upgrade for just the difference in price.  See http://sbsurl.com/security 

Jeff
TechSoEasy
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JamieVicaryAuthor Commented:
Thank you all for your comments. Here are some clarifications.

    The firm is a very small consultancy, which runs single-processor simulations to address clients' problems. We currently have a Windows XP machine (note, not Windows Server) that sits underneath a desk; we call this the 'file server'. It has a mirrored pair of 200 gb hard drives. Most work is done directly onto the 'file server' using Windows File Sharing; everybody has full read/write privileges. This setup is simple and works very well indeed. We simply want to be able to access the files on this machine remotely, via a VPN connection into the office network. The company only has about 8 employees; the 'file server' probably serves around 100 mb/hour, although there is the occasional large database that gets thrown around. This really isn't that much. The 'file server' is probably only being ACTIVELY accessed 10% of the time.

    At the moment, there is no remote access, so it doesn't matter that the 'file server' isn't running any flavour of Windows Server. We want to put SBS onto this machine and setup a VPN so that when working from home or on-site with a client, we can easily access our data.

    So, to directly address your comments: yes, we want SBS purely for the VPN. Although, Exchange Server will no doubt prove to be useful, and we are approaching the Windows File Sharing limit of 10 simultaneous connections to the 'file server' machine.

    Let me know what you think!
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The_IT_GarageCommented:
Are you an I.T. consultancy or other business? If not an I.T. shop then yes SBS is likely the way to go for reasons Jeff mentioned. All my newer clients over 5 users run SBS 2003.

The cheaper slightly less flexible way to get to this machine from anywhere is to load LogMeIn on it (http://logmein.com), then all you need is Internet access. It's fre unless you need to do file transfers but even then it's pretty inexpensive.

In the long run SBS is preferable to the LogMeIn as you get so many features with it, but LogMeIn would work as a stopgap.
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Jeffrey Kane - TechSoEasyPrincipal ConsultantCommented:
Well, SBS will provide you with great remote access... and as long as you put it on decent hardware and configure it according to best practices it will be quite reliable as well.

However, one thing you should note is that opening your network up to the outside world comes with a number of risks and it will be important to manage those risks in a way that is both easy and reliable.  The SBS will not only offer you the VPN capabilities, but it offers Remote Web Workplace so that users can work from their actual desktop machines in the office from anywhere in the world.  Your SBS will most likely become your fileserver as well because if you buy the right hardware you will want to keep files here to ensure that your data is safe and backed up.  Hard drive failures WILL occur and running a standard PC with the kind of drives that usually come with them will ultimately spell disaster.

So, Don't plan on putting SBS onto that machine.  Servers are a completely different architecture and you wll not have the reliability and performance that you need... even with only 8 people.  I've deployed SBS on a PC for VERY small networks of 3 or 4 people and it still dogs down.

Take a look at http://www.microsoft.com/smallbusiness/resources/technology/business_software/8_reasons_your_business_needs_a_server.mspx to see what all you will be getting with SBS and understand that if you do it right from the beginning you will not only recoup your costs quite quickly but you will find ways to improve efficiency and productivity.

Obviously I believe in SBS... but after 50 installations in the past couple of years I have seen the evidence as to it's capabilities.

If you try to deploy it for less than it is, you will inevetibly end up frustrated... because SBS is an all-in-one product and is designed and preconfigured to provide that type of turn-key solution.  If you don't plan on using 80 to 90% of it's capabilities then I would HIGHLY suggest that you don't buy it.  Even though it's priced very attractively compared to a standard Server 2003... it's priced this way because you give up some of the flexibility in a standard Server 2003 so that they could get all those things to work on one machine.

Jeff
TechSoEasy
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