windows server down - what are my options?

My windows server 2003 crashed the other day and this is a good excuse to upgrade or maybe go virtual. I have a domain in an office with about 10 users, and we only use the serve to log in to active directory and share files, etc.
I am using it for DHCP and was using the DNS, but I can get my router to do that or go static. Also, I set the DNS on each of the workstations to the Comcast DNS so we have internet. So that brings me to my two part question: how long can I survive without the server (AD) in place - will the workstations need to re-authenticate in the near future? and second, do I need to replace the server with a local one, or has anyone used the MS Azure virtual services with any success to replace this functionality?
Thanks,
Rich
RichAsked:
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
A LOT of people are CLOUD NUTS these days... I am not one of them.  It's an option in certain cases, but when you look at pricing for a 5-7 year plan vs. owning a low end server, I think it's a wash at best and often CHEAPER, with the right consultant, to keep it on site.  

The workstations will indefinitely authenticate via locally cached profiles HOWEVER, if you have to have someone else sit at a desk that they never sat at, you'll be unable to log them in - only if a person has previously logged in (by default up to the last 10 domain accounts) will their information be cached.

You don't say HOW the server died... or what died.  It may be easier than you think to recover.  Maybe not, but like I said, you don't say....

Based on your question history, I assume this is an SBS server?  So you're not using Exchange?

You can restore the AD even if your backups are horrible if you have access to the disk using a tool like UPromote (not free, but not terribly expensive).  

If you didn't want to replace the server, you'd probably be better off with a NAS than going to Azure.   BUT, you need to do the math and determine the pros and cons for your business having it in the cloud.  Personally, I'm a strong proponent of server based networks - Essentials sounds perfect for you... though you COULD also do Foundation (it's more limited in user accounts with fewer wizards and you can only get it on a new low end server).
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RichAuthor Commented:
Thanks Lee,
You answered my main question - how long with the authentication last, which appears to give me a couple of days or a week in this particular case (users do not typically move around the office.)

The original server machine was non-responsive, so I rebooted it and when it restarted, it could not find the (SCSI - I think RAID) disks) or any storage other than the CD drive. I have brought the machine to my shop to clean it out and try to figure out what is going on, but in the meantime, have been looking at a cloud server as I have to either fix this machine or find my client a lower end server and configure it. I have not gotten the costs for Azure yet, as it is not a one-time fee, but an ongoing charge for usage, so it makes the cost-analysis more complicated. In either case, I was more concerned that I could even use a cloud based server with AD to run the office. Not sure if a hardware VPN or similar would be required - still learning about how the networking infrastructure will be needed to set up.

Rich
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