Microsoft targets small businesses

Microsoft has always targeted small and large companies alike with its range of operating system and desktop productivity software. Now the company has a new server product designed to better meet the requirements of small business.

According to Steve Guggenheimer, Microsoft's vice president for small business sales and marketing strategies, there are around 46 million companies worldwide with 50 staff members or fewer -- up from 40 million a year ago. Microsoft's answer for this growth market is a bundling of Server 2003 at a keener price point for small businesses: Small Business Server (SBS) 2003.

Small companies will be able to buy SBS in two forms, Standard or Premium, and alone or bundled with hardware from companies like Dell. According to Guggenheimer, a hardware/software package based on SBS Standard Edition should sell for around $1600. "About the same price as a laptop," he said.

SBS includes a file and print server, Exchange for e-mail, Sharepoint Portal to create intranets, for example, and a firewall. SBS Premium ($2629) has SQL server added, as well as more advanced firewall features, Guggenheimer said.

To simplify matters, Microsoft has also included wizards to help small businesses set up security features, back up data and give employees remote access and shared e-mail.

If wizards aren't enough -- and for configuring remote access securely, for example, the default setup's security may be inadequate -- Microsoft will be encouraging users to access the help of its 8000-odd partners in Australia. Guggenheimer says the company will also work with other bodies, such as chambers of commerce, and vendors like MYOB and Quicken to spread the word to small companies about safely securing a network.

"This is not a simple repackaging," Guggenheimer said of the bundle. "This represents about six months worth of integration [since the Server 2003 launch]."

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