Hiding the announcement like a politician hides bad news, Microsoft announced the end of life for their Small Business Server (SBS) last July. It’s now nearly six months later, and they are still trying to figure out what the replacement for Small Business Server should really be. Just this month, Microsoft has changed the licensing rights for those that purchase Small Business Server 2011 with Software Assurance. The original announcement gave Software Assurance purchasers rights to one Windows Server 2012 Standard license, one Exchange 2010 Standard license and the associated CALs to match the Small Business Server CALs. The new announcement gives the purchaser rights to two Windows Server 2012 Standard licenses along with the Exchange 2010 license. Additionally, you will be able to upgrade to Exchange 2013 if you wish.
One other announcement that has been made by Microsoft is how to transmogrify Windows 2012 Server Essentials into a normal Windows 2012 Server environment. Transmogrification (yes, this is a real word according to Microsoft), can be simply accomplished by activating a Windows 2012 Server Essentials environment with a Windows 2012 Server product code. There are no additional charges outside of the CAL requirement for every user/device connected to server. This act also increase the number of computers that can be backed by the Essentials server up from 25 to 75
So what does this really mean to the business owner? The choices have become more numerous than before which really means you need an expert to determine what is best for your business. Let’s assume that you are moving from SBS 2003 to something. What should you choose?
One choice would be Small Business Server 2011. Although you can no longer purchase Software Assurance for the product, you can still purchase it until July of this year. Jeff Middleton of IT Pro Experts argues that SBS 2011 will have validity for the next five years. I think this is a valid assumption if you think your company will grow within the restraints of SBS (75 users).
Another choice would be to move to either Small Business Server Essentials 2011 or Windows 2012 Server Essentials for your internal server as long as you will stay within the 25 user limit. For this size business, I would recommend an outside mail server such as Microsoft Office 365.
For larger businesses, you could go to a Windows Server version and either have your email hosted in-house or in the cloud. In doing analysis for a number of different clients, I have found that the conversion costs to cloud email versus keeping mail in-house break even at about 5 years.
These are just high level overviews of what choices are available. There are many variations within the choices I have mentioned. If you have more questions, let me know an I will try to address them.