Should Small Businesses Have a Domain?

Posted: December 28, 2008 in Exchange 2007, General Business Issues, SBS 2008, SharePoint Services
Tags: , , ,

The question may be better phrased by looking at the costs and benefits.  Let’s do that, then.

Costs

  1. Server Hardware and Software. A modest server can cost between $400 and $700.  It would have a single processor, albeit it a dual or quad core one, a minimum of 4GB of memory, at least one 250GB or larger drive, and a DVD drive. I would suggest either borrowing an existing monitor from another machine or spending about $25 for a KVM to share with an existing machine (use remote after the installation, so a local monitor is rarely needed). SBS  Standard has a street price of about $1000 or less, and bundled with hardware (such as from Dell and others), it may be a bit less.
  2. Installation and Setup. A well qualified professional should be able to do the install in about three hours for basic server operations.  Desktops are normally quickly to do, but they need to meet minimum specifications (Visa Business or better, XP Professional or better, e.g.).
  3. Other Costs. A USB drive is going to cost about $100 and be needed for dedicated backup.  Other drives may be needed for business data storage.  I there is not a registered domain yet, and not a third party certificate, add about $100 for two to three years of subscription for those things.  Miscellaneous hardware and accessories, such as power strips, cables, etc. might add another $50.  There is always something else you can spend your money on if I missed anything.
  4. Ongoing Support. This is a broad topic, but more than likely the costs of significance are going to be for other IT needs than for the domain itself.  I would estimate less than $1000 for one year of support and maintenance as being very generous.

Benefits

  1. Policy and Control. The biggest problem small businesses are likely to face with their computers is lack of policies and control.  Desktop systems can get loaded with all sorts of questionable software and become targets for virus programs and other malware.  Additionally, many support personnel say most of their calls come from desktop users who are trying to deal with shares, permissions, etc. in a peer-to-peer environment.
  2. Administration. Installing new versions of software, or tracking what copies and versions are already installed, is tough without a domain and group policies.  Keeping anti-virus software and backups up to date is something that happens on a hit or miss basis without a domain server.
  3. Domain Presence. E-mail is cheap and mostly free, but having your own domain email address and web site specific to your domain is much better.  Yes, it is true you can have these services outsourced, but they come free with SBS, so why not save some money while you take advantage of the other things?  It no longer requires an IT expert to do this.
  4. SharePoint Services 3.0. This may be one of the least utilized yet most powerful tools a small business can have.  It, too, comes in the box with SBS.
  5. Support Flexibility. With SBS 2008, almost all support and maintenance tasks can be done remotely for both servers and desktops.  This may give business owners round the clock and immediate support, depending on how they choose to administer their systems.

The bottom line: for about $2000 or less, SBS can be up and running and providing the domain infrastructure for a small business, less if you have a 64-bit computer sitting around waiting for its day in the sun.  It will provide a lot of benefit for that modest cost.

Caution!! Don’t be lulled into thinking everything is going to be just great for the business when SBS is up and running.  That is the whole point of this blog.  But I strongly support the case that without the infrastructure that SBS provides, any IT solutions are at best going to be band aids and not part of the strategic execution of the business plans.

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