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Full Server 2003 or SBS 2003?

Posted on 2006-07-14
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2013-11-18
This question isn't necessarily a 'problem',  but I'm looking for expert advice on the subject:

I recently took on a contract with a non-profit organization who is upgrading their systems. I will be installing a new Windows server for them. I'm wondering whether to go with Small Business Server 2003 or with the full server version. I will be ordering the software through techsoup.org, which nearly gives the software away for free, so the difference in price between SBS and the full server version wouldn't be too great. So, I'm trying to decide which version to go with and I'm leaning towards SBS Premium as it includes Exchange, ISA, and SQL servers. But I don't want to cheat them if we could have gotten the more robust full server for a few hundred dollars more.

Ok, so for now they only have one location which is a back office and a storefront. They have about 25 users on about 20 computers. They will be running several network based program systems--Sage BusinessWorks, Exchange, FileMaker Pro, Symantec Backup, R&R Report Writer, IC Verify credit card software and Shipworks inventory software. I will also set them up with some sort of point of sale program as their current one is old as hell and only runs on DOS!--most likely I will set them up with Microsoft Retail Management System.

So, with all of these business critical programs running, these thoughts come to mind:
1) Should I have all of these processes running on one single server? Is it safe to do this? If I do want to share the workload on another server, could I do this in SBS or would I need the full server version?
2) I understand that with SBS, you can only have one domain and that the SBS server has to be the domain controller for that domain. In their situation this seems fine to me. But, what if they open up other locations such as a storefront or a new office? Keep in mind that these guys are a small business so it's not like other locations would be adding many users, but I'd just like to understand a scenario of another office opening up with say 10 more users at a different location. What would be the difference in adding a new location with SBS and the full server version?

So basically, I'm of the frame of mind that getting the full version of Server 2003 for this client would be overkill. And I don't want to overcomplicate things for them. But I also don't want to cheat them out of an opportunity to get the full version if they could actually utilize it. What do the experts think?!

Lastly, I will post up the pricing below so you see what I'm dealing with. It's so cheap it makes me want to start a non-profit for me :-)

Small Business Server 2003 Premium Edition (Includes Software Assurance and 5 CALs)
$60 Total - SBS Premium includes four complete Microsoft Server products: Windows Server 2003, Exchange Server 2003, ISA Server 2000, and SQL Server 2000. This package also includes Outlook 2003 and FrontPage 2003.


Windows Server 2003 R2 Standard Edition -- $40
SQL Server 2005 Standard Edition -- $240.00
Exchange Server 2003 Standard Edition -- $52
Internet Security and Acceleration Server 2004 Standard Edition $60.50
TOTAL: $392.50

So, $60 compared to $392.50--is going with the full server overkill for my situation or is it too good of a deal for them to pass up. Keep in mind that I'm looking for simplicity and stability for my client because they've been through a lot of issues before hiring me.

Thanks so much!

Question by:goldylamont
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LVL 48

Assisted Solution

Jay_Jay70 earned 400 total points
ID: 17112769
for this situation, SBS sounds like the way to go for sure...

in the case of expansion you can have aditional domain controllers in different sites, yet as you said, SBS has to be the root of the domain and hold all the FSMO roles

remember also that you have a limit of 75 Users,

In the case that the comapny grows to a point where you have outgrown SBS, you can always use the SBS transition pack from MS that allows you to migrate to full versions of the products included with SBS and should work out at no more than if you bought it originally......

LVL 96

Assisted Solution

by:Lee W, MVP
Lee W, MVP earned 400 total points
ID: 17113095
I would be careful about going SBS with this client until you've confirmed what pricing for the transition pack would be.  A transition/upgrade could end up being more costly later.

SBS is great if the restrictions do not interfere with your business.  The "highlights" of the restrictions are:
1. SBS MUST be the FSMO Master Domain Controller - Other domain controllers CAN be configured, but the SBS MUST be the FSMO master.
2. Maximum 75 users.
3. No trusts can be setup.
4. You can only have ONE SBS server in a domain - not one per site, one per DOMAIN.

To be clear about some things people often misunderstand:
1.  You CAN have terminal services on an SBS domain, just not on the SBS server.
2.  You CAN have additional servers on an SBS domain.

