9 July 2012
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Thoughts on the demise of SBS.

What a bittersweet day.  A few years ago, when the idea of Vaulter was just a notion in my head, much of the work for our clients was done in the old mode of thinking: ”Servers are awesome, the more the merrier!” Of course, that’s paraphrasing.  Fast forward to 2012, and Vaulter is a reality.  Now, we are really enjoying doing the exact opposite for our clients.  We are banishing most of the servers and PBXs from their closets, the noise generators from their workrooms and the computer-shaped heaters from under their desks.  We eat, sleep and breathe the cloud, and we love every minute of it. So while it doesn’t come as a surprise that Microsoft announced their intention to discontinue the Small Business Server product today, we are just a tiny bit sad and very excited for what it means.

For those of you who are not IT nerds, Small Business Server (SBS) is the product that Microsoft created before the Age of Cloud which allowed small businesses to deliver a robust technology service portfolio to their employees.  It made its debut in 1997 and by its final generation in 2011, it offered services including e-mail, remote access, firewall, storage, backup and more, all in one box in your office.  That box had to be purchased, installed, configured and then watched like a hawk.  We have watched SBS mature through the years with mixed emotions, oscillating between “They are putting too much in!” and “Such a great value!”

To be fair, before cloud-based services existed, there simply wasn’t a better way to do things.  If you wanted all those neat services, you would normally have to go buy a machine for each one, which required hardware, power, configuration, maintenance, updates and upgrades.  All those things cost big $$$.  Big companies had no problem paying that, but for anyone under 50 employees, it was daunting and usually expensive.  SBS was “all-in-one” solution created by Microsoft to address those problems and we Microsoft Partners helped our customers get great value out of their SBS servers.   One server, one software company, one partner (hopefully us..).  It worked for years.

But the times have changed.  Cloud services have revolutionized our industry and we can now deliver the same type of service with no server hardware. Our clients are no longer tied to a little box in their closet that quite literally holds their entire business in its hard drive spindles.  They still need their PCs (or do they? Hello iPad!) to get to their services, but they are no longer terrified of a power surge that could leave them scrambling for a new server and a tape backup.  E-mail, phone service, PC backups, document storage, internal programs and even a full Windows 7 desktop: all can now be delivered over their Internet connection, securely.  How cool is that!

And now, Microsoft, by not continuing work on the SBS line, has acknowledged the shift.  Make no mistake, this is going to cause some consternation among my fellow IT service providers, as SBS has generated some very healthy revenues for many of us for many years.  But this is very exciting for us because the giant in our industry, the mighty “House That BillG Built” has landed on the shores of the new world (the cloud) and has burned their metaphorical ships.  SBS was the flagship product for small businesses, and it is now going the way of the dodo.  They are saying, “We bet it all on the cloud” when it comes to SMBs.   And we agree.  I have to admit, I do feel that they just validated the SMB cloud model in the best way they knew how, by killing off its competition.

Cloud services are the immediate future, the great equalizer.  We can deliver the same services as the enterprise with the best features for less, and we can promise our customers abilities that were next to impossible 3 years ago.   Not only that, we have a wide range of services that we can tailor to our customers’ needs and requirements.  And the best part of all is that most of these things can be delivered, implemented, managed and maintained by one company, Vaulter without buying any server hardware.   Your costs are predictable, your features many and your upgrades silent and unobtrusive.  Just the way it should be.

So long, Small Business Server.  You carried out your mission gallantly and with great honor.  You can rest easy knowing that you paved the way for an amazing SMB revolution, and we salute you.  From the cloud :-)


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