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Preinstalled SBS 2003 vs own install

Posted on 2008-10-11
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Last Modified: 2012-06-27
I have an old HP SBS 2003 server (ML 310 G3) that is starting to age, and I am planning to swap in a new server.  I have an unused boxed copy of SBS 2003 Premium, but it is not R2.

I am not a super expert on administration  (I am a doctor in an office), but I have handled the current server for the past 4 years on my own, and it has been fine.

Questions-  Is R2 substantially better than the earlier version, such that it worth getting the new version?  On a related point, is it worth getting the software pre-installed?  If there often are days spent trouble-shooting installations it would be worth it to me, but if it usually is straightforward I'd be fine with it.

Are the HPs and Dells of the world more reliable than the Visionman's?  I would think dependability would depend on the components, and clearly you get more for your money with the smaller manufacturers, but I don't want to get stuck dealing with a weird incompatibility that hasn't been sorted out.
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Question by:NinEliAbe
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 22695368
R2 has some added features but I don't know that I'd say it's substantially better.

As far as preinstallation goes, I wouldn't do either.  Either meaning I wouldn't get Dell/HP to preinstall nor would I tell YOU to do it yourself.  

SBS is a VERY stable system... WHEN SETUP CORRECTLY.  My recommendation would be to hire a consultant who knows SBS and can install it appropriately.  YOU can manage it, once it's setup, but GET IT SETUP PROPERLY.   (I'm sure you wouldn't recommend I do my own eye surgery any more than I'm recommending you do this yourself).

Now if you insist on doing this yourself, then I would recommend you get some books, read some articles, and install it AT LEAST TWICE to get used to it and HOPEFULLY, you can set it up properly.

I would also suggest you consider waiting a couple more weeks or so.  The next version of SBS - SBS 2008 is due to be released officially on November 12 (+/- 3 days; I don't remember off hand).  It's setup should be even more streamlined and you may would also be getting the newest product that would provide a better return on investment.
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by:NinEliAbe
ID: 22695542
Thanks for you thoughts.  I had thought of waiting for SBS 2008, but was concerned that I likely would have to deal with many months of buggyness, driver incompatibles, etc., if I was one of the first movers.  What is your level of concern about that?
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 22695836
Server 2008 was released (RTM) in February.  SBS 2008 incorporates Server 2008 and Exchange 2007 (which was released nearly two years ago).  While there is ALWAYS going to be buggyness in software, these aren't as new as people might think.  SBS adds a few things to the package (such as wizards and a couple of services to enforce the rules that apply to it (only one SBS server per domain, for example).  So I'm not really concerned with buggyness at all.  As for drivers, there is a concern there, but any new server you buy should have Server 2008 drivers already.  Meaning your last concern is really any special hardware and/or printers.  Servers should NOT have much in the way of special hardware - that should be left to workstations - and printers, at worst, can be setup on a per workstation (or shared from workstations, especially in a small environment).
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by:netsysllc
ID: 22696427
With any edition of SBS if you are planing on moving to the new server you are going to run into a lot of work migrating the domain and mail. If you are setting up a new domain then it will not be so hard.  I would also suggest SBS 2008 as it is a very nice product.

As far as the hardware vendor goes, I only recommend Dell to my clients. I get better prices than HP, and HP support tends to be terrible. Either way get their best warranty with 4 hour onsite support and they will fix it within 4 hours. I would not agree that you get more for the money with smaller vendors. Show me a system and I bet I could get the same thing for within 10% from Dell.
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by:NinEliAbe
ID: 22696472
OK, I am convinced, I'll go with Dell.  I was planning on setting up a new domain.  From what I had read I had thought that would be pretty straightforward.   It is a small system with 4 users.  My major need is the security of a domain controller and exchange for local email.  Also, I do like setting up the computer systems myself if it is reasonable.  With these modest requirements, is it reasonable?
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Lee W, MVP earned 250 total points
ID: 22696623
First, I agree - Dell.  In fact, ORDER IT NOW (well, sometime next week - and do so by getting your self a business sales person/team - DO NOT pay what you price out on Dell's web site.  They are more stingy now, but even so, I would expect between 5 and 20% discounts (off the web price) if you order NOW.  (End of fiscal quarter is October 31 (+/-3 days).  As such, they TYPICALLY will give better discounts.

Further, I do know some people who prefer to build servers - but strictly speaking, that's a headache at best and a nightmare at worst and purchase pricing will usually be the same or MAYBE SLIGHTLY better with a custom built no-name server - in my opinion NOT WORTH IT.  Servers run the business - they need to be the most reliable, best warrantied system you can get.  I don't care about the workstations... I'll still recommend Dells, but strictly speaking, in a properly setup network, the workstations can be CR*P.  

Now, Microsoft is TRYING to sell people on the idea that Small Business Server is a VERY EASY product to install and setup.  And *I* think its pretty easy.  BUT, I cannot stress this enough, PROPER SETUP will be the difference between random, lingering problems that don't make sense to even experienced techs and a system that is rock solid and doesn't require anything more than the occasional review, JUST TO BE SAFE.  If you are willing to take the time to LEARN it - INCLUDING installing it AT LEAST TWICE in the beginning so you can walk through it and know what to expect and write down things you may be uncertain about to resolve later - then you may be successful.  

To be clear, I'm not suggesting that a technician setup the system and then handle every little thing including creation of accounts and setting your away message for you - that you can do - even creating the accounts can be done by you... just the initial setup and have a guy handy in case there is an unexpected major problem.
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by:NinEliAbe
ID: 22705631
Many thanks for the tip on Dell ordering, I will definitely use it.  Part of the reason I had leaned towards doing the install myself is last time, when I had a Windows Server/Exchange maven set it up, they belittled the Wizards and did all the configuration directly.  It worked, but then I was in no-mans-land re the Wizards, as  when I tried to use them for tasks they would report that before proceeding the configurations should be changed, did I want to do that?   I had thought using the Wizards myself would be straightforward and lock in all the standard SBS settings, but your comments suggest to me that isn't the right way to look at it.

 Perhaps I just need someone who specializes in SBS?    I
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 22705734
Exactly - the guy you had to set it up was probably very experienced... in STANDARD server.  SBS is DIFFERENT.  I was like that guy 4 years ago... but I've definitely learned SBS is a different beast.  

Someone who knows SBS should be able to set it up properly.  You MAY be able to do it too.... but an experienced SBS consultant should get it right the first time and likely, in the long run, save you money.
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