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Windows SBS 2011 editions go from small to extra-small

Microsoft released to manufacturing the final build for Windows Small Business Server 2011 Standard this week, the latest version of the company’s server OS for small- and medium-sized organizations. The Standard edition (formerly codenamed Windows SBS “7”) is only half the SBS story, however, as Microsoft is also set to put out an Essentials edition for the smallest of the small businesses as well.

Previously dubbed “Aurora”, SBS 2011 Essentials hasn’t RTM’d yet, though it’s expected in the first half of next year, with a new beta potentially dropping in January.

So what’s the difference between the two?

Well naturally size, for one. As usual, SBS Standard is designed for smaller organizations of up to 75 users, though client access licenses (CALs) are required for each user in addition to the server license. The CAL requirement is lifted for Essentials, however, which also knocks the user count down to a max of 25. Microsoft has the estimated license for Essentials at about $545 compared to $1,096 for the Standard edition (before CALs), so it could be a good fit for the teeny-tiniest of companies.

Essentials also strips out a good amount of the on-premise components included with SBS 2011 Standard, particularly Exchange, SharePoint and WSUS (the Standard edition supports both Exchange Server 2010 SP1 and the scaled-down SharePoint Foundation Services 2010). For things like email, SBS Essentials is designed to connect to Exchange Online and Microsoft’s other services via its Office 365 platform.

On his Bruceb News blog last month, consultant Bruce Berls wrote that Microsoft’s combination of cloud services with SBS makes Essentials “exactly the right answer for small businesses that have an eye to the future.” That’s good news since the company is positioning the edition as its ideal offering for small companies looking to purchase their first server systems. Berls also described SBS Essentials as a “spiffed up for business” version of Microsoft’s Windows Home Server. With a max of only 10 users and a lack of business components like email, however, Home Server was never ideal for companies, so Essentials could certainly fill a void with those looking for a better alternative to a full SBS Standard license.

One thing that SBS 2011 Standard and Essentials have in common, however, is that they both support Microsoft’s new SBS 2011 Premium Add-on, which was also released to manufacturing this week. The add-on is essentially a separate server designed to beef up SBS with SQL Server 2008 R2 as well as Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard features, notably virtualization with Hyper-V and Remote Desktop Services (RDS). The added functionality comes at a price though, as the Add-on alone rings in at an estimated cost of $1,604 per license ($92 per CAL).

At the very least, it will be interesting to see if SBS Essentials takes off with the small companies and startups next year. As for SBS 2011 Standard, it could get a boost from folks already running Small Business Server 2003 (which is inching toward end-of-life) who decided to skip over the 2008 SBS release.

For more information of Windows Small Business Server, visit Roger Crawford’s blog, SBS 2003 and Beyond.

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So whatever happened to Server Foundation, the product that cannot be upgraded...