BackOffice 4.5 simplifies branch office deployment

Microsoft Corp.’s BackOffice Server 4.5 suite — currently in beta testing — has several new features aimed at simplifying the installation, deployment, management and development of solutions for branch offices and departments.

BackOffice 4.5 includes Windows NT Server 4.0, Windows NT Option Pack, Exchange Server 5.5, Proxy Server 2.0, SNA Server 4.0, SQL Server 7.0, Site Server 3.0 and Systems Management Server 2.0. It also includes Outlook 2000, FrontPage 2000 Web site creation and management tool, Visual InterDev Web development system Version 6.0 and Seagate Crystal Info 6.0.

“If you think about all that technology and what it takes to get it installed and start talking to each other, that’s a pretty hefty piece of technology you’d have to work through,” said Paul Christilaw, marketing manager for Windows Platform Team, at Microsoft Canada Co. in Mississauga, Ont. “So the first thing BackOffice 4.5 brings is an integrated installer for all that.”

Christilaw said if users install BackOffice 4.5 on a server that already has Microsoft software loaded, the installer is intelligent enough to detect what versions are already there and recommends service pack upgrades or technology upgrades based on its findings.

Another new aspect of BackOffice 4.5 is aimed at deployment in departmental applications and branch offices.

“One of the things that becomes interesting when you take this technology and move it outside of this sort of head office or main IT environment is, ‘How do you deploy it?'” Christilaw said.

There are several new features introduced in 4.5 to better automate deployment in multiple branches or departmental servers.

For instance, there are reusable set-up scripts — once a standard server configuration has been established, an unattended set-up script can be generated automatically. There is a BackOffice Server deployment wizard, which allows systems managers to replicate a single script across hundreds of servers, automatically updating machine names and parameter settings as required.

There is also a branch office set-up scenario, which automatically sets the proper settings for a remote location, such as joining an existing Microsoft Exchange Server site and setting up a secondary Systems Management Server site.

Users working with the beta applauded Microsoft’s efforts to simplify remote deployment.