SMB Nation Blog

SMB Nation has been serving the Bainbridge Island area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

Six Years Later – SBS EOL

Can you believe it – it was six years ago in early July that Microsoft discretely announced the end-of-life for Windows Small Business Server. And the world has never been the same since. Along with you, I certainly have strong opinions on this. Lord knows we hashed out our seven stages of grieving over these six years and, if a recent post-up to the “You Knew You Grew Up With SBS…” group on Facebook is any indicator, several of you still have resentments LOL.

But I really want to simply recognize that six years have passed.

It’s an appropriate time to ask out loud how have you transformed in that period. It’s a big question: Office 365? Azure? AWS? Retired? Took a day job? I’ve heard all of the above and more. I’d like to hear from you. Perhaps you can join the above-mentioned Facebook group and share your “six years later” story for a future blog and/or feel good therapy outlet to just get it all off your chest!

Speaking for myself, I’ve learned to run a much more efficient business that essentially had to recreate itself from the bottom up. As they say in business, if you had the chance to do it all over again, would you do it differently and faster? The answer for me is yes. I’m getting traction with my new niche in analytics but not so much trying to recreate an SBS-like community for Office 365. Different vibe.

Figure 1: A blast from the past – how many of you remember Erin (Bourke-Dunphy) Chapple from the original SBS team in the late 1990s? She started right out of college with SBS and has now gone on to be THE Corporate Vice President for Windows Server (she’s a real executive now). Shown here in her original SBS office circa late 1990s.

Also noteworthy with the arrival of July, we’ve incremented our newsletter to Year 13, Issue 1. That’s because we originally launched our newsletter(s) during July – the month of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) (aka Inspire). And a little-known fact is that this is our 17+-year of publishing as our earlier newsletters had a different name and cadence. If you’d like to learn more about the original “Small Business Best Practices” newsletter from July 15, 2001, click HERE. 

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Hi, Harry—

                The death of SBS really didn’t affect us much, even though we had basically built our practice around it. Virtualization and Windows Server “1 physical +2 virtual” licensing came onto the scene about the same time, so we simply started setting up a virtual domain controller and a separate virtual Exchange Server on a Hyper-V server (plus additional VMs for other applications if necessary) instead of having it all on one physical box. We don’t miss SBS, really. It was a good value, but it had its headaches, and it often got in the way if you didn’t want to do things its way. Separate VMs for individual roles is really the way to go anyway. Now, if Exchange is a problem, we just get everyone out of Outlook and restart that. If QuickBooks is the problem, we just clear everyone out of QuickBooks and restart that server; we don’t have to get everyone out of everything because one person is having an issue with one application. And we don’t sell cloud as if it were a religion. For those who want it, it’s there. For those who don’t, we are happy to sell on-premises solutions (as long as they still exist; lots of vendors are railroading people into the cloud when they really don’t want to be there, the same way the government railroaded lots of people into the stock market by keeping interest rates pathetic). That said, the message from Microsoft is twofold; first it doesn’t understand small business, and second, it doesn’t care about small business. Its vision is Fortune 500 and then everyone else. If they had eliminated the SBS technical product and replaced it with a SKU for 2 physical licenses for Windows Standard plus 4 VMs plus Exchange and 25 user CALs for everything, at least that would have shown that they understand and care. But we worked around that with our own imaginations.

                I don’t use Facebook myself, so I’m emailing this in case you are interested.

                — Andrew

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He’s Gone! Superstar MSP Jamison West Exits

In this era of click bait headlines, this one is true both geographically and business-wise. Long time SMB Nation member Jamison West is undergoing a life reset. He has recently completed the transition from his MSP practice (which was acquired by Aldridge just over a year ago that I wrote about HERE.)

West and family looked in the mirror and decided time in the sun would be the right next move. As I write this, Jamison is moving to Summerlin, NV from drippy Seattle so that they can be near his wife’s extended family and the children can settle into new schools. Jamison has new professional plans in the works that we’ll report on in coming weeks. All good.


Now the good stuff
Steve Banks’ venerable Puget Sound Small Business Server (PSSBS) group that still meets on every third Thursday night hosted a going away party for West. In a wide ranging free flowing community conversation, West shared his view of the world with reality-based real facts. He should know. He’s been there and done that over 20+ years as an MSP in Seattle.

Future Speak
West made forward looking statements along the lines of “If I was starting out today…” that focused on the three things you can do in 2017 as an MSP. It dovetailed into our “start over” editorial theme we’ve been preaching from the pulpit to the pews for a few years. West specifically shared these three pillars to focus on.

