As most techie types salivate over the imminent release of Small Business Server 2008 I will contend that this will in fact be the last version every produced.
What do small business customers want? Simple. They want access to their “stuff”. What is their stuff I hear you ask. Well, it is probably “stuff” they create as well as “stuff” other people send them. In more technical terms “stuff” they create are documents and “stuff” other people send them is emails. Why do they need a server to access their “stuff”? They don’t. Managing a server for their “stuff” has become way too complicated and way too expensive for most small businesses. They have to firstly buy the equipment, next they have to run it up and get it all working. Next, they have to keep it secure and so and so on. If they can’t do this themselves they pay someone else to do it for them but it still pretty expensive just to access their “stuff”.
Customers don’t care about servers. They also don’t care about software. They just want something that will allow them to do their job – i.e. get access to their “stuff”. It seems that things like servers and software are simply getting in the way of this. I reckon more and more are going to be migrating to “cloud computing” since it all far easier to access their “stuff” here.
Look, Small Business Server (SBS) has been a great product over the years. It really has. It has been an extremely cost effective method of doing much that a small business needs but not any more in my books. Everything that SBS can do is now begin done in the “cloud”. As a customer, why would you ever want to maintain your own mail server? Put it in the “cloud” and let someone else manage the problems of spam a smart operator will say. If you really think about it there isn’t really much that SBS has over “cloud” computing.
Now sure, many clients aren’t comfortable with the the idea of accessing their “stuff” somewhere on the Internet but hey if I tell them that they can do it for half the cost, guess how long it will take most to change their attitude? Half a nano-second I’ll bet! So no customer really cares about SBS and all the technical gee-whiz. If they can find a cheaper and easier way to get their “stuff” they go for it.
The second front on which SBS faces annihilation is from Microsoft. Microsoft seems clearly to moving towards the concept of “medium” rather than “small” business servers with its release of Essential Business Server (EBS) which basically is similar to the current SBS but allows all the software to run on multiple machine (unlike SBS). Why? Businesses that are going to run EBS are bigger and far more likely to spend far more dollars on IT than “small” businesses who buy SBS. For those clients even Microsoft is pitching its own “cloud” computing solution, which is even evident in the upcoming version of SBS 2008. The way I see is that SBS is being “stripped” down and “consumerized” so all it does is simple store “stuff”.
Since it has been 5 years now since the last version of SBS was released (and SBS 2003R2 doesn’t count as a “new” release). I can’t see that in another 5 years we’ll have SBS 2013. I’m sorry, but I think it will be gone. If you are selling and supporting SBS then I reckon your time left to make money with the product is fast dwindling. You have either to move up market with EBS (which will be tough for one man bands) or embrace “cloud computing” (but if everything works right why do customers need you?).
So maybe it is not only the end of SBS as we know it. Maybe it is also the end of the SBS only reseller?