Microsoft is poised to send the new version of Small Business Server (SBS) to its manufacturer partners, with first versions of the product expected to ship in the UK early next year.
The company anticipates selling the all-in-one business offering, dubbed SBS 2000, to businesses that fall short of the need for Microsoft's high-end BackOffice but who still need some sort of web 'underpinning'.
As its name indicates, the package is designed for the newly launched Windows 2000 operating system (OS), and although client systems can be running any OS because of the web interface, the heart of the system will need Windows 2000 in order to work.
Tim Kimber, product manager for SBS 2000 at Microsoft, conceded that a lot of smaller traders are still tied to consumer offerings such as Windows 98, 98SE and even 95, and that these will be the target market for SBS 2000.
As with its predecessors, the system claims to have everything a small business needs to get started in networking and communicating with customers via the internet. This includes Microsoft Exchange, a fax server, Internet Explorer, SQL Server database and Outlook 2000.
The new version includes a web view of Outlook 2000 so that timetables can be shared with people outside the company as required. Its real strength, however, appears to be in the network administration area where everything is broken down as a simple tree diagram viewable through a web page.
Kimber also confirmed that SBS 2000 will work with Microsoft Access, since not all small businesses will want to upgrade to SQL 7.0 as their core database. Indeed, many organisations use a spreadsheet rather than a database to keep records.
The system will support up to 50 users, but if a company thinks it will swiftly go beyond that number it is being advised to look at the full-blown BackOffice system.
SBS 2000 will also be available using the application service provider model, allowing small businesses to access applications and data as they use them from a secure, trusted website. This will include access to Microsoft's rapidly evolving .Net services initiative and the bCentral website where users can access online business services.
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