No Mas – No Downgrade Scenario in SBS 2003 [Advanced SBS 2003 Book]

Howdy y’all – I am the publisher and co-author of the Advanced Windows Small Business Server 2003 (SBS 2003) book. And I love holding virtual book readings when I have a moment. So here goes – this is a good one on SBS 2003 downgrade scenarios – to which I can basically reply NOT.

No Mas! No Downgrade Scenario

When Microsoft ships a version of SBS, as you might imagine, it takes more work and effort than meets the eye. Imagine combining a buffet of “BackOffice” server applications, the underlying network operating system and some super duper SBS-specific tools and getting said bundle out the door in working form! You can appreciate that your SBS development team works hard as rapidly as possible to make this happen.

Now for the primary point of this section. SBS will never ever ship on the same day as the underlying operating system upgrade. Witness:

  • The underlying Windows 2000 Server operating system shipped in February 2000 at a launch in San Francisco, California. SBS 2000 shipped in February 2001 at the Atlantic City, NJ launch site. This con­stituted a 12-month lag between the operating system release and the subsequent same-version SBS release.
  • The underlying Windows Server 2003 product shipped in late April 2003 in San Francisco, California. SBS 2003 was released on October 9, 2003 in New Orleans at the Worldwide Partners Conference. And even then, you couldn’t physically purchase SBS 2003 standard edi­tion in the USA until late October 2003 (around Halloween). You couldn’t really purchase SBS 2003 premium edition until late Novem­ber 2003 (around Thanksgiving). This constituted a 6-month lag between the operating system release and the subsequent same-version SBS release.

The point is that, even under the best of circumstances, SBS will always lag the core operating system release date by about six months (even though internal goals at Microsoft would suggest that some day the lag time could be shortened to 90-days-dream on!).

So what happened with both SBS 2000 and SBS 2003 is that good small business citizens, seeking a modern network solution, either couldn’t or wouldn’t wait for the SBS release after the core operating system had been released. That is, these small businesses purchased during the “lag time” between operating system and subsequent SBS release. Ouch!


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  Imagine if you were one of these small businesses and you trotted out and purchased Windows Server 2003 in July 2003. Perhaps you didn’t know that SBS 2003 was mere months away from shipping. Or perhaps you knew that but couldn’t wait! Nonetheless, you purchased the underlying operating system when the SBS 2003 product would have been a better technology fit. Is there any recourse for you to obtain SBS 2003 at a reduced price or event free?

The answer is NO! Microsoft considers moving a customer from the underlying Windows Server 2003 product to SBS 2003 to be a downgrade scenario and that isn’t supported. What? Is this some form of double-speak? Here is the reasoning for this. Windows Server 2003 is approximately $999 USD. SBS 2003 standard edition is $599 USD. The SBS solution is effectively cheaper than the original operating system purchase and would be a downgrade scenario. It is not supported (I’m just the message carrier here).

Moving forward, what if the small business customer proceeded to purchase the SBS 2003 product after purchasing the Windows Server 2003 product. What are the ramifications?



  • The small business customer would need to purchase SBS 2003 with­out any pricing discounts.
  • The small business customer would need to purchase SBS 2003 CALs without any pricing discount
  • The small business customer might consider redeploying the Win­dows Server 2003 machine as a member server on the SBS 2003 net­work in order to continue to utilize that specific SKU. This might be a great use of a member server running Terminal Services in applica­tion sharing mode!



Harry Brelsford, CEO at SMB Nation

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

PS – my Small Business Server 2008 (SBS 2008) book is now here! J

PPS – my spring show, SMB Nation Spring 2009, is in the NYC-area on May 1-3, 2009.


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