Thursday, 3 September 2009

A Quick Overview of Hosting SBS, Vista, Windows 7, and Office 2007

We host SBS 2008 for some of our clients that are small enough not to want to put in a full in-house SBS solution but also require server based Line of Business applications to run for them.

This is one area where the Cloud cannot meet the needs of small business . . . yet.

  • Hosting SBS Costs
    • Server 1 SBS (1U, 8GB, RAID 1 SAS)
      • SBS physically installed.
      • Faxing outbound capable.
        • Yes, there is USB over Ethernet, but it is an unknown for this kind of setup.
        • Long distance factored in though not exclusive. Extra charges apply.
    • Server 2 Server Core (1U, 16GB, RAID 1 15K SAS or 1U, 16GB, RAID 10 2.5” 10K SAS + hot spares)
      • Multi-port Gigabit NIC needed for VMs on larger scale deployments.
    • UPSs (2U 110V 15Amp, 3U 110V 30Amp, 3U or 5U 220V 30Amp+) or more depending on desired runtime.
    • Internet connection(s) and load balancing device if needed.
    • Gigabit internal Switching
    • Gateway Appliance.
    • 42U rack enclosure with solid sides, perforated doors front and back and lockable. APC is our choice.
      • Our servers are housed in an 9’x8’ server closet I built when we moved in.
      • A/C in the summer provided by 15K BTU dual hose stand alone units (2x $450 ea).
      • Option to A/C mounted on the wall at 22K BTU using 220Volt. (~$5,500 installed)
      • More efficient, but outright cost versus utility consumption make-up was not worth it.
    • Backup setup
      • Drobo Pro
      • SAN
      • walk away USB HDD
      • off-site?
    • Power consumption (~$12/Mth per server in our experience for dual Xeon)
    • Maintenance
  • Hosting User Costs
    • Original image setup plus SysPrep.
    • Image maintenance.
    • Microsoft product licensing per month (SPLA).
    • Time spent supporting users.
      • Included versus excluded time/charges?
  • Contract terms.
    • Monthly costs outlined.
    • Additional costs outlined.
    • What is/is not included.
    • Who owns the data on our systems (billing/payment snag)?
    • 30 day cancellation notice (term of your choosing).
    • Downtime qualifications/SLA.
    • Get a lawyer to vet the contract.
  • Other costs
    • Time to support user setup on the first and subsequent calls.
    • or other remote connectivity for setting up non-local desktops.
    • Training sessions – LiveMeeting or the like.
  • Security
    • Two Factor would be good – AuthAnvil.
      • Deposit or outright purchase for the FOB?
      • We have not implemented yet until we have a few more clients on board.
    • Pass Phrase requirements (ours is 12 characters, complexity, with a 30 day rotation).
    • AUP posted on the common Companyweb site.
    • BGInfo Terms & Conditions posted on ALL desktops via GP.
  • Weaknesses in the system
    • Internet connection.
      • ADSL whether managed or unmanaged server grade pipe.
        • Load balancing with redundant DNS is required but presents a pickle for RWW Certs depending on the device.
      • Fibre
        • SLA included.
        • 10Mb duplex or 100Mb duplex
        • Costs $$$$.$$ per month
      • Cable
        • Not available here.
    • Server down.
      • Hard drive or other hardware failure.
      • Recovery time?
        • Extra hard drives and even a box are needed.
    • Downtime restitution clause?
    • Us.
      • Vlad’s SPF factor.
      • We have others to depend on.
      • What if we don’t or they get fired/quit the location we are tapping into.
      • Vacation time.
  • Options
    • To Co-Lo or not to Co-Lo that is the question (same cost or close to fibre here).
    • Lease rack space (again, same cost or similar to fibre).
    • Maintenance costs to have their technicians work on our stuff.
    • PDUs and out-of-band remote management are a necessity = $$.$$/Mth.

The above list is a roundabout of what needs to be thought of when it comes to implementing a hosted environment for other people’s businesses.

We need to take a very serious look at our responsibility for maintaining our hosted client’s livelihood. As a result, getting into the hosted SBS and desktop OS systems business is a decision not to be taken lightly.

There is a financial commitment to server grade components as it cannot be done on an AMD Turion, an Asus motherboard, a couple of 1TB SATA drives in RAID 1 for redundancy, and any chassis.

There is the need to understand the business relationship with a hosted and distance based client that we may never meet face to face. The dynamic we normally have with our in-person clients does not apply here as far as dealing with problems.

As a result, we need to have a very good working knowledge of the products that are being hosted. If something hiccups and causes a client downtime, it needs to be dealt with in a timely manner.

There also needs to be some consideration of how to accommodate business growth and what that means for all of the physical components and the location of those components.

Since we are in business, a Business Plan (Bing Search) is absolutely necessary to understand the mechanics of implementing a new direction for our business. Once the mechanics of the idea are figured out, the cash flow situation is analyzed, we can either go ahead with it or let it go.

The question to be answered in all of this: Is it worth the risk?

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book

*All Mac on SBS posts will not be written on a Mac until we replace our now missing iMac! (previous blog post)

Windows Live Writer

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