SBS 2008 network verses P2P network with cloud

I have a client who are currently running an SBS 2008 server with 6 clients.

OK, it's a tiny network but they want to discuss changing to use a Windows 7 Pro PC as their file server using Office 365 for their emails.

They mentioned adding a second hard drive to file server PC and I have mentioned the security aspects of moving away from a proper server such as the Poweredge T300 they are using, along with the processing power and better file sharing.

But in such a small network with no more than four users connected to the network at any one time, how accurate am I? Are they REALLY benefiting from using a server?
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Simon Butler (Sembee)Connect With a Mentor ConsultantCommented:
If they want to move to the cloud, for that small number of users and if bandwidth is good, then I would let them. Deploy a new server (HP Microserver would be ideal) with Windows Essentials 2012 installed. If you go to Office365 then you can integrate everything. That will still give you some server functionality (and decent storage options) without all of the overhead.

David Johnson, CD, MVPOwnerCommented:
consolidated management
consolidated backup (if using folder redirection)
with wds you can go from bare metal to fully installed in less than an hour

if it is working why change, don't just change for the sake of change.
Cliff GaliherCommented:
There are actually two distinct issues here.

The first is whether you want to maintain a domain. There are definite central management and security benefits to having a domain verses a workgroup. Even with only a few users, being able to remove or lock an account when someone leaves the company, for example, can be a significant security concern. If you want a domain, you need a server OS.

Second is the file storage issue. I'm assuming they *care* about the files they are storing...or why store them? Server hardware is simply more reliable. They are built to stricter tolerances and in most cases have more features to catch errors (ECC RAM, a *real* RAID controller, etc.)

Which brings us to hardware planning. Moving to Office365 is certainly an option for a small business, and that means you'll need far less powerful hardware to run just a file server and/or domain controller...since Exchange was the beast of SBS.

If you want a DC, buy a server OS like Windows Server 2012 Standard or 2012 Essentials and an entry-level server is really quite inexpensive to run the OS on. It will handle DC and file server duties.

If you decide you don't want a domain, you would probably be better served buying a NAS device. I can't ever justify running a fileserver on an end-user OS like Win7. Like a server, NAS devices are designed for this duty and, when built by a reputable manufacturer, will be more reliable than a workstation.

Either way, don't let them run their file server on Win7. Present them with the options, help them make the decisions that make the most sense for their environment, and then implement the plan. If they ignore your advice, leave them. You can't go into a doctor's office and insist he/she perform a procedure they don't agree with. "My stomach hurts, please remove my leg." As an IT Professional, we have to be willing to be the same way. Do no harm. And that includes installing a network that we know is broken, poorly designed, or puts the customer at significant risk. Sometimes it is best just to say no.
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mikeabc27Author Commented:
Many thanks for your comments.

I feel the server has several years left in it, nearly two with full hardware support from Dell. So my initial advice was to review things in two and four years time, a long time in computing.

Should the server die after it's out of warranty they still have their old SBS 2003 which could act as a temporary file server.

 While the exchange server would be available until the SBS 2008 died, is there any advantage in them switching to Office 365 early. They have 7 full copies of Office 2010 Professional.

I would use the cloud for file backups and already have Symantec System Recovery 2013 for nightly full server backups to a USB drive.
Cliff GaliherCommented:
This is really an unrelated question and should be asked separately. I will, however, say in brief that what you propose is a fairly haphazard approach to disaster recovery and potentially dangerous. Let's say you don't move them to Office 365 and the server dies. Sure, they have an old server that can apparently act as a temporary file server. But how do you recover their accounts or their email? Doing a bare-metal recovery of the existing server onto old hardware will very likely fail, so there is a *huge* risk of data loss.

DR planning is not a light "wing-it" topic. You must make decisions about your environment and then have a detailed and tested plan to recover any aspect of that environment. That includes AD, on-premise email, files, and more. If you wait until the failure, you will pay a steep price in man-hours and frustration.
mikeabc27Author Commented:
I appreciate your point and accept it as the main argument to go to Office 365. Until Novermber 2014 we have full 4 hour hardware support and full SSR 2013 backups - always keeping one offsite.

In the event of a fire or burglarly I use exMerge on the SBS2003 networks I support and intended to implement the 2008 Shell equivalent of this to convert the mailboxes to PST files. This is hold on while we decide about Office 365.

My plan for a TEMPORARY solution, to allow a return normal business as much as possible and allow time to implement a longterm solution, was the old server would act as a simple file server and the PST files would be downloaded to Personal Folders in Outlook 2010. They would lose the diaries etc. and would have to go manual for a while.

I suggested to the two partners we have a full Saturday DR testing day during the next few weeks and then I could find any weaknesses.
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