Need advice for upgrade from SBS 2003

I'd like some advice to point me towards the most favourable option for upgrading my SBS 2003 server.
It is running on a 32-bit HP Proliant machine that has 4gb of ram, an INtel Xeon(x3430@2.4Ghz) CPU, and 1TB of HD space.

It currently supports 20 users. It is possible that we may expand to 25 users in the near future.

The office has about 7 Windows xp machines, 7 Windows 7 machines, and 3 Windows 8(not all of the windows 8 machines are joined to the domain).

The server runs Exchange 2003, extended support for which expires this coming April.  The server 2003 component expires in July 2015(i think).

I should mention that we have a proprietary booking reservation system that is currently stable on Access 2000 only. This works on the xp and 7 workstations but has not yet been tested on the Windows 8 machines(it's on my todo list)

There are 2-6 employees who work remotely through a vpn.  At least 2 of these need to remotely log on to their machines in order to use the reservation system.  

I would appreciate any suggestions you have.  I am a bit baffled by my options.

Many thanks
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Gary ColtharpConnect With a Mentor Sr. Systems EngineerCommented:
Mostly good information above, here is my .02...

SBS 2011 is going away... however, if you want the most effective migration path and compatability with what you have, go that route. If you can't get your server vendor to ship your new hardware with SBS 2011, you can still buy it from sources like evalue software, etc. You will need to buy CALS to cover your user base. You get to keep exchange in house and it will work with all of your client PCs, including Windows 8 after some service packs are applied.

The alternative is Essentials 2012 which is good for up to 30 users with no CALS requirement. Essentials DOES NOT have exchange....therefore your choices are to use a hosted exchange service such as Office365, ThreeLock (numerous others) or you will need a second server to run Exchange and there will be separate licensing costs.  Essentials DOES NOT support clients less than Windows 7 and you will find that group policy components like folder redirection etc have no effect on your Windows XP clients. If you are planning to upgrade your workstations running XP to Windows 7, then go this route if you dont mind moving your email to a hosted service or are prepared to setup local exchange.

Ultimately, you are going to have some "fun" ahead in getting your legacy applications upgraded or replaced. You can't expect those apps to continue to function as the operating systems, etc evolve.


Andy MConnect With a Mentor Internal Systems ManagerCommented:
The first port of call would be getting a new server - most of the applications on newer versions of SBS are 64-Bit (Exchange for example) so would need an upgrade to the processor and you need a lot more RAM for newer versions as well (16GB+ is typically recommended).

Microsoft have full documentation on how to migrate from SBS 2003 to 2011:

Follow the guide to the letter and the migration should be reasonably smooth enough (my colleagues have done a couple of these with little trouble).

You can still do VPN's and everything on the newer versions.

As for the booking system - does it need Access 2000 to be installed on the server to work or is the database file itself just on the server? If it's just the database this shouldn't cause an issue as the clients are just looking at an MDB file on the server.

If it needs to be installed I believe it should work but not 100% sure (never tried it myself) - if it doesn't you could always see if you can get an older copy of Server 2003 Standard (Ebay?) and setup your old server as a member server that can host the application.

Note: You cannot have 2 SBS servers running on the same domain network at the same time (except for the 21 day migration period).
WORKS2011Austin Tech CompanyCommented:
I would stay away from upgrading to WIN8 it doesn't mix well with business in my opinion.

SBS 2011 will be discontinued in 2015, something to consider however I believe you'll be ok, I'm still installing it myself.

If you're not going over 25 users you may want to consider 2012 Essentials however the access may be an issue but it doesn't sound like it needs to run in the cloud.
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Andy MConnect With a Mentor Internal Systems ManagerCommented:
I don't believe Windows 2012 Essentials comes with Exchange server where as older versions of SBS do, so if this is needed you would need to purchase Exchange separately or migrate over to a hosted email service such as Office 365.

SBS 2011 is getting a bit harder to purchase these days as Microsoft pushes 2012 - I think it's mainly available on OEM these days but we've had no issues getting it with Dell or HP servers so far (though this may start to change as companies push 2012 more).

Also be careful of the 2012 licensing - I think the cheaper versions are quite heavily restricted on the number of users and if you expand and go over that number you have to purchase the next version up later on.
hecgomrecConnect With a Mentor Commented:
After going through a similar scenario I can tell you.... is going to be a trip!!!

Windows Server 2012 Essentials should be your version, try to get a server with at least 2 processors and 8 cores running with 32GB of ram so your server "roles" will perform better.  For your HD space just consider the space you have now and how much can this increase in a future, you may not be able to use your actual disk(s) in a new server.

Here is a link with the "official" instructions to the migration:

Go big or go home!!!....   if you are to have more users you should think about it.... there will be implications on license and upgrading the exchange version included on the essential as you will need CALs for both OS and Exchange. So I'm just saying it could cost you more on the long run instead of being prepare for the future... I don't know how long your 2003 is being on your organization... mine was since 2003 so lots of things changed after 10 years... we started with 35 computers now we have more than 75 and I just upgrade to 2012 standard.
EyeBallInSaltAuthor Commented:
Hi All,

Thank you all for contributing.  I feel less overwhelmed now.
I need to do some pricing.  I was hoping that we wouldn't have to buy a new server , let alone 2, but it looks like I'm going to have to.  I dislike the the idea of office 365 because our internet connection is not always stable.  I am downloading an evaluation copy of SBS 2011 and hope to get this working in a virtual environment first.  It looks like this will be optimum as it will mean buying only 1 server and I can live with having only another 7 years of extended support. Plan B is server essentials 2012, and 2 servers.
I appreciate all of your advice and offer again my thanks.
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