Why SBS 2008 is better than SBS 2003

Why SBS 2008 is better than SBS 2003

Actually, let me rephrase that title. I think it should be "Why? Is SBS 2008 better than SBS 2003?"

There are few if any people on the planet more familiar with Small Business Server than Microsoft’s Sean Daniel. Sean recently posted a feature comparison between SBS 2003 and SBS 2008. What strikes me about this list is how little is striking. Almost all the new features are benefits for the network administrator, not the end users, and many of those new features apply only to the initial installation and configuration of the product.

I’m still not seeing any compelling reason to upgrade from SBS03 to SBS08 unless there’s a particular feature of Exchange 2007 that the organization wants to deploy. I’ve heard a lot of folks saying "we’ll upgrade our clients to SBS08 when it’s time to replace their server hardware." But when will that be? I’ve got servers that are four-plus years old running SBS03 and doing just fine. What exactly is going to warrant a server hardware replacement? Have there been any changes in CPU technology that would have a meaningful impact on the productivity of a typical small business?

I hope I’m missing something. The leaps between SBS 4.5, SBS 2000, and SBS 2003 were simply extraordinary. I’d hate to think that the SBS 2008 is going to be a big fat "ho-hum." So please comment and tell me where I’m wrong.

Posted in All, SBS, Software, Technology on Aug 8th, 2008, 5:44 pm by David Schrag   

16 Responses

  1. August 8th, 2008 | 6:03 pm

    Funny, when Exchange 2007 first launched and I was on my high horse signing up Exchange 2007 mailboxes left and right and upgrading people to 2007 and telling everyone how great it was… virtually every SBSer told me they would wait for SBS 2008.

    I’ve even been bashed on a few blogs for the audacity to suggest that Exchange 2007 feature set alone is worth ditching SBS for a high-messaging type of an organization that needed built in compliance and information management.

    Now with 2008 I’m hearing exactly the opposite, as you’ve summed up: Not much worth while in 2008 to upgrade to.

    Personally, and I realize thats worthless, people that needed Exchange 2007 have moved to it long ago. So SBS 2008 just presents a more modern OS. It’s like trading in an older car for a 2008 model cause you want built in GPS instead of the one you’re connecting through the cig lighter.


  2. August 11th, 2008 | 12:29 pm

    You mention servers taht are 4 years old. Do you recommend scheduled replacement of servers after x years? What’s X? Do you replace just the hard drives? An older machine is more likely to fail than a new one. How do you, if at all, practively deal with this?

  3. August 11th, 2008 | 1:04 pm

    @Mike: I used to recommend server replacement every 3 years, but that was when it made more sense because there would be significant gains from upgrading both hardware and software. Now I no longer see the same ROI. I’m not terribly worried about proactive hard drive replacement because (a) hard drives generally give some warning these days before they fail and (b) if you have a RAID array with a hot spare in place, you can generally get through a sudden single drive failure unscathed. To be honest, managing “aging” hardware is unchartered territory for me and perhaps I’ll live to regret the decision. On the other hand, if I see two or three servers completely croaking after their fourth or fifth birthday, you can bet I’m not going to let all my other servers get that old.

  4. Jeff C
    November 6th, 2008 | 10:49 am


    I believe you missed point of Sean Daniel’s article about comparsing SBS 2003 to SBS 2008. His article states, “In this table, I’m comparing directly with the 2003 feature set, I am not discussing added functionality or more robust/secure functionality of which is a lot of the extra effort.” He is not listing any of the new features in SBS 2008.

    Have you changed your opinon about SBS 2008? Thanks.


  5. November 6th, 2008 | 12:04 pm

    Jeff C, that is an excellent point and I’m surprised no one has called me on it before now.

    That being said …. No, I have not changed my opinion about SBS 2008. I’ve attended a number of presentations about SBS08 and I still don’t see a compelling reason for any of my clients to move from SBS03 to SBS08. If I come across a server-less client that could use SBS, I might very well recommend SBS08 (although I am very intrigued by some of the SaaS/cloud computing offerings that are coming online).

  6. Peter Landau
    December 15th, 2008 | 11:48 am

    The only thing I would say is that aging hardware has a higher probability of failure. Most large companies have a policy of turning over servers every 3 years, which is the length of ordinary service contracts. However, if my clients buy good quality hardware as I recommend, with the current OS, I don’t see why you can’t get 5 years. And in fact, I think you can extend a service contract to 5 years for Dell and HP. But right now I wouldn’t go out and buy a minimal server, like a Dell PowerEdge 840 with a single Core2Duo with 2GB of RAM with SBS 2003, expecting that this will be great 5 years from now. I’m just giving an extreme example. Point is, my 3-year old servers with SBS 2003 and dual processors and 4GB of RAM don’t need to be replaced right now – but my 5 year old servers probably should be replaced and, if doing that now, maybe it’s best to jump to SBS 2008, even if the feature gain is minimal.

