Small Business Server 2003: The Next Generation

Wednesday Jul 12th 2006 by Lauren Simonds
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Microsoft unveils the newest version of its popular small business server and announces plans to add an on-demand CRM product to its Windows Live program.

In the midst of the daily chaos associated with running your own business, you are probably unaware that Microsoft kicked off its Worldwide Partner Conference yesterday in Boston, Mass.

Completely understandable. Still, the news coming out of the conference could be just the thing to help you increase your company's efficiency, productivity and security.

Redmond announced the arrival of Windows Small Business Server 2003 R2, the next generation of the server Microsoft designed to meet the specific needs of small business owners. The new server will be available for purchase in August, although the company said that companies such as Dell, Fujitsu, Gateway, Siemans, HP and IBM will make the product available — pre-installed — later this summer.

Cindy Bates, Microsoft's small-business general manager, said that R2 includes new features designed "to help small businesses improve efficiency, reduce costs, protect their data and work remotely." One of those enhancements — the "Green Check" of software health — monitors and protects the server software and environment.

"It tracks the health of the network, antivirus software, firewall and other server elements," said Bates. "A green check mark tells you at a glance that the various systems are healthy."

R2 also provides automated patch and update services for all products on the network that support Microsoft Update, and the server also offers increased storage limits for e-mail boxes — increasing space from 16GB to 75GB. "In addition," said Bates, "it's now easier for small businesses to implement mobile devices. R2 offers direct push technology that gives remote users real-time access to their data in Microsoft Outlook."

Pricing for the Standard version of Windows Small Business Server 2003 R2 remains the same as its predecessor at $599. However the Premium version, said Bates, sells for $1,299, a 13 percent reduction over the previous edition.

Bates explained the price cut noting that, "It's important to make this server technology as widely available to small businesses as possible. We keep our fingers on the pulse of the customer, and we want to offer as much value as possible."

Outside indicators point to the small business server market as a growth industry, and that more small business owners are moving to a server-based business model. Bates referred to an IDC study estimating that the number of first-time server deployments in the United States between the years 2005 and 2009 will exceed 600,000.

In Other Conference News
Microsoft said that the R2 server presents an opportunity for its certified VAR partners to offer remote management services to their small business customers. This would allow the VAR to monitor and maintain a client's network.

Microsoft said that this service — based on a fixed monthly fee — could help some small businesses more effectively budget their IT expenses and to control costs.

The company also announced its plans to launch Microsoft Dynamics CRM Live, as a software-as-service option, in the second quarter of 2007. Microsoft plans to host the service within its Microsoft Windows Live data centers.

Bates said that the addition of CRM Live — which is based on the same code as Microsoft's other CRM products — gives customers three ways to use the product: on-premises, a hosted version available through Microsoft partners or the Live, software-as-service option available driectly from Microsoft.

Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com

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