Recommendation on replacing SBS

Posted on 2014-03-24
Last Modified: 2016-11-23
I have a client with about 30 users who wants a new server (hardware and software) for whom I think Small Business Server would have been an excellent choice.  As it is not available with Server 2012, I need to find an appropriate solution.

The situation has some special characteristics.  It is a non-profit that can get the software through TechSoup, so Windows Server cost doesn't matter much.  My time is donated to them, so initial setup costs are not an issue.  I try to have them do the regular daily/weekly  maintenance, so simplicity there is of value.

My preferred configuration with SBS was to have email hosted elsewhere and use POP3 Connector to retrieve the mail.  This works well for my clients and avoids issues with email failures when the local internet goes down or the server is being rebooted.  This was a handy feature of SBS.

They are very interested in using Exchange for mail and calendars, both locally and remotely.  The cloud-based solutions work well for some clients, but this one wants to avoid the monthly cost.

I'm leaning toward using Server 2012 Core and running two VMs in it, Server 2012 Standard and Exchange Server.  The Standard would do all of the basic work (AD, DNS, DHCP, File Sharing) and the other would just run Exchange.  They have no need for additional server-based applications.

My questions are pretty simple: does this sound like a good approach?  If not, what would be preferable under these circumstances?

Are there any suggestions about using Exchange without it being THE email server?  I can go in that direction if needed, but I did like how POP3 Connector worked.

They are buying a new server (likely HP or Dell) at the same time.  I suspect they will end up with an E5-2404, 16 or 32G of RAM, and 2 or 4 SAS drives in RAID-1 arrays from a hardware RAID controller.

Thanks to all for your input!
Question by:CompProbSolv
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Expert Comment

by:Mohammed Khawaja
ID: 39951992
Get a server with Raid-6, virtualize and have 2 or possibly 3 VMs:
- DC
- exchange
- SharePoint and SQL (optional)

RAID-6 will help with performance and SharePoint could replace file server.
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Author Comment

ID: 39952350
Thanks for the input but, of course, that raises more questions!

Why would you recommend RAID 6 over RAID 1?

Why would you put SharePoint on a third VM rather than letting it run on one of the others?

Do you have any suggestions about replacing POP3 Connector if we don't want to be the main email server?
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Assisted Solution

by:Mohammed Khawaja
Mohammed Khawaja earned 250 total points
ID: 39952436
1.  RAID-6 will give you more data space than raid-1 as well as performance
2.   SharePoint requires SQL and it recommended to be on its own and definitely not on a DC
3.  For email, I would be against Pop3 and instead I would pay my ISP to host my MX as well as relay my messages via their SMTP.  I would get them to do basic anti-spam also.  This way your users will have exchange profile only and can use Outlook from anywhere.  This will also require you to need SSL cert for your Exchange.   Look at for their anti-virus and anti-spam offerings which is very cheap.
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Expert Comment

ID: 39952632
what is the budget for software and hardware?
you could simplify things and be more cost effective by installing windows 2012 server and run a VM of sbs2011.  (you can still purchase this from some retail outlets)  

for 30 basic users sbs2011 will be sufficient and will include all the s/ware you need.

you'd want minimum raid 5.  

i would set the server to host exchange or relay from your ISP.  you can always set it as the main host for email and setup a backup mx record to hold the mail if your sbs or internet ever is offline.
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Author Comment

ID: 39954000
The budget is not fixed at this point, but I believe $4k for hardware and software should be about right.

As I mentioned, the software will come from TechSoup and the cost is minimal.  They don't offer SBS 2011.  This would have been my first choice.

I'm a bit unclear about the email recommendations.  When I've done SBS before I have an ISP host the email and use the SMTP Relay and the POP3 Connector to send and to receive the email into the Exchange Server.  This has worked very well.

The users only interact through the Exchange Server.  They can use Outlook (most common) or OWA.

The part that I am missing is how to get mail from the ISP to our Exchange Server when the MX records point to the ISP and we don't have the POP3 connector from SBS.  I'm not looking for a complete explanation here; a link to details would be more than adequate.

Accepted Solution

rick81 earned 250 total points
ID: 39954745
for 4k you'll probably have to run raid 5 with 3 sata or sas disks.  i'd look at dell poweredge with 3 year onsite warranty.  
build a win2012 standard server with 2-3 VM's.

host O/S - win2012 - with hyper v role installed ~4GB
VM1 - win2012 - Domain controller1 + associated roles, file server, print server ~8GB
VM2 - win2012 - Exchange 2013 server - ~12GB  
VM3 - win2012 - Domain controller 2 (optional) - ~4GB

my RAM recommendations are rough but you'd probably want a minimum of 32GB for this server.   100GB hdd space of each O/S partition, maybe 500GB for data store + 200GB for exchange.  (i dont know your disk requirements but at a minimum you probably need 1TB.   so you'd need 3 X 500GB drives to give you 1TB raid 5.  you could probably get SAS drives.

in an ideal world i would have 2 disks for the O/S (raid 1)
and 3 disks for data (raid 5) but that config will probably push you over budget.

For the email setup, forget the pop3 connector.  This doesnt exist in exchange 2013.  it is only part of sbs.

The most common setup would be to point your mx records directly to your exchange server.  so you will need a static WAN IP address, your firewall ports open for exchange, owa, smtp, etc and exchange receive/send connectors configured correctly.  just google setup of exchange 2013 server.  there are 100's of guides to get it up and running.

as you mentioned this then relies solely on your exchange server to be online.  an option if it goes down is to setup a backup mx or mail server.  this backup mail server will hold your emails while your server is being rebooted.  usually mail will keep resending for a day or 2 sometimes more before it fails.  if your server is down for a couple of days then it may be an issue.  other than that i wouldnt worry about it.
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Author Closing Comment

ID: 39960797
Thanks to both of you for your responses.

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