  7. Thomas
    March 26th, 2009 | 7:14 pm

    Will sbs 2008 participate in a forest?

  8. Neilos
    July 22nd, 2009 | 6:57 pm

    I installed sbs 2008 on a quad xeon 2.5ghz server with 8gb RAM and 3 SAS drives.

    My experience of 2008 vs 2003 is like that of XP vs Vista. It achieves the same goal, but it uses more resources in the process, confuses simple configuration with attempts at idiot proofint, and it costs more.

    I’m sure 2008 is advantageous for companies of 20 users+ but for smaller companies 2003 was a better product.

    I’m keeping a constant eye out for an SBS alternative, MS need some competition in this market.

  9. Kar
    September 6th, 2009 | 8:50 pm

    I read all the posts. It is my understanding that many of you would not upgrade from sbs 03 to sbs 08.
    My question is: If you were to start from scratch, in my case, I need a domain controller and an application server, would you start with sbs 03 or 08?
    ps: company less than 20 users.

  10. September 6th, 2009 | 11:09 pm

    No reason to start from scratch with SBS03. New installations should be SBS08.

  11. Marcus
    October 6th, 2009 | 1:00 pm

    If I was to start from scratch I would go with SBS 2003. SBS 2008 is a resource hog and unless you’ve got specific needs that can only be met via Exchange 2007 (Entourage EWS, Etc).. I would stick with 2003. Its amazing how stable and efficient SBS 2003 is compared to 2008.

  12. December 29th, 2009 | 1:07 pm

    I’m shocked at this product. I was excited to try it, and now that I’m loading it on my new fancy-schmacy Quad-Core Intel 2.4+ gig Xeaon, yada yada, with a few terrabytes of mirrors, and 4 gigs of RAM, it wants all of my ram!!! I’m using VMWare 2.0, which is so-so compared to 1.0 (been using VMWare server since 2004), and I have to give SBS 4+ gigs to INSTALL! That means swapping HARD, and now I can bearly shut it down via a browser. After all that I have read, for SBS, I’m just moving over my VM from the Dell 700. I left sys-admin for .Net dev years ago, but I still play sys-work on T.V. But I’ve gotten over using betas, shiney stuff, and bottle rockets. Thank you all for your posts. I’m hard-core enough to run SBS for less than 5 people, but not THIS hard core.

  13. Mark T.
    January 8th, 2010 | 10:31 am

    Wizards ~ Schmizards ,
    Guess I’ll have to go my daughters Jr.High to get dumbed down to use this version of SBS. Overall I like the look and feel of the RWW, OWA, Exchange and Sharepoint , BUT man, what a PITA. I could have had 3 SBS2003 domains with Exchange setup in the time it took to work the bugs out for a FULLY functional SBS Domain ( with all the bells ) .

    For a BASIC Domain Controller setup with a newbie administrator it would be great .
    For the rest of us …. well… time will tell.

    Jury is still out , but the system is not bad overall.

  14. Thomas
    April 22nd, 2010 | 7:37 am

    “http://support.microsoft.com/kb/957717” says quite boldly:
    “In any of these three scenarios, you must correct the IP address in question in order for setup to continue. The IP address of the SBS 2008 server must be located in one of the following ranges. – – – ”

    See: “must correct”, ie. no other options to use SBS 2008 than in internal network. So much of using it “anywhere” like marketing is saying. Any standard DHCP-connection is out of the question immediately. “Anywhere” but not in Internet, essentially.

  15. April 22nd, 2010 | 8:08 am

    Thomas, I’m not sure what you were trying to do. Yes, SBS is supposed to be the hub of an internal network, just like any domain controller. But with a properly configured firewall it’s very accessible over the Internet.

  16. May 29th, 2010 | 7:39 am

    A few months and a blown out instance of SBS 2003 R2 OWA access later, as well as an upgrade from 4 to 8 gigs of RAM, and I’m banging my head against that wall again. I blew up OWA and figured it may be easier to light up an archived copy of of SBS08… it’s just too painful. I have the need to turn up 5 VM’s not including SBS08. And I don’t want to reload SBS03 just to fix OWA (although I may have to if I cannot fix OWA on the current SBS03 box). I’m just so discouraged… I have to feed 4 gigs to one box and it’s still a pig. I love most MS products. Dare I say I owe Mr. Gates my physical world (cars, house, male self esteem by having stuff… still working on that one, but let’s be honest), but I cannot handle looking at the prices of bumping from 8 to 16 gigs just for this. *sigh*… bye bye SBS08 again. I sure hope they freeze the 4 gig need for the next install. Besides, all 2010 stuff is what I am really looking at, so I think 2003 will take some time to repair.

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