Windows Essential Business Server 2008 RC 1

It's hard to argue with the value the suite approach brings to a midmarket business

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.

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