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Microsoft updates small-business software suite

Microsoft is planning to take another stab at the small-business market Feb. 21, when it's slated to roll out the next version of its all-in-one suite, Small Business Server.

Microsoft is planning to take another stab at the small-business market Feb. 21, when it's slated to roll out the next version of its all-in-one suite, Small Business Server.

Small Business Server 2000 (SBS 2000) is Microsoft's third-generation small-business suite offering. SBS, which is offered primarily through resellers, has met with mixed success throughout its relatively brief life--as have other competitive small-business bundles from IBM and Novell.

SBS 2000 will include the latest versions of Microsoft's Windows 2000 server software, including the Windows 2000 Server operating system; the SQL Server 2000 database; the Exchange 2000 e-mail server; the Internet Security and Acceleration Server 2000 Web caching and firewall product; the Windows Media streaming audio and video technologies; fax services and updated management tools.

SBS 2000 also will provide small-business customers with access to some of Microsoft's showcase technologies, such as Outlook Team Folders, an Outlook 2000 resource for sharing information and collaborating with co-workers, said sources.

"Microsoft really got it right on the third try," said Harry Brelsford, a Bainbridge Island, Wash., consultant and author of "Teach Yourself Microsoft Small Business Server in 21 Days."

"It's truly the kitchen sink and the espresso machine combined," he said. "Right away, because it's Windows 2000-based you'll have fewer reboots and blue screens."

Microsoft executives declined to comment on SBS 2000, saying the product is not yet commercially available.

As it did with Small Business Server 4.5, Microsoft will limit the number of simultaneous PC users to 50 under the SBS 2000 package. And Microsoft also is likely to require customers to run SBS 2000 on a single server only, rather than allowing them to distribute the product across multiple servers.

Said one of Microsoft's reseller partners: "They're still selling a big honking piece of software that requires a big honking box to run it on. That's not what many small-business customers really want."

Microsoft is stepping up its campaign to win small-business customers on multiple fronts. It is selling SBS as packaged software. It also is pushing downloadable small-business services via its bCentral portal site.

In December the Redmond behemoth announced plans to acquire Great Plains Software and host a number of Great Plains small-business and accounting offerings on bCentral, once the merger is approved.