Microsoft Small Business Server 2008 and Windows Essential Business Server compared

In November, Microsoft will release the newest version of Small Business Server alongside their new entry in the server race -- Windows Essential Business Server. See how these two products compare and contrast.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Microsoft's newest entry in the Windows Server line - Windows Essential Business Server.  With this foray into the mid-market, Microsoft has created a little confusion when it comes to figuring out the target for their two non-large enterprise server products — Small Business Server 2008 and Windows Essential Business Server.

Windows Small Business Server 2008

 Windows Small Business Server 2008 is designed for organizations with up to 75 computers and comes in two editions—Standard and Premium.  The Standard edition is comprised of a single server package of products that includes:

  • Exchange Server 2007 Standard Edition
  • Windows SharePoint Services 3.0
  • Microsoft ForeFront Security for Exchange
  • Windows Live OneCare for Server
  • Windows Server Update Services 3.0

The Premium package adds SQL Server 2008 Standard Edition on a second physical server.  So, in total an SBS installation runs on either one or two servers depending on the edition you select.

Windows SBS 2008 clients can use one of two client access license (CAL) types.  For each client on the SBS network, you need, at a minimum, an SBS 2008 CAL Suite license.  For any users accessing the second server or SBS 2008 Premium features, you must also purchase an SBS 2008 CAL Suite for Premium license.  You can purchase either user- or device-based CALs for Windows SBS 2008 clients.

The second SBS 2008 server can run as either a 32-bit or 64-bit system while the first system must run on 64-bit hardware.  Remember, Exchange Server 2007 is supported only on 64-bit hardware, so this limitation makes sense.  SBS 2008 will ship initially with both SQL 2005 and SQL 2008.  However, after a year, Microsoft plans to stop shipping SQL 2005 with SBS 2008 and will require that customers run SQL 2008; downgrade rights will no longer be allowed.  SBS 2008 does not support Terminal Services, either, although Remote Administration does work. 

As for hardware, Microsoft recommends that the primary SBS 2008 Server have at least 4GB of RAM, 60 GB of disk space and a 2 GHz or faster processor.  Bear in mind that, by design, Exchange 2007 will use as much RAM as you give it, so load up!  The database server, the second server in the Premium pair, requires at least 2GB or RAM and a minimum of 40 GB of disk space.  Either configuration should be relatively inexpensive to obtain.

Compared to Windows Essential Business Server

Here are some ways in which Windows SBS 2008 and Windows Essential Business Server differ:

  • Windows Essential Business Server supports up to 300 computers. Windows SBS supports up to 75. After 300 computers, you need to move to the regular, separate products.
  • Windows Essentials Business Server is a three or four server solution depending on the edition—Standard or Premium. SBS 2008 is a one or two server solution.
  • Windows Essential Business Server includes Microsoft Forefront Threat Management Gateway Medium Business Edition. This product provides edge security not offered in SBS 2008.
  • Windows Essential Business Server includes Microsoft System Center Essentials 2007. This is a network and server management solution not offered with SBS 2008.

Essentials is designed for what Microsoft considers the midmarket while SBS is aimed squarely at small business, as it always has.  Essentials includes some additional functionality not found in SBS, primarily focused on management and security.

Microsoft plans to begin shipping Windows SBS 2008 and Windows Essential Business Server on November 12, 2008.


Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive w...

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