Being Real – only a link….

Susan Bradley and I wrote a piece for Windows IT Pro on EBS and SBS.   I am not going to repeat everything Susan has already said, but wanted to give you the link.

From Susan’s Blog:

This month’s Windows IT pro magazine includes a piece that Nick Whittome and I wrote for Windows IT Pro on EBS and SBS. 

If you are a subscriber you can read it online here:  http://windowsitpro.com/article/articleid/100277/sbs-2008-and-ebs-2008-the-view-from-the-trenches.html

Initially the magazine approached us to write the usual review piece of the two servers.  And my big issue with 99.99999% of the review pieces that I’ve read out there is that the author has no history of the product.  Vlad even alludes to this in his blog post today — http://www.vladville.com/2008/11/no-there-is-no-exchange-2007-sp2.html where the journalist included Exhange 2007 “service pack two”in the article.

The journalists wax on poetic about all the mega mondo uber wonderful features and sometimes you wonder of the journalist has ever used the current product to know that the feature he has just waxed poetic about for the past three paragraphs has been in the current product since the last service pack.  In this economy and in this marketplace we have to be real.  So what you see in that piece from Nick and I is just that.  Being real.  Giving real answers.

In fairness though, there’s a couple of terms and words that need a bit explaining in order to be more real and to flesh out some thoughts since that article was first written after the original RTM of the product. 

There’s a section in there in reference to the Security Server role/firewall on Essential Business Server.  When I refer to the the fact that the Threat Management Gateway role/security server shouldn’t be removed from the EBS as that would be a bad thing, the fact that the EBS team ensured that the edge Exchange role is set up securely and properly is a very good thing.  Most people I see complaining about Threat management gateway want to rip it out and install their own firewall from the vendor that pays them revenue.  For all of those folks that object to that firewall being there, just stick your revenue generating subcription model in front and ensure that your customer is still set up securely and that Edge role isn’t messed up.  Leave that edge server to do what it was intended to do.

For anyone who has existing SBS installs, you will find two types of customers.  One like me that cannot justify putting old software on new hardware and those that pinch pennies and will leave that SBS server in there until it totally dies.  I still say that for the marketplace of existing networks, we will move to SBS 2008 as the hardware ages out.  Even when SBS 2003 came out I could not justify upgrading just for upgrading sake on that old server.  It would not be prudent to upgrade until we are in a position to best migrate.

We are proactive with technology at my office and we are on a hardware change out schedule for next year.  One should not enter a migration without considering that it’s change to an organization in a big way.  I love active directory.  But I also understand that the glue of AD that I install, that gives me group policy, that gives me such good things, also means that I need to plan when I move to new hardware.  That’s reality of a small firms’ network.  Unlike Enterprise that thinks nothing of standing up a domain controller and tearing it back down, down here in small business, we plan (or should plan).

I know that for now with about 1/2 of my office on Vista (two on 64 bit) that I’m holding my firm back on the speed increases of having a 2k8 backbone.  I know that I’m holding back on Exchange 2007.  But I also know that I need to ensure that I ready.  I need to learn.  I need to be prepared.  And that means we go back to that old chestnut of “install it once to blow it up, install it twice to go Oh!, install it three times to learn”.

Am I disappointed in the built in monitoring?  Anyone who’s read this blog knows that I’ve been disappointed about it.  But I need to be more real myself and say that to the vast majority of consultants out there they don’t rely on SBS’s monitoring anymore.  They use Kaseaya, or LPI, or Spiceworks or EventSentry.com or any number of third party monitoring tools that provide WAY more monitoring.  And right now we’re just starting to see all of the Security vendors that are plugging into that monitoring console.  Today in the launch event Trend said their Worry Free was launching on the 18th.  Symantec will fully support SBS 2008 in mid December.  And I’ve already built a few monitoring alerts at www.codeplex.com/sbs, as well as there are others at http://www.sbsdeveloper.net/Plugins/SamplePlugins.htm.  The reality is that most (all?) managed service providers are using external monitoring tools anyway. 

As far as that tape backup no longer supported, remember that it’s due to Windows 2008 no longer supporting tape, and I will say again that since my $3,000 tape backup unit broke two years ago I’ve loved backing up to harddrive ever since.  The arguments between tape and hard drive as a backup medium are worse than Windows versus Linux, worse than Windows version Apple, worse than McCain versus Obama, worse than the wars fought during the Crusades even.  I can hardly wait until we get into the religious arguments of harddrive versus cloud in the next wave of backup arguments.

Want a hot swap drive solution that works with SBS 2008?  Check out http://www.high-rely.com/HR3/index.php as a unit that a couple of folks used in the beta and it worked like a champ.  I can tell you the reality is that my Lacie harddrives have been much less trouble free than all those years of tape backups were. 

If you absolutely must have tape backups because your religious beliefs are such that you won’t even see that the drive based backup is faster, check out www.backupassist.com.

One of the comments that Nick made was about the price increase of SBS 2008.  I found it funny tonight on the issue of the price of SBS 2008 that just tonight in the newsgroup a consultant posted in complaining about the price increase as well.

I can tell you that as a Software Assurance customer that I spread over 3 years, I didn’t get sticker shock whatsoever.  There was no MASSIVE price increase here.  Also depending on the mix of cals you get you can actually end up with a cheaper solution than SBS 2003.  Do the math, it’s not as massive as you think.  And consider the three year spread for licesning.  Smaller chunks means we can plan our cash flow better.

And as a person helping people in the SBS newsgroups after they bought the wrong product because they were too cheap, there’s a part of me that’s selfishly glad that it’s no longer the cheapest Windows server license in the marketplace.  I’m getting tired of people wanting to use this platform as a web server for customers because it’s the cheapest server OS out there.  That wasn’t what this was meant for so how about buying the right product in the first place, okay? Go screw up Windows Home Server for a change will ya?  (Okay so I’m kidding about that one, but it’s annoying when it’s obvious they didn’t buy SBS for SBS but bought it because it was cheap.)

Finally about that migration.  Any change needs to be planned for.  Any change needs thinking about.  If I find out any of you that read this blog ever go to a client without planning for their migration, without discussing with them that “stuff will happen”, without AT LEAST testing a migration yourself, without installing and setting up a SBS 2008 FIRST, I will bop you over the head with my 2×4.  When you hold yourself out to be a professional, that means being professional and taking the time to be prepared and learn. 

For those that read the article in WindowsITPro magazine, I hope you enjoyed that it wasn’t the typical standard article/review about SBS 2008.  Both Nick and I wanted to be honest and candid in our opinions, not sugar coat anything and just be as honest as we normally are to consultants that need to know the facts before they sell solutions to their customers, now more than ever you need to be real to your customer. 

Bottom line we wanted it to be real.  We wanted it to have value to the people that would read it and give real answers.  I hope you enjoy reading it as much as Nick and I had writing it.

P.S.  In case you are keeping track, Exchange 2007 is up to rollup pack 4 of Service pack 1 which SBS 2008 will auto install via WSUS.  Exchange 2007 Service Pack 2 isn’t out yet.”

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