Microsoft on Tuesday issued a public preview version of its upcoming Windows Small Business Server (SBS) 7, a direct follow-up to the current SBS version. For this next-generation SBS, Microsoft is actually splitting the product line into two distinct products, SBS 7 and SBS "Aurora. The latter is based on Windows Home Server (WHS) and dispenses with the bundled server products.

"SBS 7 is dedicated to providing small-business customers with a highly manageable, low complexity solution to help cut costs, save time, and be more efficient," Microsoft General Manager Kevin Kean wrote in a blog post announcing the release. "SBS 7 offers on-premise email and collaboration-suite functionalities that Aurora's customers can add through online services."

Like Aurora, SBS 7 is built on the Windows Server 2008 R2 platform, and like Aurora, the product is aimed at small businesses. But the products offer dramatically different functionality sets. Whereas Aurora is very much a barebones server focusing on centralized PC backup and storage, SBS 7 is a direct descendent of today's SBS products. As such, it comes bundled with numerous on-premise Microsoft servers, including Exchange Server 2010 SP1, SharePoint Foundation 2010, and Windows Software Update Services (WSUS).

Customers who are currently using SBS can't upgrade to Aurora; they can instead evaluate the SBS 7 upgrade. According to Microsoft, this upgrade will provide "advancements in security, reliability, and connectivity technology." SBS 7 includes a wealth of migration tools, pre-migration checks, and prescriptive guidance surrounding this goal.

Readers interested in SBS 7 can evaluate the public preview now by signing up at the Microsoft Connect website. I'll be evaluating SBS 7 in the months ahead.