SBS and the Triple Crown

In horse racing, they talk about winning the Triple Crown — one horse winning the Kentucky Derby, the Belmont and the Preakness in the same year. Likewise, in baseball, they talk about a batter wining the Triple Crown — one person who, at the end of the season, leads the league in most home runs, the hightest batting average, and the most runs batted in (RBI’s).

In many ways, three (3) is a lucky number. In the Small Business Server (SBS) world, we often recommend to SBS newbies to take the time and go through the process of installing SBS a minimum of three times.

Why is that?

  • First of all, nothing replaces experience. Practice makes perfect. And with SBS, you want to have the experience under your belt before you put that server into production mode.
  • Second, once you put that server into production, you can’t just walk in and say to the customer one day, “Whoops! Guess what? I renamed the SBS server incorrectly, and I’m going to need to reformat your entire server right now!”
  • Third, and most importantly, SBS is not just one server — it’s like having ten (10) servers in one.

Let’s count them: We have … 1) W2K3 Server, 2) Term Server, 3) Exchange, 4) DHCP, 5) DNS, 6) IIS, 7) Sharepoint/Intranet, 8) Remote Web Workplace. And if your using SBS Premium, throw in 9) ISA and 10) SQL.

Microsoft, to some degree, went against its own best practices by putting things like Exchange and ISA on the same server. And that just drives some Windows Server purists crazy.

The fact is that not only did Microsoft accomplish what could have been considered a near impossibility, they did it in a grand and successful way. The SBS Dev team has created wizards and front end interfeaces (can you say RWW?), that the rest of the Windows Server world can only dream about.

So, here’s a summary of what I recommend to new SBS administrators, integrators and consultants:

1. Install SBS the first time to learn the process.

If you bought an OEM SBS server, blow it away! While you are installing it the first, take notes of your questions. In fact, have a computer setup and connected to the SBS newsgroup and ask your questions real time. Hook up one workstation and learn what’s required to add a user and add a computer.

Some questions you may want to make sure you get answered during this process:
– How should I partition my disk drives?
– I already have a public domain name for my email. Do I use that fort my SBS server name?
– Should I override the default locations for installing Exchange / Sharepoint / etc.?
– One NIC or two? Why?
– Can I host my public website on the SBS server?

2. After getting answere to these and other questions, reformat and reload SBS a second time. Your goal this second time is to make sure you record (in writing) every prompt, every selection, every option you choose. You want to make sure you understand how and why you selected to put Exchange in its own partition, or what ports you need to open up to make email and Internet access work.

If you did this successfully, you may still have some questions. Perhaps its how to customize and map shared folders to drive letters for all users. Or how to backup and restore a sharepoint database. Or how to do an offline Exchange defrag. Get answer to those questions. Make sure you know where all your 3rd party drivers are located. Make sure you know how to access and use the RAID interface utility.

3. When ready, reformat and reinstall a third time. Your goal this time is to make sure that all your documentation is correct, that you understand it, and you understand how to recover from some unexpected events.

I remember listening to Jeff Middleton back in Sept 2005 as he discussed disaster recovery in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He said that one of the things he learned was that you may know a particular command (like ‘Net Route’) like the back of your hand. But when you are under pressure, and have not slept for 24 or 48 hours, even the simplest commands suddenly become like foreign words to you. They don’t make sense and you’re scrambling for your notes! 

Having your notes written down will help in the event something does happens, and under immense pressure you don’t even know the answer to something as simple as: What’s your Internal NIC IP address?

I hope this helps!


2 thoughts on “SBS and the Triple Crown

  1. Thats freaky they are my questions word for word.
    Hopefully answers are within the blog articles.

    great blog so much help for a sbs virgin, who should have kept his gop shut when the ‘can you set up a server’ question was asked.

    cheers Sean

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