It's been a big week already for Microsoft's "other" server OSs, and it's not even Wednesday yet. On Monday, Microsoft announced that its next-generation Windows Small Business Server (SBS) product and its first-generation Windows Essential Business Server (EBS) product have hit the Release Candidate 1 (RC1) stage. On the same day, Microsoft also shipped the final version of its so-called Power Pack 1 (PP1) update to Windows Home Server, a Windows Server 2003-based software solution that's already making inroads into a tough market.

Windows SBS, EBS 2008 RC1
With all the talk lately about cloud computing, Software + Services, and hosted Microsoft servers, it's perhaps notable that the software giant isn't ignoring its traditionally deployed server systems. Earlier this month at its annual Worldwide Partner Conference, Microsoft announced that it would soon deliver the RC1 versions of Windows SBS 2008 and EBS 2008, and this week, the company provided those versions for download. Here are the links:

Windows Essential Business Server 2008 RC1 Public Preview
http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=df8666bb-24a4-471b-9d6b-29d21bd0fc1a&DisplayLang=en

Windows Small Business Server 2008 RC1 Public Preview
http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver/essential/sbs/default.mspx

There are no major functional changes to either product this time around. Microsoft previously announced that both products will launch in early November.

Windows Home Server PP1
Windows Home Server has been warmly received by customers--and, seriously, it's a great addition to any home network, offering excellent media and document sharing functionality, remote desktop capabilities, and Web-based document access. That said, a rare but alarming data corruption bug has vexed Windows Home Server users since late last year. And while PP1, the first major update to this product, wasn't really designed around the fix to this problem, Microsoft has indeed finally fixed it. So you get that in PP1.

But PP1 is about much more than fixing bugs. Microsoft has added a ton of features this time around, including:

- x64 client compatibility (Windows Vista only).

- Home Server backup. It's now possible to back up and restore home server shared folders to USB-attached storage.

- Other improvements. Microsoft has made a number of small improvements around remote access, including new Web-based document navigation modes such as a thumbnail view for image files. There are also improvements to home computer backup, server storage, performance, media sharing, and power management.
If you're lucky enough to own an HP MediaSmart Server--HP's Windows Home Server-based server--you get two additional bits of functionality with PP1:

- McAfee Total Protection Service. Server-side antivirus and anti-malware

- PVConnect Media Server. A Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA)-certified media sharing solution

Microsoft is rolling out PP1 via Microsoft Downloads now, but you can get it automatically via Windows Update beginning next month. (HP users should upgrade via that system's HP MediaSmart Software Updates system.

I'll have some more information about PP1 on the SuperSite for Windows by the time you read this.
http://www.winsupersite.com