Microsoft updates SMB server line

Microsoft Corp. has updated its all-in-one server for small businesses, and added an additional product to its server line for mid-sized businesses with up to 300 users.

Windows Small Business Server accommodates up to 75 users, while larger businesses now have the option of Windows Essential Business Server 2008, according to Constanza Zalba, product manager for SMB servers for Microsoft Canada.

“Canada is primarily a small and mid-size country,” Zalba said. And Canadian SMBs tend to view IT differently from their American counterparts; while only 30 per cent of U.S. SMBs have an internal IT staff, 60 per cent of Canadia SMBs do, she said.

“Technology takes on a much more strategic importance in the company (in Canada),” she said.

Steve Tong, manager of information systems for Toronto Grace Hospital, said the hospital had been running the 2003 version of Small Business Server. The central management window for SQL, Exchange and SharePoint servers “made the difference” in the decision to go to EBS.

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“It almost gives me a dashboard view in the morning” of the status of the network, Tong said. Using the single server package means a 30 to 40 per cent savings, and a reduction from seven servers to three.

Grace’s IT staff of three – supporting 275 users on about 100 machines — had only a week to migrate the system onto the new platform, but since it has a similar look and feel to SBS 2003, they were confident they’d be able to go live on time, Tong said. The migration took place in 10 to 12 hours over a weekend.

An included migration tool checks for active directory and DNS issues and the like, then graphically designs the new network, saving the design as an XML file.

The server was deployed on an Intel Modular 5000 server with an integrated storage area network donated by Intel Corp.

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While Grace has long had a reputation in Toronto as a palliative care hospital, most of the 119 beds are actually for complex continuing care or slow pace rehabilitation, says Tong. Palliative care doctors often work from their patients’ homes, so SharePoint’s Remote Web Workplace feature allows them remote access to patient records without having to expose them to loss by, for example, loading them onto a laptop.

He says that since Remote Web Workplace still sits on the remote desktop protocol, there is some latency. “It still depends on the pipe going into the building,” Tong said. With about 20 Mbps of bandwidth going into Toronto Grace, Tong said the system can easily support 15 remote users simultaneously.

Zalba said the major differences between SBS and EBS are the scalability and the management console, which can handle up to four hardware servers. SBS would run on a single hardware server, she said.

EBS costs about $6,700, 30 per cent less than buying standalone server software. SBS costs about $1,100, a 45 per cent saving over standalone.

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