OK, so you are a non-profit running on SBS (whatever version) and the time has come for you to replace systems. As you probably already know, Microsoft stopped offering SBS a few years ago. What do you do to replace your system, specifically your Exchange?
Well, Microsoft has a smoking deal available for many qualifying non-profits, FREE (as in FREE!) Office 365 accounts! Yup, that’s right, FREE! I have written about this in the past and it is something that any qualifying non-profit should seriously consider.
But what do you do if you can’t go to a Cloud solution? Maybe you are constrained by regulations or internal policy or whatever, but the fact remains you can’t go to the Cloud. What are your options?
Well, thankfully, Microsoft is still offering lots of software deals to non-profits through Tech Soup. Qualifying non-profits can obtain Server 2012 R2, Exchange 2016 (!) and Exchange CAL’s for very little cost. As an example, one of my non profits (Salvation Army Stan Hagen Center for Families) recently ordered 2 copies of Server 2012 R2 Std, Exchange 2016, Exchange CAL’s, Windows Server CAL’s (all for 20 users) and 5 Terminal Server CAL’s for roughly CAD$575. Exchange and Exchange CAL’s were about 40% of the overall cost and while not “free” like O365 still a pretty smoking deal if you compare the costs through TechSoup to full licensing amounts.
In the case of the Stan Hagen Center their old domain was messy as was their Exchange (old Exchange 2007 that had suffered more than its share of issues). As the user count is only about 20 we decided the best bet would be to create net new Server VM’s, create a net-new Windows Domain, install Exchange 2016 into the domain then migrate all data manually. Granted, this is probably NOT the best approach if you have more than a few users but it was the best approach for them.
Their physical infrastructure is a single Lenovo TS430 server which is beefy enough to run Server 2012 R2 as the Hyper-V host and supports three Hyper-V VM’s (the host has a quad-core Xeon with Hyper-threading, 32GB of RAM and a RAID-10 disk layout backed by 10K SAS disks and a decent LSI RAID controller with RAM cache and battery backup). The two Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard licenses provide the requisite licensing for Hyper-V (each license allows for two VM’s) and, of course, they have the required Exchange license and CAL’s as well as the terminal server CAL’s.
So, how did it all come together? What are the pieces that were put into place to give the Center similar functionality to what they had from SBS but upgraded to modern standards? There are a few bits in play, here, so I’ll break it out piece by piece.
NOTE: All of this is equally applicable to organizations that are NOT non-profits, you just have to understand that your costs will be considerably higher than listed in this document as you will be paying regular licensing prices.
For this scenario to work we need two servers (or one Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V host and two Server 2102 R2 VM’s). The Server Essentials Role does NOT enable a “one machine install” of a DC and Exchange on one server, as did SBS. We want the DC as the main server (where the Server Essentials Role will be installed) and a second Exchange server. Also, and this is critically important, we will need TWO available public IP’s attached to our firewall that will allow for two publicly accessible https sites (port 443) to be created; one site for the Remote Web Access features provided by the Server Essentials Role and the second site for Web access to Exchange and Exchange services.
Installing Server Essentials Experience Role
Obviously, the two servers provide all the normal domain functionality as well as full Exchange functionality, just as before. The “key” to maintaining the “SBS experience” is to bring up the “Server Essentials Experience” role on the main VM. What this does is provide a series of management tools and “wizards” on the main server, much as SBS did, and also provides various connectivity tools on the WAN side; again, much like SBS did.
The Server Essentials Experience is a Role which you install just like any other Role under Server 2012 R2. (Following screenshots are from one of my Lab VM’s). Also note that I’m installing the Role on a machine that is ALREADY a Domain Controller. You can install the Role on a fresh Server install with no domain enabled and then let the Role installation wizard walk you through creating the domain. There are pro’s and con’s for either method, my preference is to install on an already created DC as I then have more flexibility overall.
Alright, the Role is installed. NOTE: The information in the red box is important. I have seen users who think they must register with Microsoft online services, this is NOT true. The link is there if you are going to link local services with O365 and/or Azure. If you are not going to do that then there is no need to follow the link. Go ahead and click the Close button.
The Server Essentials Experience Role is now installed. My next post will describe the steps you need to follow to configure it.