Monday, 4 June 2007

SBS 2K3 - All Versions: Yet another issue with W2K3 Service Pack 2

It seems to be a fact on SBS that service packs break things. This fact has been around for a very long time.

It is one of the reasons we never apply service packs immediately, especially the OS ones, to our SBS boxes.

The SBS blog has pointed out another issue on SBS with Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2: Unable to RDP/RWW into the SBS server after applying SP2.

The service pack breaks Terminal Services. The solution it seems, is to head over to the server console and reapply the service pack.

This can be especially painful for us SBSers, as we are generally RDPd into our SBS boxes for the updates. Sometimes, depending on the updates, we will need a fail safe scheduled reboot (previous blog post how-to) that would run an hour or so after starting the updates just in case the RDP connection is killed. Exchange and ISA updates are bad for that.

Susan Bradley has a current W2K3 SP2 install on SBS caveat page: Before You Install. And, there are LOTS of them!

As I see it, Service Packs are a throwback to a time when the Internet was in its infancy or even non-existent. We were required to either pay for the floppies, CD, or now DVD media, or after the coming of the Internet, download them from Microsoft's product page. Keep in mind we are talking about the SMB environment here. No SMS & MOM.

There was really no incremental updates until the advent of Windows Update. With Windows Update, we were able to patch and update our operating systems on an ongoing basis. We no longer had to wait for the service pack.

The same is true of our Microsoft Applications with the advent of the comprehensive update site for all Microsoft products: Microsoft Update.

A really huge portion of the current Service Pack 2 for Windows Server 2003 has already been delivered to us via WSUS/MSUpdate.

For us SBSers, the adoption of WSUS 2.0 was quite wide spread. Why else was WSUS 2.0 incorporated into the R2 release of SBS? Because it works, it facilitates an accurate picture of an organization's patch level status, and it gives the remote consultant full control over what patch is released and when.

Now, with the release of WSUS 3.0 and its ability to seamlessly be installed on SBS 2K3 SP1 and R2, we obtain the ability to manage Windows Vista patching as well. Here is a previous blog post on one particular WSUS 3.0 installation.

Given our current abilities to keep our patching levels current via WSUS, to test those incremental patches and publish our experiences with them, and to monitor our client's installations simply via the SBS R2 reports, we need to retire the Service Pack for the mainstream, but especially for SBSers.

Give us those incremental updates that were contained in the current Service Pack via WSUS. Give us the chance to test each component in our labs and on our own networks before having to chew on a chunky Service Pack that may, and does, break things on our client's SBS boxes.

Microsoft, our SBS boxes are as varied as any out there. Each client installation will be different. Hardware configurations are myriad, different critical corporate software installations on the SBS box are numerous, and no two SBS installations are identical.

We as Microsoft Small Business Specialists take great pains to try and configure servers based on one hardware platform to ease what can be a hardware support nightmare.

We also take great pains to make sure that our solutions meet our client's very specific needs.

And, our solutions need to be stable. It is tough to sell solutions based on SBS if we see a huge splattering of SBS pain on a Service Pack install. That, it seems, is what is happening now.

Think about the consultant or small I.T. support company that is not as experienced with SBS. Will the current debacle with W2K Service Pack 2 deter them from installing SBS based solutions? It sure may!

Also, keep in mind that the small business client, though not an I.T. Professional, may have at least a good grasp on the technologies used in their business, and know where to find information on products that a consultant may be recommending to them. The current Service Pack 2 issues on SBS may not show SBS in a good light at all.

Microsoft, having SBS pain expressed around Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2 is definitely not a good way to sell a product.

All that being said, we still maintain that SBS 2K3 Premium R2 is the best server software product for our SMB clients. To date, SBS 2K3 is the best SBS version we have worked with. And, we plan on working with it as well as SBS Cougar into the future!

We will just continue to be very cautious around service packs! ;)

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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