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Microsoft calls on small business

Microsoft today released a test version of an update to its small business server software bundle.

Microsoft today released a test version of an update to its small business server software bundle.

Microsoft BackOffice Small Business Server 4.5 features a new set of tools for setup, network management, and Internet connectivity. The server suite includes the Windows NT Server network operating system 4.0 with Service Pack 4, Microsoft Exchange Server version 5.5, Microsoft SQL Server 7.0, and Proxy Server 2.0.

Small Business Server 4.5 offers an increased limit of 50 workstations and integration with Office 2000.

After years of selling products to mainstream corporate users, a growing crowd of software, hardware, and networking equipment makers are now targeting the small-business market, which makes up an increasingly large segment of the economy.

Analysts say the small-business market will be one of the most heavily contested battlegrounds for vendors such as Microsoft, SAP, Cisco, and Lotus Development.

The primary target of Microsoft's assault on the small business community is Novell, a company with roots in the market that has lost ground to the growing popularity of Windows NT, according to analysts.

Some of the new features in Small Business Server 4.5 include an enhanced setup engine for assisting users in the installation process with interactive help confirmation pages, a progress bar, and the ability to specify installation directories for applications.

The new server suite also includes an Internet connectivity wizard for configuring the server with an Internet Service Provider (ISP) using ADSL, cable modem, ISDN, and other high-speed options.

An enhanced Remote Administration tool uses Microsoft's NetMeeting 2.1 conferencing software to allow managers to administer and manage Small Business Server sites remotely.

And the separate Small Business Server with Office Pro package now features a fully integrated version of the Office 2000 business productivity software suite.

Although pricing and final shipping date details were not provided, Microsoft said BackOffice Small Business Server 4.5 will be available for a nominal fee to licensed users of Small Business Server 4.0 when it is released.

A special channel preview version of Small Business Server 4.5 can be ordered for a limited time from Microsoft's direct access Web site.