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We currently have a SBS 2003 server that is on its way out. Our shop is small (< 10 PCs), and our needs are not that great. I've been looking at Small Business Server 2011 Essentials and trying to figure out if it will work for us. These are out basic needs:

  • Domain Controller/Active Directory
  • File and Printer Sharing
  • IIS for Intranet
  • Ability to create VPN connection

Our Intranet App uses MySQL, so SQL Server is not required. We have hosted email so Exchange is unimportant. We have no need for SharePoint.

Would SBS 2011 Essentials fit the bill for this? Or am I looking at the Standard version?

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Tried to add windows-server-2011 tag, but not enough rep. – Sam Feb 28 '12 at 21:36
There is no such thing as Windows Server 2011. Tagged with [sbs-2011]. – Skyhawk Feb 28 '12 at 21:46
Thanks for the tag Miles! Didn't even think to try SBS – Sam Feb 28 '12 at 21:52
Thanks for the feedback fellas. Downloaded the SBS 2011 demo last night to take it for a test drive, but my CD burner fails to burn ISOs to disk. Sounds like you both lean towards some flavor of 2008. My main concern with that is adopting 4 year old technology when there is something newer available--plus it sounds like Windows Server 8 is just around the corner. Out of curiosity, have either of you tried 2011 Essentials? Or are you basing your recommendations off of SBS 2003/2008 experiences? I mean no disrespect, but tons of people avoided Win 7 because of Vista and I love Win 7. – Sam Feb 29 '12 at 15:55
SBS 2011 Essentials is not "newer" than Server 2008 R2. It is Server 2008 R2. Server 2008 R2 is based on Windows 7 (a.k.a. Windows 6.1). SBS 2011 Essentials has certain Server 2008 R2 features disabled, and it has a pretty but essentially useless management console. Server 2008 R2 Foundation also has certain features disabled, but it costs a lot less and is available only as an OEM product. Bottom line: 2008 R2 is the most current version of Windows Server, and that will not change until Windows Server 8 is released. – Skyhawk Feb 29 '12 at 19:39
up vote 2 down vote accepted

As long as you are planning for your server to have 8GB or less of RAM, Server 2008 R2 Foundation would be a more appropriate choice. The Foundation Edition includes web services but has none of the SBS bloat. It is missing certain features that you are unlikely to miss, including Hyper-V and Active Directory Federation Services. The license cost is only about $200-300, considerably less than the cost of SBS 2011 Essentials, but it can be purchased only as a preinstalled option on OEM servers. Microsoft provides links to participating OEMs.

A matrix of Server 2008 R2 editions and features may be useful to you in making your decision.

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Wasn't aware of a Server 2008 R2 Foundation. However, based on your recommendation, I was able to find an okay resource for comparing the two editions. I like the idea of simplified management, but it still isn't clear what I am gaining/losing by choosing Foundation or SBS 2011. I did notice that in the chart it talks about a web interface in lieu of Remote Desktop for 2011. That may be a deal breaker for me. I currently tunnel to work to get an internal IP so I can monitor out web servers from home via RDP.… – Sam Feb 28 '12 at 22:12
The "simplified management" SBS features don't run particularly deep. Their intention is simply to allow someone without server experience to perform basic tasks like adding users. If you are already accustomed to monitoring non-SBS servers, you may not find this "Windows Server management tools for desktop users" layer to be a particularly compelling feature. – Skyhawk Feb 29 '12 at 5:38

If you don't need Exchange and/or SQL Server, SBS is the wrong choice. With SBS you essentially get all the main Microsoft products at a much lower price than the full retail price of all of them together, but still at a higher price than a simple Standard license of Windows Server; and it comes with big limits on the number of users and servers you can have in your environment (even later on).

My advice is to stay clear of SBS and buy a Standard license of Windows Server 2008 R2, which will fulfill all your needs.

As a side note, I'd rather not put all of those services on a domain controller. If you are on a low budget for hardware, you could at least consider virtualization and splitting those services between mutiple (virtual) servers.

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Small Biz Server 2011 Essentials comes with 25 User CALs (which we are a long way from using). Don't you still need to buy CALs with the Standard versions? Good point on virtualization. Is there a particular reason you don't want a domain controller in use in the same instance as the other simple services? – Sam Feb 28 '12 at 21:51
You need CALs with the Standard version, but they are nowhere as costly as the ones for SBS (and IIRC you get 5 CALs included with Standard, anyway). Also, the plain Windows license costs a lot less than a SBS one. If you don't need the other softwares SBS provides, it's completely useless to buy it. – Massimo Feb 28 '12 at 23:18
A DC should only handle security and domain management duties; web services, VPN access and databases just do not belong on a DC (and may also be more difficult to set up due to more strict security settings). – Massimo Feb 28 '12 at 23:19
SBS 2011 Essentials doesn't seem to come w/ Exchange or any of the other things that bog down SBS. It comes with 25 User CALs, and is less than $500 when buying it OEM with a server (Dell or HP). That's an awful lot of room to grow with minimal up front investment. Also looks like most of the management is done through a Dashboard and wizards, which seems helpful when we don't really have an A+ Cert or in-depth networking/administrative knowledge. – Sam Feb 29 '12 at 0:21
@Sam For whatever it's worth, an A+ certification is not particularly relevant to server administration. If you are in charge of Windows servers, regardless of whether they have "simplified" management tools, it is your employer's responsibility to pay your way into the appropriate skills to do it right. If you are a self-directed learner, have your employer pay for a year's Safari Books Online subscription (and/or a massive stack of soon-obsolete paper books) as well as the five Microsoft exams in the MCITP: Enterprise Administrator track. Call it "Option B" in lieu of a $10K boot camp. – Skyhawk Feb 29 '12 at 5:46

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