Friday 8 March 2013

Some thoughts on possibly migrating to Windows Server 2012 Essentials and Cloud

This post is a copy of a comment left on Susan Bradley’s post here: A Social Question About the Future of SMB Servers.

In our move from SBS to the Stack we've seen about a 15% increase in overall licensing costs for our clients (Open Value Agreement with the 3 year spread payment option).

Most businesses can absorb a 15% uptake on their server side licensing costs. Those that can't have other problems needing to be dealt with first.

We've done a few 2012 Essentials with Exchange 2013 greenfield deploys and are relatively happy with the results barring a few deadly misses in Exchange 2013 RTM.

Many of you may have used our SBS 2003 to SBS 2011 Standard migration guide. It's one of the busiest pages on our blog. One of the reasons that guide and the others that we have was put together was due to the terrible documentation from so many different Microsoft sources for the whole process.

Why should the SBS to W2012E migration documentation be any different? It is not, in fact as already mentioned it is worse than before.

The biggest drawback to bringing a well thought-out SBS Standard setup into a W2012E via migration is the huge step back we would take with the AD/GPO structure.

SBS 2003, 2008, and 2011 Standard all had a beautiful OU structure that was easy to manage with simple to deploy targeted GPO settings.

With W2012E we lose all of that and in the end had to resort to WMI filtering to gain some of the targeting we had previously.

Since RDS has been a part of our client's licensing makeup since Day 1 with us we will be avoiding W2012E. RDWeb on 2012 or even 2008 R2 works well as a landing page. Users can then open their RemoteApp or log on to their internal desktop PC or dedicated VM.

DirectAccess gives our clients the ability to access their files seamlessly. Again, all are on Desktop OS SA+MDOP with Enterprise on their laptops. So, this is a fairly seamless transition from VPN.

Yes, the solution stack is a bit more complex. But, and I mean BUT, we gain access to the ability to put together solutions that we could only have dreamed of with the one-box solution SBS gave us.

Is W2012E a worthy successor of SBS? In all reality we are comparing Apples to Oranges here. IMNSHO W2012E is a blip on the road to the Cloud in Microsoft's eyes.

It is up to us to build and provide the best on-premises SBS-Like IT Solution our clients need.

While many Cloud vendors, including Microsoft, can’t seem to see beyond their particular vision for SMB IT over the next five to ten years those of us on the ground have a _very different_ vision of what SMB IT is all about.

To us, the Cloud tends to be a cookie cutter solution. That is, the customer must fit their business structures _into_ the Cloud Vendor’s product confines.

SMB IT is anything but cookie cutter.

When we are invited into a small business to have a chat with a business owner or business IT contact about their IT needs and how to address them we have a distinct advantage over Cloud.

  1. Face-to-Face time. We build a business relationship with our business contacts _and_ their users.
    • This is one area of SMB IT that surveyors, enterprise oriented vendors, and others always seem to miss or outright get wrong.
  2. We tailor an IT Solution to the client’s very particular needs.
    • We don’t modify their business processes to fit a cookie-cutter solution.

The idea here for us is to take what the business has already built up in the way of business processes and workflows and help them grow more efficient.

The attitude that SMB IT belongs in the Cloud, whether it be from Microsoft, Cloud vendor, or Cloud Proponent is at best misplaced.

I really wish folks would stop telling us that on-premises IT Solutions for SMB should not exist anymore.

Ultimately, the decision is up to the small business owner and IT management to decide what is best for their company.

We prefer to give SMB IT an on-premises virtualized solution stack that incorporates all of the SBS Standard goodness across two to four virtual machines (VMs) as an option and then _let the market decide_ whether Cloud or on-premises is right for them.

The EOLd Essential Business Server in a virtualized setting would have been a great product to build a virtualized product stack today with almost the entire greenfield deploy being wizard driven. A solid migration story may have changed that product’s longevity too.

It is our end-game here at MPECS Inc. to provide the best on-premises solution stack that our client’s IT budget can buy.

And, with our blog here, as well as others, and the SMBKitchen initiative it is our goal to provide SMB IT Solution Providers with the best Microsoft Stack solution _your_ clients can buy along with the skillset needed to properly deploy and maintain that solution set!

Providing SMB businesses with an SMB IT Solution built on the Microsoft Stack that runs stable and provides the same SBS like experience they are all used to is one of the _only_ ways we can push back against the Cloud’s onrush.

Remember, value is not about the lowest price. If it was, Wal-Mart would be the _only_ retailer on the block and Mercedes Benz, BMW, and Cadillac would be out of business.

And, cost of “ownership” is always higher when someone else owns the equipment. That is one reality that has yet to be made concrete in the SMB Cloud initiatives.

One more thing, Susan and I have been having an ongoing conversation since the above was posted. Might be wise to have a boo yourself. :)

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

Chef de partie in the SMBKitchen
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