SBS 2008 vs Windows Server 2008: Adding Users and Computers

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One of the considerations many small business owners make with regards to making the move to a more secure and robust server based network is, will it be easy enough for me to do the things that need to be done on the computer and network, without it taking away a lot of time from running the business.

Microsoft's Small Business Server, or SBS, 2008 is designed to answer that question with a resounding yes.

While Windows Server 2008 is a robust networking and server platform that can easily handle the needs of any small business, it is not designed with non-computer professionals in mind. This is largely because any attempt to make certain tasks easier invariably also makes them less able to scale to the full enterprise. Thus, a small business owner used to be stuck in between the need for a full server system, but without the time (or the skills) to handle properly managing the system.

Windows Small Business Server 2008 tackles this problem via an intuitive console. In the 2008 version, the console has been designed in such a way as to relate directly to common business tasks, versus the Windows Server 2008 paradigm which relates directly to common system administration tasks.

The result is a fully robust server platform that can be properly managed by a small business without the need to hire a full-time system administrator, or pay a consultant thousands of dollars to keep a relatively simple system running smoothly.

Windows Server 2008 Robust Scalability -- Not Easy Operation and Administration

Microsoft Windows Server 2008 offers a full range of scalable user and group administration. Therein, lies the problem. While a seasoned systems administrator has no difficulty with the concept of local users and domain users, the average business owner can get crossed up right there. And, that is before he even contemplates things like Active Directory, global groups, machine accounts, and so on.

Imagine a dentist whose practice has expanded over the years. When he first started out, it was just him and an assistant sharing one computer. But, as the practice grew, he added a dental hygienist, and then a few years ago, he took on a partner, along with another hygienist. He split the admin function in two with one scheduler, and one person handling billing. Recently his son joined the practice (and another hygienist), plus, they added someone to handle the phones so that the other admin could better handle the lobby.

Things are going well for the business, and some more employees might be in the works, but what started out as two people sharing a computer without any need for security has become an 11 person office using a network of computers cobbled together by a nephew who “is good at computers” a consultant that came in three years ago, and a little bit of luck.

Things like backups are hit or miss, and security is basically an “I hope no one notices this directory” affair, especially since he isn't sure if user accounts were deleted after people left the company.

There is no doubt that it is time for a server platform with regular backups and real security. Plus, an email system would be much better than the various sticky notes pasted around the office to communicate with each other. However, there is nowhere near enough work for a full-time computer admin.

Windows Server 2008 User

If our intrepid dentist were to use Windows Server 2008, he might get some of the features he needs, but the office still wouldn't be any better when it came to administration and maintenance. One look at the User Properties menu in Windows Server 2008 is likely to give our poor business owner heart burn, and who knows what his Active Directory might look like, and that's before we even think about putting in Microsoft Exchange.

Small Business Server 2008 Console and Wizards

Windows Small Business Server

SBS 2008, however, is built with people like our dentist in mind. Adding a new user when one of the employee's niece comes in after school to help is as easy as starting up the main administration console. There is a dedicated User tab, but easier than that, user account creation is one of the tasks easily linked off of the front page of the console.

One click and the New User wizard guides the small business owner through a quick process to define an account and then the SBS server takes care of everything else automatically. No more, creating a local user account when a domain user account was required, or forgetting to setup a machine account to go with the new user. All of those tasks are handled behind the scenes with just a minimum amount of user input.

Or more specifically, with exactly the amount of user input a small business owner should be expected to know. Who is this user? Do they have a new computer, too? What level of permissions should this user get?

User Properties

Tasks like adding groups, deleting users, and adding devices are similarly channeled toward someone who knows more about the employees than they know about computer systems. Important tasks like assigning machine level privileges to the user account can't be forgotten, because the wizard brings up a screen specifically asking whether to assign an existing computer to the new account or add a new computer.

Adding new computers has long been a source of confusion for small business owners. This is for two reasons. First, a small business doesn't buy new computers that often, so even once they figure it out, chances are they forgot all about it by the time a new computer comes in. Second, it seems odd to most non-technical people that a machine would need an account at all.

Thankfully, SBS 2008 simplifies the process by handling the task of installing the machine account via the browser. A click on the To Do screen, gives users exactly the prompting they need to insure that adding a new system goes smoothly.

For all of those businesses where computers are a necessary accessory and not part of the company's business, SBS 2008 provides a much simpler user experience for busy entrepreneurs and business owners who need the robust environment provided by Windows Server 2008 and Microsoft Exchange Server without all the headaches.

To see if SBS 2008 is right for your company, you can download a 60-day trial of Small Business Server 2008. This is a fully functioning install of SBS 2008. The demo period can be reset up to three times which means that theoretically, a business can have a 240-day trial.

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Brian Nelson

(MCSE, CNA) is a professional freelance writer and small business owner with the freelance writing business ArcticLlama, LLC. Brian’s experience includes network and systems administration, financial planning and advising, and he even has a degree in Biochemistry. Brian specializes in several areas of highly technical writing for ArcticLlama including technology, science and medical. He is also a freelance financial writer specialist. He lives in Colorado with his wife and daughter. Brian contributes articles on Windows Server 2008 and other related topics.