For many small businesses and workgroups of as many as 50 computers, Microsoft Small Business Server (SBS) is the central networking component. SBS provides most of the important functionality of the Microsoft BackOffice Server suite. In SBS, you get Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0, Exchange Server, Proxy Server, IIS, and SQL Server. Although the SBS market share is difficult to gauge, Katy Hunter, SBS product manager, characterized the product as exceeding Microsoft's projections. Joshua Feinberg, author of Building Profitable Solutions with Microsoft BackOffice Small Business Server 4.5 (Microsoft Press, 1999), said SBS sales are almost entirely channel driven.

Microsoft Value Added Providers (VAPs) typically install SBS to provide a platform for delivering software such as full-featured accounting packages. Customers most often require SBS to obtain common Internet access and messaging. Group faxing is also a popular feature.

SBS 4.5 is the current release, and no service packs are available for this product. Microsoft offers service packs for the individual SBS components. The SBS Web site (http://www.microsoft.com/smallbusinessserver/default.htm) is an excellent resource for information about service pack releases, interoperability, and component upgrades.

With the release of Windows 2000 Server (Win2K Server) and Windows 2000 Professional (Win2K Pro), organizations that employ SBS will likely need to modify SBS to accommodate Windows 2000 (Win2K). SBS 4.5 can have a Win2K Server as a member of its domain, but the Win2K server can't be a BDC. SBS 4.5 can have only NT 4.0 servers as BDCs.

Microsoft offers instructions about how to make a Win2K Pro system a client on an SBS 4.5 network in the "Windows 2000 Professional Client Setup" white paper. And Microsoft describes how to perform an SBS and Win2K Pro integration in the "Windows 2000 Professional Client Quick-Install Guide." You can download the white paper and the installation guide from the SBS Web site.

SBS faces two known Win2K problems with the fax client software and the modem-sharing client. Microsoft offers a fix for the fax client problem, which arises from the code similarity of SBS's fax server and Win2K's fax server. At press time, Microsoft didn't offer a fix for the modem-sharing client problem.

The SBS team is readying the next revision, SBS 2000, and plans to release the product in third quarter 2000. The team plans to produce the SBS revision as soon as the major components of SBS, particularly Microsoft Exchange 2000 Server and SQL Server 2000, are available. Hunter said that although Microsoft won't add major components to SBS 2000, the SBS team plans to provide better management tools and remote administration through Win2K Server Terminal Services. The team will also add more features to the Server Status Tool and enable the management tools to use the Microsoft Management Console (MMC).

Microsoft plans to provide SBS 4.5 users an upgrade to SBS 2000 that preserves settings, applications, and files. Microsoft even issued a technology guarantee: Any customer buying SBS 4.5 during 2000 will receive a free upgrade to SBS 2000.