SBS 2011 replacement

Microsoft have discountinued the SBS line of software, a great-value option for a lot of small businesses including the massive power of Microsoft Windows Server and Microsoft Exchange Server, this is a fact. But many companies still need this sort of solution and are looking around for an SBS 2011 replacement. We definately recommend to our clients to use Microsoft Exchange. It offers ’email the way it should be’, and frankly how people expect email to be. With the explosion of multi-device users (a mix of in-office desktop, mobile laptop, tablet, smartphone and maybe web-access) POP3 just doesn’t cut it anymore as an email service. At best it gives you a limited and complex setup of downloading copies of emails. IMAP is touted as some as an advance – but here’s the catch. On an IMAP service you typically don’t get much storage space. A hosting company will tell you that 2Gb is a lot of space. Microsoft think 25Gb is more like it, and I have to agree.

So what do you do if you need an SBS 2011 replacement solution – what are your options?

A while ago I wrote about how Exchange 2003 is not compatible with Outlook 2013, and neither is Outlook 2003 compatible with Exchange 2013 ( This definately needs to be considered in the context of replacing servers and messaging solutions.

Typically this will be a conversation you are having with your IT people at the time your current server is due for replacement, is making funny noises or causing other problems, or at the moment you are considering whether you need your first server.

Ditch Microsoft?

The obvious answer might be to look for an alternative solution. Surely someone has a comparable setup? Well in my experience the answer is No. The closest I have seen is probably Google Apps, as an online service with Activesync support – and this is really the key. Activesync is what gives the expected experience of syncing mail folders, calendars, contacts and other items on your mobile devices.

Tablets and smartphones will all use Activesync to connect you up. Anything else is just IMAP and rubbish.

Upgrade Everything you’ve got

This is an option, and depending on a number of factors might make sense. You’ll be replacing your SBS server with separate Windows installations for your Domain Controller, and your Exchange Server. Exchange 2013 won’t install on a domain controller so you minimally need a separate virtual instance to run Exchange Server 2013 in. Load-dependant you may opt to move Exchange to another box.

Option 1 Costs = New Server hardware, Server 2012 Standard *1, Exchange Server 2013 Volume License *1, Windows CALs *Y, Exchange CALs *Y

Option 2 Costs = 2 new server hardware, Server 2012 Standard *2, Exchange Server 2013 Volume License *1, Windows CALs *Y, Exchange CALs *Y

(Y is the number of users) – remember these would most likely be perpetual licenses; you can run them for as long as your server is alive and they continue to function (yes – regardless of Microsoft support).

Go to a subscription model

Microsoft seem to want people to move onto their Office 365 cloud service and pay for services – and software – on a monthly basis. If it works for you, if you have the bandwidth, software, budget and support-staff then great. You can keep your files and databases on-premise, just farm-out Microsoft Exchange to Microsoft to look after. If you need to buy Microsoft Office for your PCs too, hey why not rent that as well?

Option 3 Costs = New Server Hardware (for storage and DC), Windows Essentials 2012 *1, Office365 Exchange License *Y*Z, Office 365 Desktop Apps subscription *Y*Z

(Y is the number of users needing this service, Z is the number of months to compare)


Here I will set out 3 scenarios, give pricing for both options, and explain my recommended solution.

Here’s the basic (approx) price list, on-premise against Cloud-hybrid:

On-Premise Item Price Cloud-hybrid Item Price
On-premise Server Hardware(Fujitsu TX140, Xeon CPU, 16Gb RAM, 2x 600Gb SAS Hard drives) £2200 Cloud-Hybrid Server Hardware(HP Microserver, 16Gb RAM, 2x 1TB SATA Hard Drives) £800
Windows Server 2012 Volume License £600 Windows 2012 Essentials OEM License(Includes 25 CALs but will support no more than 25) £310
Windows Server User CAL £30
Exchange Server 2013 Volume License £600
Exchange Server User CAL £65
Monthly Cost for Exchange Mailbox £3.20
Office 2013 H&B PKC £180 Monthly Cost to add Desktop Apps £7


The options will be –

Option 1 – Everything On-Premise, similar to SBS

Option 2 – Cloud-Hybrid, storage on-site but email in-cloud

Customer 1

Scenario: Customer has 3 employees, is looking to take on 1-2 more in the next 12 months. The 3 employees have laptops with MS Office, but the customer would need to purchase new laptops for the new employees. They are limited on cash, and I’ll assume the new employees join in 6 months.

Option 1 Cost Now = £3400 + 3*(65+30) = £3685
Option 1 Cost – in 12 Months +2* £180 + 2*(65+30) = £550
Total 5-year cost would be= £4235

Option 2 Cost Now = £1100
Option 2 Cost – for 12 months +3*£3.20*12 + 2*(£3.20+£7)*6  = £237.70
Total 5-year cost would be (sum of above, + 3*”3.2*48 + 2*£10.20 * 48) = £2777.70

Recommendation – clearly this company would benefit from using the Office 365 cloud-hybrid solution. It fits with their budgeting for new employees and saves them both cash and money long-term. The bandwidth requirements are going to be modest for 3-5 users so that will be fine.

Customer 2

Scenario: Customer has 10 employees, heavy CAD usage. They email revisions of drawings a lot. They currently use SBS2003 for their requirements but have up-to-date PCs with Office 2010 due to their rolling PC replacement programme. They are stable in terms of employee-numbers, directly replacing employees should 1 leave.

Option 1 Cost Now = £3400 + 10*£95 = £4350
Option 1 cost – 12 months = +£0
Total 5-year cost would be £4350

Option 2 Cost Now = £1100
Option 2 cost – 12 months = 10*£3.30 * 12 = £396
Total 5-year cost would be £3080

Typically I would suggest the on-premise solution here. Despite looking more costly over 5-years, the solution would fit better with the business. There is a likelyhood that if they were to switch to cloud-based, they would need to increase their bandwidth and/or install internet redunancy as they would be relying heavily on the internet connection for access to their emails. Also since the customer is still running SBS2003 they are more likely to derive more value by running the server for longer than 5 years.


There are many ways to skin a cat, depending on CapEx -vs- OpEx, flexibility requirements, policy and operational requirements.