We (itgroove) have held back a bit on implementing SBS 2011 Essentials for any of our customers while we waited on some of the dust to settle around Office 365. Now that 365 has proven itself to be a worthy offering we have started talking up SBS Essentials to those of our clients that might be a fit.
For those of you that may be wondering about the differences between SBS Essentials and the “regular” SBS there is a good matrix from Microsoft that describes the differences in detail, it is available here. For those that just want the “nitty griity” the big difference between Essentials and regular SBS is Exchange and SharePoint; both are missing from Essentials as the idea is you bring both up inside Office 365. Regular SBS includes both as “on premise” installations. Essentials also limits the user count to a maximum of 25 whereas regular SBS can scale to 75 users.
Essentials also offers a “premium” add-on, just like regular SBS, that provides a second Server 2008 R2 license as well as a SQLserver 2008 R2 license in order to provide a home for “line of business” applications. And while I haven’t actually tried, I see no reason why you could not have a second DC as part of an Essentials domain, just like you can with any other SBS domain.
If you have ever used Windows Home Server then Essentials will probably feel pretty familiar as there are some distinct similarities between the two products. The management dashboard provided feels very similar to that of Windows Home Server with the appropriate “polishing” to make it more “corporate” than “home. Like regular SBS, Essentials provides some nice web-based remote access tools (RWA) as well as a suite of tools to make it easy to manage the server as well as the domain client machines.
Essentials big claim to fame is the management integration tool that allows you to “integrate” the Essentials server and domain with the Office 365-based Exchange and SharePoint. I am going to be digging into this tool and will blog more about it as we are all a bit leery of Microsoft’s claims about the tool’s effectiveness (other integration tools between 365 apps and on-premise AD’s have been less than stellar in their operation). If it all works as claimed then the combination of a “lite” version of SBS with Office 365 should make for a compelling piece of technology for smaller shops.
Stay tuned for more about both SBS Essentials and Office 365.