What does it do?
These days, if your office has more than one computer, printer, scanner, or Internet connection, you need a network. Why? Say you manage a small medical practice with several physicians, nurses, and receptionists. Each receptionist needs a computer to take appointments and keep patient records. But to avoid duplication and overbooking, the receptionists must share a common database. That's where a small-business server comes in. These software packages not only connect every PC to a common server (and thus to one another), they also allow several computers to share a single printer or Internet connection (for surfing or e-mail). And these things are precisely what SBS aims to do.
To find out how SBS works for small companies of various sizes (a 10-employee office with no technical expert; a 50-employee office with an in-house technical expert; and a 100-person company with either a small IT staff or an outside consultant), we installed SBS three separate times on a 1.5GHz Pentium III with 2GB of RAM and 120GB of drive space. After each simulation, we wiped the server and performed a fresh installation. (Keep in mind that because Microsoft limits the number of items on a single network to 50, you'd have to buy a second server license to set up a 100-person network.) For each test, we set up intranets and Internet connections, deployed software to client PCs, and compared SBS to traditional small-business software rivals, such as IBM and Novell, as well as newer options, such as outsourcing and open source solutions. Read on for the results.