A handful of server products merged into one.
With the new wave of server products being announced for 2012 Microsoft took a big step and declared the end of the road for its popular Small Business Server product. Why did this occur? Two primary reasons: Product rationalisation, and the cloud.
Over the years Small Business Server (SBS) has been a part of the Windows Server family with Exchange Server as its starring partner. Other server products were available through various add-ons: Proxy and ISA (security), SharePoint (document management), SQL (database), etc. Small Business Server also had slight name changes and feature sets, adding to product confusion.
The key appeal of Small Business Server was that it was relatively easy to get operational. In a previous job we supported many organisations that went out to large IT retailers such as OfficeWorks and bought a brand-name server with SBS pre-loaded for under a thousand dollars. While it was easy enough to get off the ground, over time it would pass the point at which an IT savvy user could support it – and a third-party provider would be called in.
While for most of its life Small Business Server had the same range of functions, the biggest variation was the add-on or “Premium” packs that were sold separately and added extra features. This made it relatively simple for organisations to procure Small Business Server as there was only a handful of questions that needed to be answered in order to determine which version they required.
With the 2011 range we saw Small Business Server split in two – the standard server with all the relevant components included (SBS 2011 Standard), and a cut-down version designed to support the adoption of cloud with almost no server components other than the underlying operating system (SBS 2011 Essentials).
To a lesser extent there was also Windows Home Server 2011 which was very similar to SBS 2011 Essentials but with a few small differences. The platform was the same, the interface was the same, it just acted in a slightly different way. There was also Windows Server 2008 Foundation which was a basic Windows Server that included all the licensing an SMB would need and supported a limited number of users. These three different yet very similar products lead to confusion.
So what did product rationalisation do to the platform? Instead of continuing to fragment Windows Server with the impending release of the 2012 line, Microsoft has chosen instead to focus the server on doing what it does best: serving only what is required.
Instead of SMBs owning a bloated server of which only 5-10 percent was utilised, they will now procure most of their productivity solutions from the cloud by way of Office 365, Microsoft’s cloud suite. If there still is a requirement for a server on the ground then the new Windows Server 2012 Essentials is the choice for SMBs.
For people such as myself who run Windows Home Server 2011 for things such as media sharing and home networking, we will also move to Windows Server 2012 Essentials. This product rationalisation means that for any home user or small business that wants a basic server while everything else runs from the cloud, there is now a much simpler product selection process.
Loryan Strant is a Microsoft Office 365 MVP (Most Valuable Professional). Follow him on Twitter @TheCloudMouth.