I understand that Microsoft won't be releasing another Windows Small Business Server after 2011, yet many businesses have too many users for the "Essentials" edition of Windows Server 2012, not really enough for a full Exchange deployment, but don't want to move to the cloud because of jurisdictional issues.

What's the upgrade path after SBS 2011, and is there any point in moving from an earlier SBS to SBS 2011 if that is going to be the end of the line?


I don't recall the details, but Server Essentials 2012 will support up to 75 users and beyond (though at some point beyond, it's features become restricted... or at least it becomes unadvisable to push the limits of their use further).

If your clients need Exchange the choice is simple - buy Exchange and Exchange CALs or go with Hosted Exchange (most commonly, Office 365). You could also look into other solutions, but if you want to stick to being a Microsoft shop, those are the answers (and no one I know likes them either).

As I understand it, there will likely be bundles for small businesses that may include Exchange, but the discounts likely won't be anywhere near what they amounted to for 2011 (though we can hope).

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    Pure greed-driven move by Microsoft here (aren't they all?). Have a ton of customers that don't want cloud or are not permitted by law. Extra Exchange licensing/CALs is going to be a tough pill to swallow. Will definitely motivate a lot of customers to upgrade to SBS 2011 next year though! – gravyface Aug 24 '12 at 0:13
  • I thought Essentials was now limited to 25 users which what a lot of the uproar was about. I'm reading now it's 25 users and 50 devices. Assuming the CALs are truly licensed this way.. Also the lack of exchange and SQL bundling really hurts small business users. I think our licensing will double if not worse. – Mindflux Aug 24 '12 at 1:07
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    SBS 2011 Essentials is limited to 25 Users. SBS 2012 (Windows Server 2012 Essentials) is initially limited to 25 but can be increased without replacing the server software. More information here: sbsfaq.com/?p=3641 – Multiverse IT Aug 24 '12 at 4:42

The more I see of it and poke around in it, the more strongly I believe that SBS is a total turd that shouldn't be inflicted on anyone. Probably not entirely realistic or fair given the steep discounts it allows with some of the bundled MS apps and included CALs, but that's my opinion on it.

Having said that, if there's no business need to upgrade to Server 2012 Standard, you can still get some extra functionality and features out of upgrading to SBS 2011, and there are worse things than running an old platform. Hell, we still run Exchange 2003 (in a very large environment), and though it's getting very long in the tooth and difficult to deal with, by the time we finally replace it, it will have provided 10 years of service for a single upfront licensing fee, which is obviously appealing to the cost-conscious side of the business.

Remember that business needs drive IT, and not the other way around, so if you can meet the business needs for a few more years by spending a few (several?) hundred dollars on an upgrade to SBS, rather than thousands on replacing it with Server 2012 Standard, you probably should - seems to me like the responsible, ethical decision, even if SBS does make my skin crawl as a techie.

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    SBS is a fantastic product. Rock solid, so much bang for the buck. Three of us have supported every version since 2003 across dozens of customers and have never had it fail us outside of hardware issues. One thing that Microsoft got 100% right. – gravyface Aug 24 '12 at 0:15
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    @gravyface Including SBS2011? I'm having lots of problems here on a single young install with 5 users! Have supported many more SBS2003's with only a few issues for many years! – HaydnWVN Nov 16 '12 at 11:44
  • @HaydnWVN SBS 2011 requires a ton of RAM; we put 24GB in ours and Exchange (store.exe) will consume 14-16GB on it's own; add the various SQL instances in there... – gravyface Nov 16 '12 at 14:34
  • I'm stuck with an inherited install that was advised against... 12GB RAM Xeon running SBS2011 for 5 users! Possibly looking at hosted exchange as the 'fix' unless I can get more performance out of the Server! – HaydnWVN Nov 16 '12 at 15:31

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