Windows SBS 2011 Essentials Released Broadly
Microsoft announced the general availability of Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials last week.
The server, which is designed to support small businesses with up to 25 users, can be purchased through Microsoft's volume licensing channels or from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and retail outlets. Microsoft's volume licensing customers were supposed to have had access to Windows SBS 2011 Essentials since May 1, according to an earlier announcement. A trial copy can be accessed for testing. The general release was planned to support a total of 19 languages.
Microsoft's announcement today claims that most of its OEM partners currently offer SBS 2011 Essentials server products, and while that may be true, only HP's offering is easy to find. It's all a bit confusing because Microsoft provides links to six OEMs on its Windows SBS purchasing options page, but those links mostly lead to Windows Small Business Server 2011 Standard offerings, which is a different server product that supports up to 75 users. Microsoft released SBS 2011 Standard to OEMs and volume licensing customers in March.
Microsoft's announcement indicated that more OEM server products using SBS 2011 Essentials software will be available "in the next few months."
Windows SBS 2011 Essentials is designed to rely on cloud-based services, or at least more so than Windows SBS 2011 Standard, according to Microsoft's general marketing messaging. One benefit that SBS 2011 Essentials users get over SBS 2011 Standard users is that no Client Access Licenses are required to use the Essentials version. Microsoft provides a table here that shows the differences between those two servers.
In keeping with that cloud-based orientation for SBS 2011 Essentials, Microsoft is planning a means for better integration with Office 365, which is Microsoft's latest collection of cloud-based services announced last month. The integration will be carried out through a Microsoft connector called "Office 365 Integration Module for SBS Essentials." Microsoft expects to release that module sometime this fall, a Microsoft blog explains.
Currently, IT pros create new users manually in both SBS 2011 Essentials and Office 365. They can use the same alias name in both the premises-based Essentials and in the cloud-based Office 365 suite. The integration module, when released, will automate porting user aliases created in Essentials into the Office 365 cloud, saving time for IT pros, according to the blog.
More improvements to SBS 2011 Essentials will be coming soon, either from Microsoft or its partners. Microsoft stated in its announcement that "many more solutions for cloud back up, hosted email integration, online productivity are already on the market or will be available soon."
There's also an experimental connector currently available for Windows Phone 7 users that can help them remotely monitor SBS 2011 Essentials servers using their smartphones. It also works with Windows Home Server 2011 and Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials. The connector is currently available as a release candidate test version. It isn't recommended by Microsoft for use in production environments.
Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.