by June 30, 2004 0 comments

Every time Microsoft releases a network OS, it’s usually followed by another offering for small businesses, which is built around the same OS. The difference is that besides the base OS, the offering also adds in other Microsoft products, which are suitable for small businesses. The complete bundle turns out to be much cheaper than if they were to buy the products separately. The Small Business Server 2003 is available in two editions: Standard and Premium. Both editions have Windows Server 2003 as the base OS, along with Exchange Server 2003, SharePoint Services, Office Outlook 2003, Microsoft Shared Fax Service, and Routing and Remote Access. The Premium Edition also contains ISA Server, SQL Server and Office FrontPage 2003. We’ve reviewed the Standard Edition.

The advantages of this product are the ease of installation and administration. This is a boon for small businesses, which may not have highly skilled IT manpower to handle their IT setup. The installation has been made simpler than the previous version of Small Business Server. Any user having a basic understanding of networks can install it.

SharePoint services let users share their documents, have online
discussions and much more

The setup first installs the OS, followed by the installation of various tools and applications. The last step is a To Do list that automatically appears for configuring common network tasks such as remote access and adding client licenses, and management tasks such as adding users and printers. A feature added to this release is the ability to create multiple user accounts through an Add Multiple User wizard. Besides user accounts, it also creates their mailboxes, and grants access to network resources and folders.

Like we mentioned, this edition also includes Windows SharePoint Services, which allows better collaboration and information sharing between users. It has a document library, in which you can store documents, presentations and projects. You can have online discussions, conduct surveys and get feedback on your shared documents. In all, like the main product, this one also allows better collaboration amongst the users.

Outlook Web Access has been a feature of Microsoft Exchange, wherein users can access all their MS Outlook features such as mail, calendar and contacts through a Web browser. This way, you are not limited to using Outlook from your seat. It even includes Outlook Mobile Access, which allows you to access Outlook from your cellphones and PDAs. The Exchange server also lets you schedule meetings or online conferences.

For Internet connectivity, the server has a wizard that takes you through all the necessary steps. The wizard lets you enable the firewall and automatically enables the essential services that would need access to your network. You can change these as well, if you like. The wizard also lets you define and configure your Internet gateway. There is documentation on best security practices that can be followed for better security options.

Acess Microsoft Outlook through a Web browser

The server’s performance monitoring and reporting capabilities are really good. It can be configured to send the administrator an e-mail of all critical alerts generated by the server. You can also generate performance reports, which provide a comprehensive status of the server, such as CPU usage, whether the backup has been taken and service failures. These alerts are presented in a very easy to understand format, keeping the target audience in mind.

The server also has data backup capabilities built in. You can back up data to a tape, another hard drive on the server or a shared folder on the network. This feature also retains copies of all messages that users have deleted from their Outlook. You can configure it for the number of days you’d like to retain the deleted messages. You can even configure the Volume Shadow Copy service, which retains previous versions of files so that they can be retrieved when needed. Restoration can be done on the same computer or a different one. In case you are restoring on a different computer, make sure that the hardware configuration is the same as the original machine in which the server was running. Restoration of data is done through an ‘ntbackup’ wizard, which asks you for the location where the backup is stored and gives a report of files that were recovered.

The bottom line: The key features of this server are its ease of use and the bundling in of Exchange Server and SharePoint services, which make it a good buy for small organizations.

Sushil Oswal

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