Small business saver

Microsoft's cash bait - a rebate to resellers who sell Small Business Server and related consulting services - is designed to lure Linux small-business resellers into selling Windows instead.

I wrote last week that Microsoft now gives a rebate worth $500 to VARs who sell SBS (Small Business Server) 2000 and related consulting services (see These insa-a-ne software prices).

This rebate isn't a reduction in SBS's $US1500 list price. Nor does it go directly to the buyer, as VARs can keep the rebate for themselves. But many will pass it along, especially because such a discount brings SBS down to the $US1000 list of Windows 2000 Server alone. SBS includes a licence for Windows 2000 Server with five client log-ons, plus Exchange 2000 Server, SQL Server 2000, installs of Outlook 2000 on five PCs and more. That's quite an attractive small-business bundle.

The software giant's cash bait is designed to lure Linux small-business resellers into selling Windows instead, something a Microsoft group product manager, Katy Hunter, acknowledged in a recent interview. How well that'll work remains to be seen. But for startups that have already decided on Windows -- and where the number of users simultaneously logged on will be under 50 (SBS's hard-wired limit) -- both the customer and the reseller now have a new negotiating point.

Consultants who are experienced in installing Windows 2000 Server, unfortunately, shouldn't assume SBS 2000 can be set up identically. So says Harry Brelsford, author of Windows 2000 Server Secrets (IDG Books) and the new Small Business Server 2000 Best Practices. He finds SBS has enough quirks that it's important to pay heed and use the product's built-in setup wizards. Microsoft is planning a course for small and midsized businesses and an exam to focus on these issues.

"SBS is being repositioned by Microsoft as 'my first server', " Brelsford says. For offices with two to four PCs, the software giant recommends Windows XP Professional's peer-to-peer networking. (XP Home has weaker networking features.) But as soon as a concern needs to have five people to 50 people logged on at the same time, SBS beckons, especially with its bundled apps. And there's an easy migration path (for a fee) from SBS to full-blown Windows 2000 Server products.

There is no Windows XP Server, and there never will be. Instead of continuing the XP brand, Microsoft is instead hyping Windows .Net Server, the release date for which has slipped from this year to the next.

I don't usually write much about vapourware, but in this case it's important to note how SBS will fit into future server offerings. Microsoft's Hunter says SBS 2003 (code-named Bobcat) will be the entry level of the new .Net Server line. It will include .Net Server and a new version of Exchange (code-named Titanium). Waiting for the updated components will push the new SBS into late 2003, but there's no sign Microsoft will discontinue it.

If you're networking a small firm, and Windows is your platform, SBS 2000 is a place to begin.

Send tips to Livingston. He regrets that he cannot answer individual questions.

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