Review: Windows Essential Business Server 2008 Release Candidate 1

Recently, Microsoft released its second release candidate build, RC1, of Windows Essential Business Server, or EBS, a midmarket server solution for businesses with 50 to 300 users and computers.

Why is a "solution" needed? Microsoft researched the midmarket environment and found that most shops this size have one, maybe two, IT-specific employees who are essentially generalists. They have a wide breadth but a shallow depth about a lot of technologies, and spend most of their time reacting to problems on the network. They're interested in security, easing support burdens, deploying and managing devices and software, keeping track of assets, and backing up and restoring their professional assets. In other words, they face a lot of the same problems as larger organizations, but they don't have a formalized structure, a proactive nature or a huge budget to address problems.

Enter EBS, which aims to try to solve some of these issues and overlay a "best practices"-based approach for businesses like these.

There are three servers required to fully deploy the suite, a somewhat onerous requirement for organizations that fall on the lower end of the target audience spectrum. However, as the suite is designed to scale to 300 users or devices, the services are pretty densely packed as it is, so it was apparently important to allow for room to grow.

The three servers start with the management server, which acts as a sort of "hub" for all of the operations on the network. The management server contains:

  • Windows Server 2008
  • Networking
  • Active Directory
  • File & Print
  • System Center Essentials

The messaging server does nothing, but Exchange and mail-related services and provides a second domain controller. Specifically, it runs:

  • Windows Server 2008
  • Active Directory
  • Exchange Server 2007
  • Forefront Security for Exchange Server

Sitting in front of all of these machines is the edge server, or security server, which protects the servers and everything else on the network from outside threats. The security server roles include:

  • Windows Server 2008
  • Exchange Server 2007, in an edge transport role for message-receipt hygiene
  • Forefront Threat Management Gateway for Medium Business

A premium edition will be offered that adds a fourth license for Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 Standard Edition, in addition to the elements already discussed that come within the standard edition of EBS.

The logic

The idea behind Windows Essential Business Server was clearly to make administering a midmarket network easier. The first step of the setup process is to run a downloadable tool that basically examines the current environment. It identifies any of 91 health and configuration issues that have proven to be troublesome in the past, including problems with Active Directory, networking, Exchange, the overall configuration of Windows Server in general and so on.

The team at Microsoft analyzed records of customer support calls and looked for ways to, in an automated fashion, identify these issues and offer best practices advice in correcting them. One bonus of all of this: You don't need to be considering EBS, or purchase EBS, to use these tools. They're free for everyone, so if you're just looking for a better environment, you, too, can take advantage of the guidance from these "automated assistants." You can find these tools here.

Windows Essential Business Server planning tool
Microsoft has included tools to help identify any of 91 issues that have proven to be troublesome in the past, including problems with Active Directory and many others.

For those folks moving on with the EBS implementation, a second tool in the package helps out with planning how the network will look after EBS is deployed.

1 2 3 Page 1
Page 1 of 3
7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon