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The SBS Alternative?
Microsoft recently announced that Small Business Server (SBS) 2011 will be the final version of SBS released. Many think that this will force small businesses and their IT providers to move towards Microsoft's more expensive Server and Exchange software.
I have my own thoughts about this, in the light of greater adoption of cloud-based solutions such as Google Apps and Office 365. I have been researching different server operating systems that can do a similar job to SBS and at a fraction of the cost of an SBS 2011 license or of the new Server licenses that replace it.
If a client uses a cloud solution for their email hosting and productivity software, and if this is utilised properly, these solutions mean that small businesses don’t need to pay for expensive software licenses to host their exchange or to provide their staff with office software or to pay extra for those staff to be able to collaborate over the web. The small businesses only pay for the cloud solution at a fraction of the price. Google Apps, for example, is only £3.30/user per month or £33/user for the entire year.
Will the demise of SBS allow Linux to gain more of a foothold into the small office environment? What is to stop small businesses and their IT providers from making use of Open Source software when setting up their working environment? With Open Source software, you can provide your users with office and productivity software such as Libre Office, in addition to those provided by any cloud solution mentioned above.
ClearOS, to mention but one, would make a more than adequate SBS replacement. In my limited research so far, this distribution can act as a Domain Controller and as a Gateway or Firewall. It can manage filesharing across the local network as well managing the users for the business.
So, let’s take a moment to imagine an office with a ClearOS Server and an office full of Ubuntu Desktop machines. Is this impractical? Is there still too much proprietary software that doesn’t interact well with Linux of any flavour?
Are there small businesses out there that, due to their software needs, will always need a Windows based machine or network?
This article is as much to get techies like myself talking about a time where we can help our small business partners save on software license fees without sacrificing productivity. To discuss the pitfalls, the pros and cons of such a move.
Do you believe Microsoft still has a stranglehold on the small business IT provision market or is there a power shift in the cards?
Let me know your thoughts. I would be more than interested in discussing this further. Drop me a line at: firstname.lastname@example.org
(While I have mentioned a few specific pieces of software, that does not limit this discussion exclusively to those mentioned above.)
By: Karl Cooke, Owner at S25 Computers, based in Northern Ireland, UK
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