Yet, identifying the specific needs of a small (versus a medium or a large) business, and recognizing the different information technology supports that a small (versus a medium or a large) company needs is still a challenge for many IT vendors and providers.
Defining the unique needs of a small – but hopefully growing – company is one thing.
Creating products, price points and license structures that recognize and acknowledge those needs is yet another.
So it is with some interest that many small business owners and operators noted the recent launch of the Windows Essential Server Solutions product line.
Now available are Windows Small Business Server (SBS) 2008 and Windows Essential Business Server (EBS) 2008, two packages configured for the particular needs of smaller and medium sized operations.
They’re called “all-in-one” solutions, and they’re designed to take all the benefits of an enterprise-sized IT infrastructure, and make them more accessible, more affordable and less complex for the smaller operation.
Sometimes, of course, a small business quickly becomes a medium or larger sized business, and so it is crucial to find an IT solution that grows with the company.
Home Based Business to Serve Over a Million
A case in point begins as many small companies do – in the basement.
In operation since 1985, and yes, starting small in one worker’s home, York Child Development and Family services has now grown to become the lead agency in the York North region.
There are now York Child locations in several towns and cities in the region, there are five child care operations with more than 250 licensed spaces, there have been more than 40,000 families served in a professional capacity by the organization.
“Over a million people have come through our doors for early childhood services and support information,” described current Executive Director Joy Vance.
It’s hard to call it small with that customer service record, but the agency is a not-for-profit organization, funded through various levels of government as well as through user fees, so its finances and internal resources are more typical of a small enterprise.
“As a non profit, we certainly feel many of the same pressures as for-profit companies,” explains Vance. “We do face uncertainty going forward, with our funding coming as it does from different levels of government, yet we also have to adhere to existing budget and performance measurements.”
As do many small businesses, York Child has staff at various remote locations, as well as community workers on the road, and key staff and management at head office.
All require access to the IT infrastructure, but for various reasons.
As such, the York Child business server is set up to provide different levels of secure access to individual users or user accounts.
Of course, child care records and related administrative documentation must be stored in a highly secure and strictly controlled manner.
Different levels of access is provided to either administrative or management staff, and only staff authorized and entitled to look at certain information can do so.
The access levels are set with greatly simplified deployment, setup and administrative toolset is the new server packs, including new tools to specifically manage domain names and data folders.
“With all ours files, client history records and related documentation required in different forms for different levels of government, we really rely on our small business server,” exclaims Vance. “It supports all our staff access and communications needs. This enhanced technology is a great framework for the work that we do.”
New Server Packages and Product Features
The two new Windows Essential Server Solutions exist to meet the needs of small or midsize businesses.
Designed for companies with up to 75 users or PCs, Small Business Server (SBS) 2008 is an integrated server solution created to help businesses keep their data more secure and make their company more productive.
For companies like York Child, the solution is attractive for its customizability, providing remotely-accessible reports via e-mail and mobile devices.
It also gives to the small business operator many of the same tools and technologies used by larger companies, such as Windows Server 2008, Exchange Server 2007, Microsoft SQL Server 2008 and other Microsoft products.
Microsoft points out that the bundle prices are between 30 and 45 per cent less than the purchase price of similar stand alone products.
The Essential EBS 2008 is designed for businesses with up to 300 users or PCs, giving even more management control over IT environments by reducing complexity and automating common tasks.
With support for Windows Mobile phones, SBS 2008 and EBS 2008 can significantly help boost productivity with access to business e-mail, calendar, contacts and files when away from the office.
Either package enhances security options with trial subscriptions to Microsoft Forefront Security for Exchange Server and Windows Live OneCare for Server.
There’s better data protection, too, with new block-based server technologies that can complete server back up in minutes rather than hours.
Single License Adds Flexibility, Economy
One of the most exciting developments connected with the release of the small business server packs is the new, single client access license (CAL) protocol.
Single CALs make licensing much more flexible and cost-effective, particularly in a small business environment.
