First off, I'm not a sys admin. I'm just a software developer trying to help out my parents' small business.

Right now they have one server, a domain controller with a P4 processor running Windows SBS 2003. They also have this machine hosting QuickBooks, MySQL for the old version of an app, and SQL Server 2008 Express for the new version of the app (which will replace the old eventually). They've been complaining about the workstations being slow so I figured it might help if they bought a new server and moved QuickBooks, MySQL, and SQL Server to the new server, leaving the old server as just a DC.

In trying to pick an operating system for their new server, I was thinking about Windows SBS 2008 Standard with enough licenses for seven machines. But that's a lot more money than they're going to want to spend.

So then I wondered if there's any real advantage to having a server OS as opposed to just throwing Windows 7 on the new server. It's a lot cheaper and I can't think of any SBS features that it would need if it's just hosting QuickBooks, MySQL, and SQL Server.

Would it be okay to use Windows 7 for a server like this? Are there any advantages to using SBS 2008 that I would be missing out on? Any additional tips are much appreciated!

Result: Decided to get a new server with Windows Server 2008 Foundation, make it the DC, and just decommission the current DC. Nobody really explained whether or not I could use Windows 7 on a second server, but there doesn't really seem to be much point when Foundation costs about the same. Thanks for all the answers and suggestions!

  • Are you leaving the old SBS server in place as well? – Dave M Apr 20 '10 at 18:39
  • Yes. I figured it could just be a domain controller and nothing more. – Ecyrb Apr 20 '10 at 18:40

Try Using the Windows Foundation 2008 wich was made to that type of simpler scenario simpler than SBS and much cheaper. It will permit only a maximum of 15 machines to conenct to it. actually it will limit the open folders to a maximum of 60. Microsoft things....

SQl lite will do for yor database. and leave the DC on the 2003.

  • So far I like this suggestion. Foundation costs about as much as Win 7, so that's good. Chris's answer has me a little concerned about how well it will play with SBS 2003, though. – Ecyrb Apr 20 '10 at 19:45
  • If you were to go this route, I would either decommission the old server, or install a friendly linux flavor on it to do random odd jobs. – Holocryptic Apr 20 '10 at 19:55
  • I'm curious, why would you decommission the old server rather than using it as a DC? – Ecyrb Apr 20 '10 at 20:56
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    The Foundation server can be used as a DC, so it would make the old SBS server moot. Plus, like Chris said, SBS doesn't play nice with other servers on the network. – Holocryptic Apr 20 '10 at 21:18
  • @Holocryptic and ChrisS: Windows SBS versions "play nice" just fine with other server computers, including additional Domain Controller computers. The limitation is that you can only have one Windows SBS computer in a given Active Directory domain. – Evan Anderson Jul 31 '12 at 3:47

You might want to just purchase new hardware (for instance an HP ML110 or ML150), and use imaging software to copy the 2003 SBS System to the new hardware. This requires a little work, but MS has a KB and there's a lot of info around the net. Fast new hardware without the license issues.

If both 2008 SBS and 2003 SBS are on the same network they will no play nice. The SBS versions are basically hostile to most other server OSes, as their meant for businesses with only one server.

  • If they go with an imaging software, they have to contend with HAL and driver changes since the hardware will be completely different. This also will cause a (probable) reactivation of widows : en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_Product_Activation – Holocryptic Apr 20 '10 at 19:18
  • Correct, you need to prestage drivers, set the HAL to autodetect, and reactivate Windows after the move by phone (an annoying but 15 minute process). I did say, it requires a little work. – Chris S Apr 20 '10 at 19:30

Unless your SQL 2008 db is going to have heavy access, with < 10 users I would just put SQL 2008 express and quickbooks on the existing DC. Do you really need more server performance? Have you inspected where your bottlenecks are? Are the slow clients because of slow network or their own slowness, or is it really server bound?

  • Good questions. I only assume the server is the bottleneck because they just bought brand new workstations and they're still getting slow response time from applications that talk to the server. Can you recommend any tools to help me figure out the performance problem? I also hesitate to leave SQL Server on the DC because it actually warned me that was a bad idea when I installed it. – Ecyrb Apr 20 '10 at 19:42
  • Ooooh, I just re-read the question, and realized he was talking about the workstations being slow. Good call. All the talk about the server threw me off... – Holocryptic Apr 20 '10 at 19:43
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    iometer.org and wireshark.org, Process Monitor and Process Explorer. Look into your disk and network speeds. Don't assume that it's just the server. Take everything into account before you start buying new hardware, or you'll regret it when you have to keep buying replacement hardware you didn't plan for. – Holocryptic Apr 20 '10 at 19:46

You haven't said much about the current machine, other than it's a P4. Given the light use you have described I suggest you have a look at simply installing more memory into that box. Take it up to the 4GB limit if it isn't already there.

The reason I suggest this is because the stuff that's running on that box doesn't require much processing power but is very memory hungry. Adding the extra memory may well allow the machine to deliver the performance desired. It's a very cheap upgrade (relatively speaking) and if it doesn't work as well as desired you may be able to use that memory in other machines, so it's not a complete waste. Of course if it does produce satisfactory results you've saved a very significant amount of money.

  • Thanks for the suggestion. The machine does already have 4 GB of RAM. The processor can hit 50% usage during a query from a workstation and 100% if two users run the same query at the same time. Would that be an indication that the processor is being overworked or does that not mean anything? – Ecyrb Apr 21 '10 at 16:25
  • @Ecyrb, that certainly seems to suggest you should ignore what I said and do that upgrade. Another perfectly good theory down the drain. :( – John Gardeniers Apr 21 '10 at 21:43

You described that the workstations are slow. Have you considered the workstation systems? for example the folders with temporary internet files and temporary data... they get filled with a lot of garbage over time. Defragmenting the Systempartition also could help. Long login times can also be caused by dns problems. Check out if there are any noticeable things.

  • We did think the workstations were the problem, but we bought brand new workstations and haven't noticed a big difference. They only run slow when trying to grab a lot of info from the server, and even then it's not all the time. That makes me suspect that it's slow when two more more people are trying to grab a lot of info from the server at the same time. – Ecyrb Apr 20 '10 at 20:18
  • You could test the network transfer rate. maybe it´s a problem with the wiring. Also you could try to edit the hosts file on the workstations. make an entry for the server. just for a test. – Diskilla Apr 20 '10 at 22:07
  • Yes, without some idea of the networking equipment used, there's no way to tell... – Joe Internet Apr 21 '10 at 0:09
  • I would love to test the network transfer rate, but don't know how. Maybe the iometer app that was linked in another comment could do that? I'll play around with it. I tried looking at wireshark but that was beyond me. – Ecyrb Apr 21 '10 at 16:40

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