Microsoft Releases Small-Business Bundles

Upgrades are based on Windows Server 2003; early adopters focus on added collaboration tools

Microsoft Corp. last week released two versions of its software bundle for small businesses, combining Windows Server 2003 with a variety of its other server-level products.

The Windows Small Business Server 2003 package will be sold in separate editions for the first time: an entry-level version that integrates Exchange Server 2003 and two other products to the operating system, and a premium version that also includes Microsoft's database, firewall and Web-authoring technologies. The standard version is now shipping, and the premium version has been released to manufacturing, but it won't become available until November, a Microsoft official said.

The component that appears to be generating the most excitement among some early users is Windows SharePoint Services. That product, which has been added to the small business bundle, lets workgroups create internal Web sites to share information and collaborate.

Until a few months ago, the 14 employees at Game Face Inc. in Tualatin, Ore., used e-mail messages with attachments to collaborate on the 100 or so proposals they produce for clients each year. Now that the executive training and recruitment company has installed Small Business Server 2003, workers can access, comment on and edit documents on a central server.

Game Face spent more than $30,000 on server software and hardware, desktop Windows and Office upgrades, cabling, and outsourced IT help in connection with the implementation. But Thomas Peterson, senior vice president of business development at Game Face, estimated that the company will save about $8,000 per month due to increased productivity.

The software is also expected to boost Game Face's revenue potential because workers can now track and respond to client inquiries more quickly. "This is helping us to not look like a small business," said Robert Cornilles, the company's president.

Gene Austin, general manager at Fischer-Herron Inc., a company in Orange, Calif., that does sales and marketing work for makers of food services equipment, said he spent almost two years hunting for software to help his workers electronically access and manage purchase orders, price lists and other business documents.

Austin said his company, which does business as The Fischer Group, migrated from Windows Small Business Server 2000 to the new version to get Windows SharePoint Services. The company didn't have to pay to upgrade to Small Business Server 2003, since it had purchased upgrade protection with the 2000 edition, according to Austin. But Fischer Group spent $6,450 to add more system memory, upgrade to Windows XP Professional and pay an outside company to help develop the SharePoint site.

For example, Fischer Group added more system memory, upgraded its PCs to a newer version of Windows XP Professional and hired outside workers to help develop its SharePoint site. But Austin said the company has been able to shift a full-time employee who was responsible for filing paper documents to a more productive job, and he predicted that the new system will also help its sales force become more productive.

TECHNOLOGY DETAILS
Windows Small Business Server 2003

STANDARD EDITION

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Includes Windows Server 2003, Exchange Server 2003, Windows SharePoint Services and Microsoft Shared Fax Service

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Starts at $599 with five client-access licenses

PREMIUM EDITION

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Includes all Standard Edition products plus Internet Security and Acceleration Server 2000, SQL Server 2000 and Office FrontPage 2003

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Starts at $1,499 with five client-access licenses

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