The license is for a device, not a user, so small business with flex staff or rotating part-timers can manage their software costs much more appropriately.
Starting licenses for SBS 2008, covering five users to start with, run about $1100. Each additional CAL is $90 (note that there are both Premium and Standard version of each pack available, so prices vary depending on final configuration and seat allotment).
As Joy Vance says of the York Child purchase arrangement, “The benefit of being able to add on one user at a time is definitely a strong consideration for us. When finances are tight and you want to get the most out of your budget, that really helps, and the more you can save in one area means you may be able to build in another.”
As well, to help small business operators better manage the financial implications of IT investment and server solution purchase decisions, Microsoft has also developed flexible financing options that allow payment terms over a 24 to 60 month period, for the hardware, software and partner professional services.
Understanding Small Business
As mentioned, being able to identify the particular needs of a small (versus a medium or a large) business has long been a challenge for many IT vendors and providers.
But Microsoft thinks, with this release, that it has “got it now.”
It has two new server solutions for differently sized businesses. Both bundle a number of tools already used productively and efficiently by business customers, but the packages are uniquely configured to reflect specific small business needs and activities.
As Constanza Zalba puts it, the different configurations allow Microsoft to “put the s into small and the m into medium.”
As Microsoft Product Manager for the SMB server, Zalba sees the new solutions as putting a finger on the pulse of small and medium enterprises. “There’s more than one option, and that reflects the fact that this is not just a number games, but rather, the solution respects the nature and complexity of a company’s IT requirements.”
EBS 2008, she points out, is a completely new product, reflecting the needs of slightly larger companies (around 300 employees, for example).
Being able to make the right purchase, with the precise license requirements, with the required financial support, means that returns on investment are delivered more quickly – in some cases, within 90 days Zalba says.
Yet the small or medium business is not left all alone holding the IT bag, Zalba underscores.
The actual deployment of SBS and EMS solutions has been simplified in the latest release, with basic installation and set-up guided by a built-in wizard.
There may be some adventurous small business operators who want to get into the configuration, but most will work with an authorized Microsoft partner to get the most out of the available tools, features and functions.
In the case of York Child, as Vance puts it: “We’re child care givers, we’re not in the IT business! It’s all Interprom.”
Vance is referring to a Barrie, ON based business computer network support company. Interprom, also a Microsoft partner, provides the IT support for York Child among its other contracts.
Interprom, explains company founder and president Gavin Steiner, recently received its certification in “Designing, Deploying and Managing a Network Solution for Small and Medium Sized Businesses” from Microsoft. The title embodies a crucial point, Steiner says.
“It’s important to us to know the big difference between what we call a small business, and larger operations, in terms of how the company runs, and how technology can affect its business process in general,” he says.
“Small business is impacted faster, and they often have to make decision on the fly – unlike the larger, slow moving corporate enterprise. Small business has to be reactive to changing market conditions, but it also has to be forward looking in order to best understand how to apply technological solutions to future growth.”
SBS solutions have a lot of ‘off-the-shelf’ functionality, he notes, and they meet a lots of business requirements right out of the box.
“But every company is different and so the challenge of an organization such as York Child is to meet both mandated and operational requirements. There are very strict regulations regarding security and access, for example, so we were engaged to set up access points for each of the operating IT levels,” Steiner explains. “We did the basic technical set-up, and they can teak each setting as required. SBS 2008 makes it a lot easier for us, and for the client, as there is good back end protection against both security breaches, and end user accidental damage or changes to the files.”
The server solution also allow remote monitoring of critical IT activities and infrastructure, so Interprom is, in effect, plugged into the York Child network 24/7, taking preventative actions as required, and regularly maintenance as scheduled.
“I don’t know if Gavin actually sleeps,” laughs Vance when describing the business-specific IT advice, support and maintenance she receives.
Recognizing and acknowledging the specific needs of either small or medium sized businesses is something that IT product and service providers, as well as their business partners, are now starting to recognize.
For more information on the Windows Essential Server Solutions product line, visit http://www.microsoft.com/wess/en/us/default.aspx.