  1. Year of the Cloud Directory Services. With Active Directory (AD) dying (if not dead), the opportunity is to master single sign on and encryption. This was presented in the context of Azure, which is another editorial “beat” at SMB Nation this year.
  2. Voice – Skype for Business. West presented and defended his thesis that this is the year of Skype. I confronted West on these assertions as I’ve had mixed Skype experiences over the years and continue my long journey towards acceptance. But West laid out some compelling customer evidence from the real world to support his beliefs.
  3. Dynamics 365. This conversation was one for “get ahead of the curve” as Microsoft is consolidating its CRM, ERP and accounting portfolio to be an online service that will be a game changer, even in SMB. The audience had a range of opinions on the future of Great Plains Dynamics perhaps being slated for an end-of-life motion in favor of NAV. In a future blog, I’ll show how innovative ISVs such as Versium are creating predictive analytics snap-ins for Dynamics 365 but that is for another day.


West shared his wisdom on both organic and strategic growth – he’s done both. His M&A journey, both the good and the bad, was shared openly in the spirit of transparency. Takeaways? Focus on understanding the Guaranteed and Not Guaranteed elements of a merger and acquisition scenario.

My Advice?

Consider reaching out to Jamison West via LinkedIn here and arrange for him as a speaker at your next event. It’s a wise investment to tap into Jamison’s wisdom.

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True That: HPE and March Madness!

True That: HPE and March Madness!

Lately a lot of people are asking me about the new Hewlett Packard(s). For the purposes of the SMB Nation community, we live in the world of HPE. I liken it to HP is STARTING OVER as HPE!

And it’s making a splash with its March Madness “Hello World” special offer. We’re glad to help as HP (now HPE) is a long-time friend of the family. It was there at the first SMB Nation conference in 2003 and beyond. The pic attached to this blog is from the video series “In The Trenches” produced by HP promoting SBS 2000 and its mobility features (watch it HERE). 

 Harrybbb in early HP SBS video

So with great pleasure – I’d like to invite you to join us the Thursday, March 17th at 12:00pm Noon Pacific (GMT-7). Sign up here

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So you think you’re Hot? Remember GPOs in AD?

HarryB HeadshotRecently, I hosted a weekly webinar where the topic was about Active Directory. It was a geek walk down memory lane! One of the first books that I wrote, Active Directory Planning and Design, was written in the late 1990s, based on Windows 2000. It was a seminal work introducing Active Directory, network directory services, and even Group Policy Objects (GPOs) to the SMB IT Pro community. These were heady times, and the future was bright.

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Microsoft WPC: Now versus Then – 2013 vs. 2003

This year’s Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) is interesting to me as it allows a moment of reflection. Ten years ago, WPC 2003 in New Orleans was focused on SMB and the Windows Small Business Server 2003 (SBS) launch. In 2013, on day one, I was hard-pressed to “hear” the term SMB in any of the keynotes. Sure, Tami Reller, CMO and CFO-Windows, mentioned SMB once in passing, but it wasn’t the same. Rather – the conference messaging pillars were much more focused on the enterprise with BIG DATA, Cloud, Enterprise Social and Devices and Mobility. You will see more SMB messaging in the breakouts and Cindy Bates “Regional Keynote” on Thursday but it’s not 2003, baby.

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Hey SBSer – Did you Forget about June 30, 2013?

What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time, on July 5, 2012, Microsoft announced the end-of-life (EOL) for the acclaimed Windows Small Business Server (SBS) product line. It was a shot heard around the world and dominated community discussions for several months. Yesterday (June 30, 2013) was the shot no one heard. It’s interesting how such a trending topic faded so quickly.

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First Look – Office 365 on iPhone

Late last week Microsoft broke bread with Apple when its Office 365 application was released on the Apple App Store (read our blog here for the back story). Here is my experience thus far using the application.

Note: Click on the accompanying image for a quick video on this new app.

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Alan Shrater, SMB 150 Winner, Passes

Shortly after returning from the SMB 150 awards and the SMB Nation Spring Conference in Redmond, WA, prominent and long-time SMB community member Alan Shrater passed away quietly at his home on Wednesday afternoon, May 8th.

(At right): Alan Shrater at Microsoft Redmond this past weekend.

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Download Your Magazine Now!

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

Now is the time to download the latest SMB Nation magazine edition. In Issue 7-3, we focus on the following hot topics:

  • Why do SBSers have a bad attitude?
  • The SMB 150 List revealed – very impressive thought leaders!
  • What Happened to Franchising?
  • BYOD Debate
  • Windows 8 Security
  • Cloud Profits!

Click here to download the 7-3 issue!

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John Harris, Longtime SBSer, Passes…

altIt is with great sadness to report that John Harris, vice president for Seattle-based Network Support for Small Business, has passed. John drove success in the Small Business Server community for over 13 years in this role, serving numerous Seattle-based businesses with his expertise. Many readers will recall John’s active community participation in the Puget Sound Small Business Server (PSSBS) user group. He was a young 66-years old, and just a few days shy of turning 67. 

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Moving Forward – Office 365 Open for the SBSer…

A trending topic yesterday in the SMB ether was the update/release of the new Office 365. The abbreviated online launch party and initial message was covered by us ( and nearly every major site covered off on this release (see my summary below), and click the image above for a quick intro video.

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