Shortly after convincing my brother to invest in a Dell server running Microsoft Small Business Server, not to mention a number of other quotes out there with potential clients, Microsoft in their wisdom have decided that the current version is going to be the last. You can’t make this stuff up!

This has unsurprisingly caused some interesting debate in the blogosphere over the last few days. Microsoft Small Business Server (SBS) has been an old friend to me, since version 4.5 when it was called BackOffice Small Business Server based upon Windows NT Server 4 (may have even been earlier as my memory is fading!). I remember shortly after upgrading people to Small Business Server 2000 afterwards and it being a giant step-change between the products.

Many a good business has been based on this technology, I’ve even seen on the IT forum spiceworks bloggers who are ‘allegedly’ not paid by Microsoft or spiceworks promoting that we should let go of the past. I’m certainly not ready, I don’t know how else a business would get such a good deal on licensing. Certainly Microsoft’s UK price increase of 30% in recent months on volume licensing seems hard enough. This could be the time when people start turning more to Apple and to opensource, just as one of the most exciting releases from Microsoft, Windows 8 is due.

Whilst the cloud has become a more compelling option for Small Businesses and there is no need to have an Exchange server running your email on premise – I stand by all the arguments I made to my brother in my last blog post. Maybe I’m stuck in the past?

That said, Microsoft haven’t took total leave of their senses, in that they have a cut down replacement product (Windows Server Essentials 2012) which has no copy of Microsoft Exchange and is fully integrated with their cloud services for email, CRM (customer relations management), they’ve also said that the current version of Small Business Server will remain on the market until late 2013.

This to me, kind of means all is not lost. My brother certainly gave me clear instructions that he did not want the latest and greatest, so the current version isn’t going to worry him. A future upgrade path isn’t necessarily out of the question to the standalone components of the operating system. However, Dell need this product to push server systems, as do the other vendors – I wonder how it will affect their mid-range server solutions sales.

Maybe my old friend is long in the tooth, doesn’t always do what it should, is often installed by complete idiots and doesn’t work properly (I’m not one of those, but maybe was at version 4.5) however, it sits in a corner and just works. It does everything that a small business needs in the corner of their office and more.

It could be I’m just not ‘cool’ much like the Samsung tablet I own (you’ll have to Google to get that joke, iPad vs Samsung Galaxy Tab) and I’m not embracing the cloud, however, I would argue against that. To me, business email is so fundamental that risking its hosting and storage off-premise for any business that is growing is a dangerous move. A small business does not have the might and power to argue with an ISP, Microsoft and Google when there are issues – nor do they have the time to talk to India. If you know your emails are in the corner of your office, backed up regularly and there’s an IT company or even a spotty nerd you know you can kick to fix it, then it’s one less thing to worry about for a business owner than to ponder the clouds and where exactly is this stuff.

Unleashed certainly doesn’t shun the cloud like a bunch of nonbelievers. We very much use it for various aspects of our business and solutions that we sell. However, we truly believe that sub-25 networks is the sweet spot for this technology and there’s even a case for servers for businesses with over five users. What this will ultimately do is force us to evaluate even further what we’re going to do for smaller businesses, much of the features of a Foundation Server can be carried out by smart NAS boxes such as those from Synology and Qnap at a much reduced cost – they can even host emails! Microsoft will more than likely just lose further market share.

One hopes that people such as myself and even the manufacturers campaigning and talking about this issue will make Microsoft come to their senses, we’re not all about being stuck in the past, but evolution and not revolution is what our clients are asking for.

And if all else fails… I believe that should anything go wrong with your hosted emails that the entrance to cloud is much like the entrance to Hogwarts. If you believe it’s there, you can run at a wall and enter with your USB wand and demand a copy of your emails.