If this post is hard to read, it's because of Dragonsoft!! (sometimes it is like auto-correct on the phone - "I said WHAT!??")
Overall I think this is the most interesting thread that I have ever read on Microsoft.com.
As a computer for professional for over 30 years, I've always followed the context that software products are designed for a three to five-year term, to have more is a luxury.
When I was first in the industry (1983), Microsoft had a tendency to change the software versions every year to two years. As we approached the era of Windows XP there was an expected lifetime use of three years. Every two years a new product would appear.
So, when windows XP lasted well beyond the three-year term, it was pretty exciting to not have to spend money on new product, and we all enjoyed the decade of Windows XP.
The new generation of IT professionals has somehow believe that software products should live more than five years, and it just blows my mind!
The reason that I make this post, is because I've used SBS ever since Back Office Server 4.5, and the versions of small business server (now called Small Business Server) have always appeared on the market 1 to 3 years after the primary versions of
Windows for which they are named. So I always felt that there was a disadvantage to using small business server in that the products appearing inside of SBS had been on the market for a few years before being incorporated into the SBS package. It
made me feel, at first, that Microsoft was waiting on the level of maturity within the product before creating the SBS package. Now that I look back on the whole process it made me think that the SBS team had some difficulty merging the products into a install
package which could handle the intricacies of the licensing limitations on the SBS system.
SBS 2003 was a great tool when it came out, but I found that it was riddled with security holes. To say the least some of my first SBS 2003 servers had their exchange system hacked by outside influences. (These were external facing servers who had websites
and exchange server running with public domain names, even though there were firewalls!) After a few patches, DNS modifications, reverse DNS entries, and some changes in the exchange system, I was finally able to make the system secure and solid.
My first real nightmare with SBS was when upgrading to SBS 2003 R2, which, yes, appeared around 2005. You cannot simply upgrade a machine from SBS to a new version. You must purchase a new server, install the new SBS version, and migrate your
entire installation to this new host. (While running SBS 2003 for several years and making backups on a tape, I realized that the new hardware on the market would not support a restore from my tape backup!) The whole process is rather daunting as not
all of the detailed steps to upgrade work as expected. I had to call, and pay, Microsoft to complete the process because exchange had trouble during the migration.
So off we went with our new installation of SBS 2003 R2. Then along came SBS 2008! I went through the same steps again... new hardware, new software, and, yes, paid Microsoft, again, for support to migrate.
When SBS 2011 appeared on the scene I was willing to upgrade again. Having gone through this, twice now, I fully prepared the client to purchase a new system and to purchase the new software. But because I was faced with the whole entire
nightmare of new hardware, migration, and having to call Microsoft to complete the process, I decided on a new approach. This time we were going to buy server which would run VMware. (I was not going to get stuck in a hardware box that I could not replace
if I ever needed to restore the operating system due to a massive failure.) So off I went, purchasing a new box, installing VMware, and installing my favorite operating system, Microsoft SBS!
Well, to say the least, it wasn't exactly as exciting as I had expected. Had some trouble getting VMware to settle into the new hardware, as there seemed to be some compatibility issues, but was able to work it out. Eventually, I was able to get started
on the migration. Things went well up until the point that I got to the exchange migration, and ran into a similar problem as before! A call to Microsoft revealed that it was even a little daunting for the support personnel, but as I documented the things
that they modified, and even performed a little cleanup, after they performed their cleanup! I can happily say that I'm no longer worried about hardware issues, when it comes to restoring my SBS server in case of a failure!
Overall I'm pleased with having used Microsoft SBS solutions over the past 10 years, but I would never expect, nor would I lead my customer to expect, that a product should last 10 years!
Previous comments have indicated that server should last seven years because they can be depreciated that way, I believe that to be entirely false! I live in Texas, and the state of Texas DIR program has adopted standards which state that
you should replace your hardware every five years! State agencies have this as a requirement, and it is not optional! Many state agencies have gone to leasing their equipment, which is a three-year term. (Where do you think off-lease equipment comes
One of my primary clients looked at me one day, and directly ask, "Okay, if we spend the $10,000 on the new server and software, how long should it last?"
Obviously, I wanted to say, "Forever!" But, remembering something that my mother had said (always plan for the worst and you always come out on top!), I said back to them, "I believe we should plan for a three-year lifespan, and if we get
any more than that, it will be a luxury." Needless to say, there have been some upgrades which lasted well more than three years, but there have been some which have been spot on.
The SBS server is a huge savings over purchasing the individual products separately. But there have always been some drawbacks during the upgrade process which makes the entire feasibility of the installation top-heavy when it comes to support costs.
I have noticed is that the SBS servers require more labor to keep them running smooth, especially with backup procedures and backup software, as SBS always requires a third-party product to make a "real" (restorable) backup.
A client's expectations should be that you are taking care of their business without them having to worry about what takes place in the tech room. They understand, and realize, that they can pay you a specific amount of money for your support without necessarily
having to purchase new hardware. But a good, healthy relationship with your client means that they should always be willing to upgrade, whether it is a workstation or server.
If you allow a client to be painted in a corner, then it's not their fault, it's your fault! Because, they have no idea what the new technology can do, and don't realize what's on the market. It's your job to keep up with what's current and to deliver
expectations which make them realize that each year has a dollar value attached to it, whether it is spent, or not.
If you have a client is unwilling to spend money to upgrade their equipment, then there's something else wrong with their business, and you should probably consider that they may not be in business for very long. So don't make it your problem when
they are unwilling to spend money. You don't work for free.
One last, quick example of the conversation that I had with a client who was unwilling to upgrade because things seem to be working so well. I put it like this, "You pay me to make certain that your business operates in good times and in
bad. Right now, everything is fine. If your building were to burn, and the only thing we had were the backups, I cannot go out and purchase new hardware and restore your system successfully. The equipment that we have operating here is no longer
available on the market. If I were to find the equipment, it would be out-of-date, and most likely, used, and I cannot guarantee its compatibility or functionality. So, if I can't restore your system to an operational status, then what would you do?
I don't believe there are any number of man-hours you can use to recover the information lost. You would probably have to go out of business! If your business becomes my business, then I would try to move to a position where my data is safe and my business
can continue in the case of catastrophe. The only way I can do this, is to purchase new hardware, new software, and put you back in a position of compatibility with the market. One of the things I always try to do is keep your business operations at a point
where if I die, someone else can come in and take my place. The whole idea here is to keep your business going."
It didn't take them long to come back and surprise me, "Make a list of what you need. Don't give us a list of what we need to get by, tell us what we need to be productive for several years. We don't want to patch this together
and always have problems."
And just as a note, your customer can write off $10,000+ per year for new equipment purchases. I think the number may be higher now. I had one customer who purchased a $15,000 system in December and wrote off $10,000 in one year and the other $5000,
a month later, in the next year!