SBS provides Wizards for management which are especially useful for small businesses with little IT support staff.  If you are an experienced admin, you need to be careful setting up an SBS server - YOU MUST USE THE WIZARDS.  The entire system has been setup and configured by Microsoft to use the wizards.  Failing to use the wizards WHENEVER POSSIBLE can result in problems... sometimes MAJOR problems.

Given this specific scenario - with the expectation that you are an experienced admin - I would NOT use SBS here UNLESS the transition pack is as inexpensive as the full retail products.

Author Comment

ID: 17113116
here's another thought--since MS recently released SQL Server Express, which is free, wouldn't it be possible to just get the full server minus the SQL Server (which is the most expensive component at $240), and use SQL Server express if they needed it? They only have one location with about 20 users so I'm thinking this might work. And of the current software products they are running, none of them use the full version of SQL Server (although some may use MSDE, such as Symantec Backup). My issue is, once we place the order, we cannot order any more discounted MS products for 1 year, so even though they aren't using SQL Server yet I was erring on the safe side that they should get it. I dunno,  just a thought. anyone else have opinions? thanks.

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LVL 48

Expert Comment

ID: 17113186
hmm i wondered about the pricing of the transistion due to your discounts - good call lee
LVL 74

Accepted Solution

Jeffrey Kane - TechSoEasy earned 1200 total points
ID: 17113226

I'm quite familiar with the TechSoup Stock pricing (as I'm listed with them as a resource), and as you may also know I'm quite familiar with SBS.

So, let me just tell you this... you can't put all of those servers in one box if you don't use SBS.  SBS is designed to handle this, standard server products that you would install separately aren't.

Just looking at the pricing side of things, it's a no-brainer:

SBS Premium with 5 CALs ==  $60.00
20 Addtl CALs in 5packs     == $80.00 (4 x $20.00)

Since it's SBS Premium, it SQL Server and ISA Server (along with what is included with SBS Standard -- Windows Server 2003, Exchange, IIS, Windows SharePoint Services, Print & Fax).  

Additionally,  in order to get the best benefit out of SBS 2003, you will want to make sure that all client machines are XP Pro with Office 2003.

You don't need Symantec Backup, the SBS Built-in works quite well... but you will need anti-virus which you can also get through TechSoup.

The focus then, should be on the hardware your server will be running on.  Because that's how this will actually save them money in the long run.  Since SBS is designed to run on one server you need to make sure that it's a machine capable of handling it.  Don't get a refurbished server for them... if anything this is where the cost will be.  You want to try and get a 64bit machine if possible because the next version of SBS will only be in 64 bit and that will save them in the long run as well.  Without an OS, you should be able to get a decent 64bit server with 2GB DDR2 RAM for less than $1600.00 or so... check EBay for some really good pricing.

For POS, Microsoft's New POS System (smaller version of RMS) works hand-in-hand with SBS, as does Small Business Accounting on the backend.  It also integrates nicely with Microsoft CRM, either hosted or internally.

There are many other things I could tell you about why SBS seems the right thing for this situation (even though I don't know much about it)... but the bottom line is how much will all this cost them to maintain over the next few years... and I can say without a doubt that if you deploy SBS properly (READ THE MANUAL!) that it will be at significantly lower cost and will provide them with greater productivity than deploying separate server products (and SERVERS!).



Expert Comment

ID: 17113986
Go with SBS for sure! Its a nice package and integrates well.

Author Comment

ID: 17118988
thank you all for your opinions. i feel much better about my decision to go with SBS instead of the full version. I also gave points to leew even though i didn't go with his suggestion because leew also brought up some good concerns about both versions of server. techsoeasy, thanks! and I WILL read the manual. if you know of any good online or paper texts that you would recommend then i'm all ears.

LVL 74

Expert Comment

by:Jeffrey Kane - TechSoEasy
ID: 17119043
You'll find some of the best information at these places:

Official SBS Documentation Team Blog:  http://blogs.msdn.com/sbsdocsteam/default.aspx
Official SBS Development Team Blog:  http://blogs.technet.com/sbs/default.aspx

And the rest of the community links are here:  http://www.sbscommunity.com

There are two good books I recommend as well:  http://sbsurl.com/best and http://sbsurl.com/unleashed


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