While there is no doubt that cloud hosted applications offer some great opportunities for the small company and entrepreneur, at some point there is the realization of the inherent limitations in cloud applications.
Microsoft Small Business Server 2011 provides a cost effective business software application “stack” that is much more than just a “server” in the typical sense.
Small Business Server comes in two “flavors”: Essentials and Standard.
In this post, I will focus on the features of Essentials, and then later in a second post, I will come back around to Standard.
Essentials is new in this edition of Small Business Server. It is intended for businesses that have 25 or fewer PCs (hard limit, so if you’re close, you are probably better off going with the Standard edition of Small Business Server) with a primary focus on ease-of-use and making sure your data – both on the server and on your PCs – gets safely backed up. To meet these goals, Microsoft has taken Windows Server 2008 R2 and wrapped a brand new dashboard around it to make it simpler to manage. Using one or more external USB hard-drives attached to your server machine, Essentials provides you with an easy wizard to configure your backup routine. User shared folders – automatically created for you – make sure that user files will be backed up too.
The next big feature of Essentials is Remote Web Access. This service – again wizard-configured at the initial install of the Essentials server – provides a turn-key, SSL secured intranet for your small company. Users, no matter where they may be, connect via their web browser and are able to upload and download files and access their resources on the server just as if they were in the office.
The last “big” feature of this little server was just released at the end of December 2011, and that is an addon that allows entrepreneurs to manage both their Essentials server and their Office 365 subscriptions (to some extent) in the same dashboard on the Essentials server. Now of course, if you do not subscribe to Office 365, this won’t matter to you. What is Office 365? It is a subscription based service that provides email, simple contact management and scheduling tools. Moving up the food chain, for an additional fee, you can add web based versions of Excel and Word. I personally find Office 365, at least the versions that Microsoft is hawking to small businesses to be of dubious value. Typically even the smallest company already has email with Google or Yahoo or their web provider, and paying a monthly fee to use watered down, web versions of Word and Excel? Huh?
Finally for Essentials, being that it is a variation of Windows Server 2008 R2, if you want to install things like QuickBooks or ACT! on it, you should be able to without trouble.
So, for a very low price, you can implement an easy-to-use server with Microsoft Small Business Server Essentials 2011 and leverage the best of the cloud and on-premise flexibility!