FAQ Tech Blog

Small Business Server versions

Published: Wednesday, 01 June 2016 10:03

Over the past 20 years Microsoft have continually developed their Windows Server range of products and each time the new version is released most have had a “small business” edition.  

SBS VersionWindows Server versionExchangeSQL ServerMax usersNotes
Backoffice Small Business Server 4.0NT 4 SP35.06.525 
BackOffice Small Business Server 4.5NT 4 SP45.57.050 
Microsoft Small Business Server 200020002000200050 
Microsoft Small Business Server 2003200320032000*75*SQL available in premium edition add on
Microsoft Small Business Server 2008 Standard200820072008*75*SQL available in premium edition
Microsoft Small Business Server 2011 Standard2008 R220102008 R2*75*SQL available in premium edition
Microsoft Small Business Server 2011 Essentials2008 R2– – 25Limited version
Microsoft Server 2012 Essentials201225Limited version
Microsoft 2012 R2 Essentials2012 R250Limited version
Microsoft 2016 Essentials2016  25Limited to 25 Users or 50 devices
Microsfot 2019 Essentials2019  25Limited to 25 Users or 50 devices

One of the first versions was BackOffice Small Business Server 4.0 which was based upon Windows NT 4 and included Exchange 5, SQL 6.5 and proxy server 1.0, this allowed a maximum of 25 users.  The next version BackOffice Small Business Server 4.5 improved the Microsoft offering by including Exchange server 5.5, SQL 7.0 and Proxy server 2.0, the maximum users was also doubled to 50 users, this allowed a majority of small businesses to benefit from the product without having to purchase the separate products.  

The next release Microsoft Small Business Server 2000, was based upon Windows 2000 server, with its improved graphical interface and Exchange 2000 and SQL 2000 standard editions, this edition also allowed 50 users to connect to the server.

In 2003, Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2003 was released, which was based on Windows Server 2003 and included Exchange 2003 and Sharepoint services 2.0, this was also the first time Microsoft split the offering into two editions, the SBS 2003 Standard and Premium, Premium edition provided SQL 2000 and ISA Server 2000 (and upgraded to ISA Server 2004 in SP1).  SBS 2003 also allowed businesses to have a maximum of 75 staff connected.  A major improvement in 2006 was the ability to increase the Exchange database limit from 18GB to 75GB.  Which is why some businesses still run this version of SBS today.

In 2008, Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2008 was released, which was based on Windows Server 2008 and included Exchange 2007 and Sharepoint services 3.0.  The premium edition contained a license for the a second Windows 2008 server and SQL Server 2008 Standard.   The simple administration interface enabled IT professionals and business owners to manage staff accounts with ease.  The introduction of Remote web workspace which allowed staff to access their data or remote desktop of their pcs from home was a major advance in the development of the SBS platform.  

In 2011, Microsoft released 3 version of SBS 2011, Essentials, Standard and Premium add-on.  These were based upon Windows Server 2008 R2 and would allow businesses to select the version they required, SBS 2011 Essentials provided the Windows file sharing and active directory functions but was limited to 25 users.  The Standard edition included Exchange 2010 and Sharepoint and Window Server Update Services which allowed the server to control the Windows updates being downloaded for the business and then distributed via the server.  This saved critical network bandwidth for small businesses with slow internet connections.

The Essentials editions were designed to allow the business to have a smaller server whilst moving to hosted exchange via Microsoft Office  365 platform and other hosted exchange providers.  Businesses could still purchase Exchange 2013 (or later) and but the Essentials server would need to remain as a primary domain controller.

We are looking forward to seeing Microsoft’s plans for Windows Server 2016, we think they will continue with the Essentials version.

Windows Server Essentials 2016 introduced some improved functions which enabled a users desktop to be backed up from the server automatically.  This saved setting up roaming profiles and hogging network bandwidth.  Linking and syncing users accounts with office 365 provided a single login experience for users.  Remote access to the server is also provided as long as you have a static ip and willing to purchase a SSL certificate

Windows Server Essentials 2019 is Microsoft current entry level server for small businesses, it continues to interact with office 365 however Microsoft have removed the backup and remote access functions which for a large number of small businesses are key functions.  While we can still obtain Window 2016 Essentials we will recommend this product over Windows 2019 Essentials.

Server Migration

Upgrading between each version of the servers often has a large impact of businesses, potential downtime or scheduling of migration over a weekend when the works will be started.  Typically most migrations go to plan as long as the servers have been maintained over its lifetime.  

Key times for a successful migration:

  • Ensure you have a good data backup
  • Check your DNS & Active Directory database and functions are working correctly – SYSVOL and NETLOGON shares
  • Run Windows update on all existing servers.
  • Remove any old data you don’t need.  you can waste hours copying old data that the business will never use.  

Should you need any assistance migrating from/to your existing small business server to another please call our sales team to discuss your requirements.