Scaling back Small Business Server 2003
May 25, 2008 11:59 AM   Subscribe

How do I scale back Windows Server 2003 for Small Business?

My church (which has only four computers on the network) for some reason has Microsoft Small Business Server running on it, which comes with Exchange, SharePoint, IIS, domain controllers, etc. An external IT group set up everything - domains, print servers, everything through the server, but they only really need it to share files.

I think this is overkill - big time. Meanwhile, we're paying for IT support whenever something goes wrong, maintenance, etc.

How can I scale things back to where there's just a workgroup, and the server just controls the shared folders? Is there a magic button on SBS 2003 that will turn off the unneeded junk, or am I better off installing XP on the server and treating it as another computer on a home office network?
posted by adverb to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
SBS is generally low-maintenance and you can derive benefits from the centralization it provides. Using print queues is generally easier and more reliable than trying to print from all your desktop PCs directly to your printers. It's a lot easier to backup your data when it's stored in one place (on the server) than strewn across four or five different desktop PCs. If you go back to workgroup mode, you may find yourself in a situation where you have to create every user account on every PC so people can logon to and access files from the different PCs in your office. You'll also have to synchronize passwords between the PCs.

My suggestion is to talk to the consulting company about the charges and issues you're having. They can show you how to do simple things you shouldn't have to call them for, like create and delete user accounts and groups, reset the print spooler service, change basic permissions and so on.

Again, SBS is generally low-maintenance and easy to manage. Talk to the consulting company before you get rid of it. If they're not cooperative, get a different consulting company.
posted by cnc at 12:46 PM on May 25, 2008

Um, unless MSFT removed printer sharing in XP (they didn't, last I checked), there's not any reason you can't toss SBS to the curb. You may not want to do that, though, being that it's a sunk cost and all. An exceedingly expensive sunk cost for file and printer sharing, btw.

Of course, it'd be easier to just not use the features you don't need.

And what is really needed for a good answer is an answer to "what are the problems you are having that require you to pay for IT support." Canning SBS may not be the answer to that issue. It probably isn't, as much as I hate to say that.

(P.S. You can still use XP as a file server, so long as you don't try to have more than 10 computers using it at a time, don't go the route of storing documents and other data that needs to be backed up on individual can be done, but it's a ridiculous pain in the ***)
posted by wierdo at 12:58 PM on May 25, 2008

Wow, if yorue asking this then you shouldnt be re-doing anyone's network. Its probably on a domain for centralized authentication, storage, backup, and administration. What happens if they expand a little, or decide they need exchange, etc. There might be reasons that you are not aware of why they chose this solution.

Meanwhile, we're paying for IT support whenever something goes wrong, maintenance, etc.

With a workgroup you'll have just as many problems if not more. If you cant support a domain of four computers then you cant support a workgroup of four computers.

Id leave the setup alone and try to fix whatever the major issues you are having. Blaming a domain environment for all your problems is really being unfair to the organization that trusts you to maintain their IT infrastructure.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:22 PM on May 25, 2008

Best answer: Please don't try to remove the domain. You'll create more problems and end up calling the IT guys back in. There is no magic button, but there are things you can do to reduce complication.

First, and I stress this strongly: If there is one area where IT companies fail utterly it's teaching users how to get the most out of SBS. It really can be a great resource for even very small organizations. I train customers mercilessly, to the point of annoying them. Get on your IT provider's back and get them to train you and the staff. It's worth the money and the time.
If you aren't interested in doing this, get a book and study up on the thing.

Now, there are areas of SBS that aren't needed for 4 computers. You can choose to ignore them - Exchange isn't a CPU killer if no one is using Outlook attached to it. However I have found Exchange shared calendaring to be very good for scheduling church resources like community rooms and equipment.

The Sharepoint stuff can be ignored or removed, there's no reason for "companyweb" when you can shout across the office to each other and accomplish "shared collaboration" that way.
However, it's a very valuable tool for putting documents, forms, etc into a public forum that's password protected and isn't tied to your internal documents - think of being able to share sermons, for example. It's a great tool for sharing data with the lay staff, volunteers and your congregation.

Things you should leave alone or should be using if you're not already:

- Shared folders
- Print Queues
- Small Business Server backup

Things you can't remove:

- Leave the domain alone. I don't think you can remove it anyway, but you could set up users on a workgroup and have them accessing the shares on the server through a standard username. Personally I think you'll spend more time doing this than it's worth because you'll end up revamping user profiles, and that's messy.
- Windows core services (IIS, group policy, etc)

If you choose to remove things, go to Control Panel, Add/Remove Programs, select "Microsoft Small Business Server" and click "change/remove". From there, the SBS setup program will start and you can select the items you want to remove.

Things you can remove:

- Monitoring and Reporting
- Exchange
- Sharepoint
- Shared Fax
- SQL Server (unless your software is using it - turn off the SQL services and see if anything breaks - turn it back on if it does. If nothing breaks, remove it).

Things you can simply turn off:
- My Documents redirection (look in the Server Management console)
- Exchange (simply stop and disable all Exchange services)
- Sharepoint (stop and disable the MSSQL$SHAREPOINT service)
- Monitoring and Reporting (stop and disable the MSSQL$MONITORING service)
- Small Business Server backup
- Routing and Remote Access (in the Services area, right-click it and disable it. This will remove its configuration)

Finally, if you don't understand the stuff I'm discussing here and you are adamant that things need to be turned off, please get another IT company in there and have them revamp the configuration.
posted by disclaimer at 3:25 PM on May 25, 2008

Having said all that, you might want to go look at ">Techsoup, see if you can get a copy of Windows 2003 standard for cheap (depends on your church tax status but I think the admin fee for a 5 user version is about 50 bucks), and blow away SBS and reinstall Windows 2003 Standard.

Otherwise, go right ahead and use Windows XP, but you HAVE to use Professional in order to get file sharing to work right.
posted by disclaimer at 3:31 PM on May 25, 2008

If all you are doing is file sharing, and you have nothing invested in the Windows domain, have a look at FreeNAS. It can be downloaded as an .iso, burned and then you boot off the disk to install. Once installed, all administration is done from a web browser, easy peasy.

However, as I say, if you need any other service at all, like a print server, mail server, etc. this is not for you.
posted by barc0001 at 8:44 PM on May 25, 2008

It doesn't sound like they've really done that much. Domains are a pure blessing, start to finish. You don't want to drop back to a workgroup. The pain will be anywhere from moderate to extreme, and you will gain absolutely nothing by doing so. You want the file sharing, and the centralized print server is nice for troubleshooting. (If you need to stop sending data to the printer, or reset it, there's only one place to look. )

If you're not using the other stuff, I don't see why you'd necessarily need to turn it off. Assuming it's not causing problems, and that the server is stable, why mess with it?

You seem to have this idea of a small simple setup, and think that extra features are somehow inherently bad. As long as things are reliable, leave them alone. If your church ever grows, you may appreciate having those features ready to go very, very much. And, as suggested above, look into training; there's a lot of power available to you. You've already paid for it, it's all set up... so take advantage.

Basically, you seem to want to spend money to solve a problem that isn't a problem... and, in so doing, back the church into a position where they'd have to spend still more money redoing what's already done if they grow very much.

Seems like an entirely bad idea to me. Is there some reliability issue with the network you're actually trying to solve? Are the extra features on the network actively costing you money, time or frustration? Or is this just sort of a nebulous idea that simpler would be better?
posted by Malor at 1:09 AM on May 26, 2008

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