I intended to do a roundup of servers for BackOffice Server 2000 in the next few columns, but some logistical problems and other issues outside my control prevented the roundup from happening. So, let’s tie up some loose ends.

BackOffice Server 2000 RTMs. For those of you who have upgrade plans, Microsoft recently announced that the code for BackOffice Server 2000 went gold the third week of January. The phrase "going gold" means that Microsoft’s developers and product team have signed off on the software's final beta version, and BackOffice Server 2000 has gone to the CD duplicators and boxers to produce the shrink-wrapped version. The product should be on store shelves in March.

Now that BackOffice Server 2000 has been released to manufacturing (RTM), SKU (part number) information is available. In my December columns ("Implementing BackOffice Server 2000," Parts 1 and 2), Bob Weaver asked about the appropriate SKUs for his situation at Hawaii Instrumentation & Controls. You can find the SKUs for BackOffice Server 2000 on the Microsoft Web site. The most basic package available—the full version of BackOffice Server 2000 with five client access licenses (CALs)—lists for $3999. Its SKU number is 321-01346.

Technology Guarantee. Microsoft is offering a Technology Guarantee with BackOffice Server 2000. This program qualifies customers who acquired the previous version, BackOffice Server 4.5, between November 15, 2000, and January 31, 2001, for a no-cost upgrade to BackOffice Server 2000—a familiar Microsoft tactic. To take advantage of this program, you need a legible copy of your dated sales receipt for BackOffice Server 4.5, an original box-top or manual title page for BackOffice Server 4.5 as proof of purchase, and a completed coupon from the Microsoft site. This Technology Guarantee also applies to BackOffice Server 4.5 CALs purchased between November 15, 2000, and December 31, 2000. Consult the above site for more information on that program.

From the Mailbag. I’ll dip into the mailbag for a representative sample of the reader mail I’m getting about BackOffice Server 2000, its appropriateness for a particular application, the different SKUs available, and other topics.

Can you use BackOffice Server to run a small e-shop, based on the built-in Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft IIS? What are the limits? What about licensing?

You can use BackOffice Server to run a small e-shop if you host BackOffice Server on decent hardware (Compaq, Dell, or another name-brand manufacturer, or a well-built homegrown server using quality components) and have a reliable connection to the Internet. SQL Server and IIS are reasonably functional out of the box, and with some tweaking and configuring, you'll have a solution to compete with the best.

As for limits, I'd pay particular attention to licensing within your organization. Licensing is where most companies have the most trouble. On the WAN side, you might consider scaling to two servers (which you can accomplish with the MultiServer option) if your e-shop exceeds 10,000 to 15,000 hits a day.

I noticed that BackOffice Server V4.5 NT Online-Doc 5-Client is available in some places, as well as BackOffice Server 2000 AE CD/DVD 5 CLT, the latter being cheaper. What's the difference to the end user?

Aside from the fact that the SKUs you mention refer to two different versions, the AE in BackOffice Server 2000 AE CD/DVD 5 CLT signifies "Academic Edition," meaning you need appropriate credentials from an accredited academic institution to receive the discount.

My company is considering BackOffice Server 2000, but we have a question about SQL Server and user licensing. I've noticed that SQL Server 2000 is available separately in multiuser packages, but I haven't seen information about how many user licenses come with BackOffice Server 2000.

Apparently, in an effort to pitch BackOffice Server 2000 as an integrated solution, Microsoft has moved away from its historic CAL licensing method (one CAL for each server product in your suite) to a one per-seat CAL for the entire suite. The company bundles this CAL with the product to make it easier for an organization such as yours to remain legal with software licensing. When you purchase BackOffice Server 2000, just look for the suite with the appropriate number of CALs.

If you plan to install BackOffice Server 2000 on multiple servers, the per-seat CAL covers any and all servers running BackOffice Server 2000 (and earlier BackOffice Server versions). This policy applies even if you used the MultiServer deployment option. Typically, Microsoft markets server products containing 5, 10, 25, or 50 CALs. If you need more than 50 CALs, you're in Microsoft Select Agreement territory. However, Microsoft hasn't firmed up this licensing approach yet and will release all this information within the next couple of months.

The Future of BackOffice. Microsoft is making a lot of changes, and one of them involves the future of BackOffice. We’ll talk about that and backups in the next column. See you then!