Hardware Functionality and Fitness [Microsoft Small Business Specialist Primer book excerpt]

Well hello there! I am the publisher of the above title and each day I like to host a virtual book reading! Today is the hardware discussion in the 70-282 exam design and planning objective area.

Hardware Functionality and Effectiveness

Regardless of what brand computer you buy, with all the different models, options, and components available, some key components will have a fundamental performance impact. These components are the motherboard, processor, memory, and hard disks. To ensure that these components work with Small Business Server 2003, you should check the Windows catalog at www. microsoft.com/windows/catalog before you buy.

Motherboard: Even though you could run SBS 2003 on a workstation-class motherboard, since no explicit specification exists, it is not recommended. The motherboard ties together all computer components, including the processor, memory, hard drives, and other peripherals. You should get a server-class motherboard to achieve the best performance base for Windows Small Business Server 2003.

Processor: The main processor consideration is the clock speed at which it operates, measured in MHz (megahertz) or GHz (gigahertz). The clock speed determines how fast the server can perform computing tasks. Win­dows Small Business Server 2003 supports up to two physical processors and can support up to four logical processors using hyper-threading technology. If you will be putting a large load on the server and using it for line-of-business (LOB) applications or communication or collabora­tion, we recommend using two physical processors at the highest clock speed your budget will allow.

Memory: Memory measured in MB (megabytes) or GB (gigabytes) can have a dramatic impact on server performance. Physical memory, also referred to as RAM (random access memory), determines the amount of data the server can manage simultaneously. Installing additional memory is easy; if you have budget constraints, we recommend putting your money into other server components first and purchasing additional RAM later.

Hard Drives: Several options and configurations are available that allow you to match the disk storage to the small business needs. You can choose from three interfaces: IDE, SATA, and SCSI. All drives come in ranges from 36 GB to 300 GB, and a server can hold multiple hard drives that can be used to create fault tolerance. We’ll discuss this in more depth

Chapter 3Analyzing the Existing Environment

later in Chapter 8, “Supporting and Maintaining Windows Small Busi­ness Server.”

Network Adapter: NICs come in different speeds of 10 Mbps, 100 Mbps, and 1 Gbps. Even though there are different types of networks, Small Business Server 2003 is designed to work on an Ethernet network and I always recommend using two NICs for NAT-ing functionality.

Hubs: Don’t buy a hub; buy a switch. Switches are able to operate in duplex mode, meaning they allow a client to send and receive at the same time. Hubs operate only in half-duplex mode, which means they can allow either sending OR receiving data at the same time, but not both.

Switches: Switches can be considered faster than hubs. They route traffic directly between ports instead of broadcasting traffic across all ports, mean­ing that each port on a switch gets dedicated bandwidth. This can make a big difference when transferring large files between multiple computers.

Routers: A router performs additional logical functions over a switch, enabling Internet access to the network. Often routers are configured to also act as a hardware firewall and help secure the network.

Firewall: Windows Small Business Server 2003 Premium Edition comes with ISA (Internet Security and Acceleration) Server which is an en­terprise-level firewall product. Windows Small Business Server 2003 Standard Edition comes with basic firewall software using RRAS (Routing and Remote Access) and NAT (Network Address Transla­tion). You could also purchase a hardware firewall appliance. Most DSL modems and broadband modems come with an integrated firewall as well. More on firewalls in Chapter 6, “Securing Windows Small Business Server 2003.”

Modem: You will need a modem, either a DSL or a broadband modem, to connect to the Internet. Windows Small Business Server 2003 allows users to “dial in” to the network using a secure VPN (virtual private network) connection. This lets users connect directly to the network. You can also use a conventional dial-up modem for Internet connectiv­ity, but with the difference in speed and price, it wouldn’t make sense unless you don’t have any other choice—like if your business is located

near the North Pole. See the chart below for Internet connection types and average speed.

Table 3-1

Internet connection types and associated speed


Type of

Download Speed

Upload Speed


28.8 – 53 Kbps

28.8 – 40 Kbps


64 -128 Kbps (one channel or two)

64 – 128 Kbps (one channel or two)


256 Kbps – 8 Mbps

128 Kbps – 1 Mbps


128 – 144 Kbps

128 – 144 Kbps


128 Kbps – 2.3 Mbps

128 Kbps – 2.3 Mbps


128 Kbps – 8 Mbps

128 Kbps – 1 Mbps


56 Kbps – 1.54 Mbps

56 Kbps – 1.54 Mbps


256 Kbps – 10+ Mbps

256 Kpbs – 10+ Mbps


150 Kbps – 3 Mbps

33.6 Kbps – 128 Kbps


Fax Modems: Besides providing an Internet connection, a fax modem will allow you to send or receive faxes from the Windows Small Business Server 2003. This will require a separate phone line, but is so much cooler than receiving faxes on the old standalone fax machine. With the built-in fax module in SBS, you can receive a fax in a central folder on the network or in a fax folder in Share Point services, or route a fax into the Outlook 2003 e-mail client of specific users. Users can also fax directly from their desktop. More on configuring the fax service in Chapter 7, “Configuring Windows Small Business Server 2003.”

Wireless Access Points: Currently you can choose from three different wireless standards: 802.11b, 802.11g, and 802.11a.

Chapter 3Analyzing the Existing Environment

·                       802.1 1b: Very inexpensive now, but also the slowest of the three with a speed limit of 11 Mbps (5 Mbps real-world). Supports a maximum of 32 connections per access point and up to three non-overlapping channels, allowing for three separate wireless networks. Operating at the 2.4 GHz band, it is very susceptible to RF interference from cordless phones.

·                       802.1 1g: Slightly more expensive, but backward-compatible with 802.11b. Throughput is 56 Mbps (11 Mbps real-world) and supports a maximum of 32 connections per Access Point and three non-overlapping channels. Operating at 2.4 GHz, it is prone to the same interference issues as 802.11b.

·                       802.11a: Most expensive, but also the fastest standard at 54 Mbps (19 Mbps real-world). Operating at 5 GHz, with twelve separate non- overlapping channels, allowing twelve access points set to different channels in the same area without interfering with each other. This is a great solution for a dense user area that requires a high throughput. Beware: Due to the higher frequency, the distance is limited to about 80 feet.

Printers: It makes sense to purchase one $300 network printer instead of three individual $100 printers. SBS 2003 makes sharing printers easy. However, before purchasing a printer you want to share on the network, make sure it is designed for network use. All network printers today have their own NIC that supplies the Ethernet connection. Make sure the printer you choose will work with the Windows 2003 operating system and supports the TCP/IP protocol. A nice feature is a web-based management interface so you can check the status from a remote location. See Chapter 7, “Configuring Windows Small Business Server 2003,” for configuring printers.



Harry Brelsford, CEO at smb nation www.smbnation.com

Microsoft Small Business Specialist SBSC, MBA, MCSE, MCT, MCP, CNE, CLSE, CNP

PS – did u know I host a technology conference in the New York City area each spring? Save the date for March 6-8, 2009 and watch “voice meet data” in the SMB space!

PPS – my SBS 2008 book will be out in mid-November 2008!

PPPS – my Microsoft Response Point Primer book is here NOW!


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