Business Week recommends two products for small businesses – Microsoft’s Small Business Server and EmergeCore’s IT in a Box.
Windows SBS offers corporate-style computing for little companies. It’s based on the Windows Server 2003 operating system plus high-end add-ons such as Exchange Server for e-mail and group scheduling and SharePoint for collaborative use of Microsoft Word and other Office applications. The software is a remarkable bargain: $599 for five users, compared with $999 for Server 2003 Standard Edition alone. Hardware to run it on will typically cost $1,500 or less.
EmergeCore’s IT in a Box is a simpler solution for small companies that prefer to do it themselves. The $1,395 IT-100 is a compact box not much bigger than a cable modem. It provides standard Internet e-mail that is simple but lacks the collaborative features of Exchange, plus file-sharing, network management, a firewall, and built-in wireless access. You can even run a public Web site on it, though it’s a better idea to pay a hosting company for that service, given security concerns.
The IT-100 runs on Linux, but the operating system is completely hidden from users and administrators. All interaction is through a Web browser, and normal maintenance, such as adding and deleting users, is easy. Initial setup is more difficult, so most small businesses could use some help.
SBS is a good product for a small business that wants corporate-style computing and can pay the price. IT in a Box is a solid choice for a company with enough tech smarts to handle the setup and administration, since outside help may be hard to find.
Both products are still too expensive in the Indian context.