Hi susan


Please advice us on the best possible solution for this scenario.

  Currently we have only one office in B__. We are running SBS 2003 on our network. We use windows authentication extensively and also exchange for email. Right now we are not using Sharepoint server at all. All clients are Windows XP/Office 2003 Standard.

 This month we are setting up a new office in D__i and within 2-3 months we will have another office in M__i followed by offices in all the metros. I wanted to set up a local windows server in each office to cater to the authentication needs of the systems in that office. Also, in the B__ e office I would like to setup a backup domain controller (to replicate active directory).

All employees (across offices) will need domain.com email address. I have configured Outlook over http and want to use that for the time being. Hence, I require only Windows 2003 Server (with replicated active directory) at the branch offices. At a later point, I want to setup local exchange server as needed.

All offices are connected with ADSL lines to the internet and there is no inter-office link. This setup will not change (meaning we won’t have inter-office linkage)

I did some research on this and found that SBS cannot support this scenario. Is that true? If yes, what is the best way to go about it?

Hi back at ya…. first off I’d like to bring up the idea of “branch offices” versus “branch computers”

Remember that with a SBS network we cannot do domain trusts..but we can have additional domain controllers to assure domain authentication.  With the R2 era we can also add additional Exchange servers without adding cals.

Now then … there is no wizards in this setup and any additional Exchange server would be manually set up.  But that doesn’t mean that SBS cannot be the base server of a small firm’s domain.  As long as you stay with the single domain setup …and given that I know someone running umpteen computers in a workgroup… I personally think this is a do-able setup.  Persistent VPNs and what not…but we’re doing these sort of setups now with the SBS server as the base.

The problem is that SBS is just way too good of a base to not use in a small firm.  Okay okay, the cheapness is a strong thing in it’s favor…but given that SBS is the only one with RWW and the wizards it has.. it’s too dang good to give up.

Microsoft tends to say that SBS is not for a branch office setup…but the other day Chad had a SBS network with 13 offsite “branch” connections to that SBS server …all locations with one or two workstations. All with persistent VPNs. Is that a branch office?  Probably not in Microsoft speak…but in a SBS domain? 

..if it works… it works.


7 Responses to Can SBS work in more than one location?

  1. Roy says:

    In this scenario, couldn’t all the offices run SBS locally and share a common email domain? Each office would use a server name in their e-mail address as in JoeBob@Office1.ourdomain.com; MaryBeth@Office2.ourdomain.com, etc. Otherwise, the SBS installations would be standalone. There may be a need to be careful to set up a split DNS (see Dr. Tom Shinder about that) so the offices don’t accidentally try to access a remote office when they need a local resource.

    Roy Dodd
    Elgin, IL USA

  2. This is a question I get quite often… and while this scenario will technically work, it’s a bit difficult for folks to swallow when they find out that the “branch office” standard Server 2003 is going to cost them almost twice as much as their SBS license, and it doesn’t even include that backup Exchange server they are looking for.

    It would be nice if that strange T73-00494 (the “not-SBS” server) would have been allowed to be used in this scenario… because I still have never seen a scenario that it WOULD work in. But many small businesses can’t stomach the full cost of the standard Server 2003 when they compare it to SBS.

    So, what do they end up doing? They buy two SBS’s.

    Heck, they saw that it could work when they read the Microsoft Whitepaper about multiple servers in an SBS environment (http://sbsurl.com/multiserver). And, truth be told, the solution actually works quite well… with the exception of domain trusts. Which generally would only get in the way of document sharing for a smaller business… and that can be overcome with Groove or a similar synchronization solution.

    At the main office, SBS’s Exchange is configured to forward branch office messages per KB 319759. This works quite well because each office can still use domain.com while the LANs are configured as domain1.local and domain2.local.

    Management of all offices can be configured with the MSTSC MMC such that all offices are managed from the same console (screen shot: http://sbsurl.com/m.jpg)

    But the truth of the matter is that branch offices exist in the micro and small business world. Then exist in rather large numbers as well. So, it would be nice if T73-00494 could just be added to branch offices of not more than 15 users (the same as it’s current limitation) as a member server of the domain… which would then allow for better centralized management, backup and collaboration.

    I’d be happy even if they didn’t allow Exchange on the T73-00494, because either hosted Exchange or OfficeLive.com would probably work better anyhow.


  3. Geoff says:

    lol I’ve got 4 clients in this very same senario all across the state the 2 of the SBS box(es) are in a datacenter (Dell 1650 and 2650) and provide Exchange, SQL, AD authentication, Sharepoint ect to branch offices (only differance is that each branch office has an AD server), 1 Client (not in the datacenter) uses a presistant VPN but it’s just a Main and 1 Branch office. I’ve had only one constant issue when a site conection goes down I sometimes have to force AD replication this only depends on the lenght of time that a connection is down and it dosen’t happen very often

    Here’s some tips from my experiance (yours may vary so caution when you attempt at home)

    Optain Static IP’s from your ADSL (or flavor X broadband) provider, Always use the 2 NIC Setup, Set up your Member Servers on the Internal Network and check all services before deployment to the Branch (AD membership is less likely to fail, you’ll get a “Good” Replication set ect) you may want to copy the GC to the Branch servers just make sure your SBS remains the “master” and the total users across ALL the offices isn’t more then 75 – Please ask your client(s) whether they expect growth to go beyond that limit (trust me there is a reason for it)

    @Roy – sure that’ll work kinda if all you want is email unlike “Enterprise” Land SBS won’t be the master of a “Forest” (or is it a Tree I never get that *sigh*) and you can’t (without brutal hacks) attach multi SBS boxes to each other (no domain trusting) so you lose the great benifits of Shared services and collaberation across branch offices

  4. Tim Combs says:

    I have a client who wants a branch office solution and I remember reading a doc that explored the tricks of making sure the member server’s AD got updated and the IP address switching. I’ve read most of what I could find at Microsoft but can’t find this doc. Anybody remember it?

  5. Tim,

    There’s a bit of info on that in the doc I linked above, but perhaps you’re referring to Javier’s VPN Tunnel solution?

    The only other document I’m aware of regarding additional servers is this one: http://sbsurl.com/addserver

  6. KarlP says:

    We run SBS in branch offices. As you say, maybe not MS-Speak, but it’s what we do.

    We also have a client with SBS running a branch office 400 miles away.

    Hardware VPN is the key to success.

    Use route command on second domain controller in the branch office so the machines knows where “home” is.

    ConnectComputer works like a charm in this scenario.

    Gotcha is: some updates will “reset” the remote DC to use the domain’s default gateway, which is the router at the home office. So, if communication stops after a reboot, just set default gateway of remote DC to it’s own router.

    I guess since SBS is intended for one small office, the assumption is that all servers will use the same gateway. A reasonable assumption, generally.

  7. John Lennon says:

    watch the Riverbed cartoon our website its a brilliant solution.