Microsoft offers line of entry-level servers

Apr 02, 2009 By Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft is introducing a new low-price, entry-level server for small businesses with fewer than 15 employees as a way to introduce them to the company's broader server-software line and address falling server-hardware prices.

"If somebody can buy a $500 server, they're a little loath to spend $500 for the server-operating system that goes with it," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said last month, explaining the new version of Server to financial analysts.

Windows Server 2008 Foundation is designed to address a huge market of small businesses, relatively few of which currently use for running applications and managing data. Of an estimated 39 million small businesses globally, only 30 percent have a server, according to Microsoft's research.

makers Dell, IBM, Acer and others will sell the low-functionality preinstalled on a server with a single processor for less than $1,000, said Bill Hilf, general manager of Windows Server marketing. Microsoft's current Small Business Server, designed for companies with up to 75 employees and including features such as integrated e-mail, starts at that price for the software alone.

Many small businesses get by now without traditional servers, which have largely been the province of big corporations. Small shops use so-called "sneaker nets," moving data from one PC to another by burning documents and photos onto physical media - a DVD or USB thumb drive - and carrying them where they need to go. Others repurpose a standard PC as a server, Hilf said.

These methods are inefficient and make data and applications more difficult to manage, Hilf said. The Foundation server provides "a first step to a more sophisticated and more efficient way to run their business."

Cloud computing, in which a business' data and applications are hosted remotely by a third party and accessed online, could be an alternative to servers for small businesses in the future. But right now, Hilf said, even large, sophisticated companies are "not moving full-bore to the cloud. ... The small businesses are still a ways away from that."

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(c) 2009, The Seattle Times.
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