Sysadmin blog Small Business Server from Microsoft is "going off the air." With Dell's announcement of unavailability access to the last remaining copies will prove ever more scarce.
If you are a managed service provider that specializes in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) I recommend you shake down your suppliers and build up reserves for the hard times ahead.
Microsoft's official replacement for the excellent Small Business Server line is Windows Server 2012 Essentials. It is unworthy of being mentioned as a successor. More to the point, it represents an unwelcome attempt to herd SMEs onto Microsoft's cloud.
Keep your data where you can control it
Even if you set to one side the potential legal risks concerning compliance, you're still stuck with the reality that by putting SharePoint in the cloud you have to deal with the hidden costs of cloud storage. SharePoint is the mandated replacement for "public folders" in Exchange and thus is where many small businesses will – and do – end up storing shared files.
You'll also note that Small Business Server came with the excellent Windows Backup. If you want to back up your data in the cloud you'll need to pay for an extra third-party service ... and they tend to just back it up to another cloud anyways.
Show you my money
The value proposition of Microsoft's Office 365 offerings is predicated on the idea that you update with every new version that Microsoft releases.
Software as a service (SaaS) may work fine for large organisations, but in my experience, small businesses update on very long cycles - usually tied to the life of the machine. As those machines are now getting six and even 10 years of life they expect to see six and 10 year returns on their investment. Oh, and for any of you that have embraced this new marketing messaging that "software isn't an investment, it's a cost", you're wrong.
A cost is something I must have to do business and cannot choose to avoid. A business license would be one example, some types of taxes also can't be dodged. Software generally isn't an unavoidable cost and Microsoft most definitely does not fit in that category. We invest in software because we expect to see a return greater than the amount invested. These sorts of productivity gains are why we invented computers in the first place.
Microsoft says that your investment should deliver all of its returns over the course of one product cycle. But to accomplish this, the company has removed the best value-for-dollar offering it had on the table. Now you must choose between the significantly more expensive "Server + Exchange" route or the also significantly more expensive "Office 365" route.
And what do we receive in return for shelling out more money to accomplish the same tasks today compared with yesterday? The My Server app for Windows 8 and Windows Phone.
Not all doom and gloom
Microsoft has finally gifted Windows Server Essentials administrators the right to use WSUS. This is cool if you knew that the fix was available and you know enough about Windows to be using PowerShell to muck around.
I'll look to it in hope as the candle of Small Business Server – like that of Technet subscriptions before it is extinguished. In the meantime, I do not feel able to recommend Microsoft's cloudy offerings to my small business clients. What about you? ®