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I'm trying to figure out how to build a decent IT infrastructure for a new business on a budget and I was wondering if anyone has any tips or ideas on how to build a Windows IT infrastructure cheaply in a new business. I know for software startups there is BizSpark which basically gives the business keys to the kingdom, but I haven't found anything like that for traditional companies.


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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Look into Small Business Server 2008 (SBS 2008). It gives you a ton of Microsoft software for very little startup costs including Exchange, SQL Server, ISA, etc. It also allows you to run Windows Server on three servers (a lot more if you use Hyper-V to virtualize).


If you want to build IT infrastructure on a budget the first thing to do is to think long and hard about whether you really need Windows or not, and there are two parts to that question:

  • Do you need Windows on the servers?

are there any specialised windows-only services that you need to run, or do you just need the usual services like file & print sharing, tape backup, internet gateway/firewall, web server or web proxy, email, sql database, etc?

you can save yourself thousands of dollars per server by using linux (or freebsd or even opensolaris) based servers rather than windows.

  • Do you need Windows on the desktops?

are there any windows-only apps that your users will need, or do you just need the usual word-processing, spreadsheets, database, email and web browsing? and if you only need one or two windows-only apps, will they run on Linux under Wine?

you can save yourself hundreds of dollars per machine by using a desktop-oriented linux distribution like Ubuntu.

or if only a few staff members need to use a windows-only app, you could still standardise on Ubuntu desktops and use VirtualBox to install Windows on their machines - greatly reducing the number of Windows and application licenses you have to buy.

How do you save hundreds of dollars per machine by using Linux over Windows? When Windows is included with a PC purchase and you request a refund you usually get back $40-50 US. The retail cost of Windows is not the same as using the OEM license that most people use. – mrdenny Aug 4 '09 at 21:33
i just read your other question - Solidworks wont run under Wine...but it would run under Virtualbox. With careful choice of hardware (i.e. nvidia graphics cards), it can run with full 3d graphics capabilities and only 1-2% performance drop (not noticable by users - people just don't notice performance gains or losses of less than about 10%). you wouldn't save as much money, though, if every desktop user needed Solidworks - you'd still need a Windows license for each workstation, so you'd only save on the other apps. – cas Aug 4 '09 at 21:42
@mrdenny: Windows license + MS Office License + virus scanner license + licenses for other apps that have a free linux equivalent + licenses for various third-party utilities that just aren't needed or are included free with linux & linux apps (e.g. good PDF output drivers) – cas Aug 4 '09 at 21:45

Also: If you're an IT company, you can join the Microsoft Partner Program and I think their Action Pack contains a bunch of licenses to everything you need for $300/yr.

That's a good option as well. Not all the server's come with CALs though, so be careful on this one (also on the SBS option as well). But if you can live within the limits of the action pack (we've used it to augment our other software we've paid for) the action pack is great. – mrdenny Aug 5 '09 at 2:21
Yep. You really can't beat the price. For most purposes, it's a great starting server environment in a box, and you can use the Open License program for the rest. – Karl Katzke Aug 5 '09 at 3:39

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