Windows Small Business Server 2003: A Clear and Concise Administrator's Reference and How-To, by Stephanie Knecht-Thurmann ISBN 1904811493

Reviewed by: Mark Goldstein, September 2005, updated Mar 2007
Published by: Packt Publishing
Requires: N/A
MSRP: US$36.99, UK£24.95, €34.95

There are many claims that Windows Small Business Server (SBS) 2003 can be properly set up by a talented amateur. While I've seen it done a few times, I still strongly dispute the claim. Microsoft certainly doesn't recommend it. At the same time, there's no doubt in my mind that Microsoft Small Business Server 2003 is the best thing to come along for small business server needs so far, notwithstanding some legacy Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS) headaches, limited firewall support in SBS 2003 Standard and some rather powerful arguments on behalf of some very good open source products notwithstanding. "Windows Small Business Server 2003: A Clear and Concise Administrator's Reference and How-To" attempts to bring to the table a reference book aimed at network administrators and IT specialists responsible for and already familiar with Windows servers.

Author Stephanie Knecht-Thurmann has several highly regarded German language Windows technical books to her credit. Her experience at systems houses in Hanover, where she was responsible for the technical documentation of complex IT systems for systems management in heterogeneous architectures, is clearly reflected in the confidently direct writing style in Packt's release. Knecht-Thurmann holds a range of technical certifications and has valuable experience in the Windows server world, in particular with Windows 2000 Server, Small Business Server and their successors. She started Knecht Consult in 2002 in Barsinghausen, Germany. Since then she has been advising companies on deployment of Microsoft products in mission-critical areas (including newspaper publishing and Internet projects). She has also been active in the publishing field with books in German on these subjects. In 2003 her book Active Directory was published by Addison-Wesley. In 2004 her book Small Business Server 2003 appeared under the same marque.


Packt Publishing is an interesting young marque in the technical book publishing world, having started up in April 2004. The company seems to be concentrating on bringing clearly focused titles to market, written with an economy of style and directly on point. Knecht-Thurmann's style is a perfect fit, and she leads readers with directness and brevity—it almost feels like a workshop or seminar instruction session where you have to stay focused to keep up. Not bad at all and unwaveringly attentive to the task at hand. There's no fluff, no extraneous historical anecdotes about the genesis of Microsoft's server market pre-eminence, no stale geek jokes and no indistinct language. I'm not sure if the book was written originally in German and translated into English, but if it was, the translator deserves an award of some sort. The writing style is beautifully suited to this sort of technical book and elevates the text without resorting in any way to rhetorical devices.

I ran Windows Small Business Server 2000 for several years. We upgraded our business network server to SBS 2003 early in 2005 and the process was fairly uneventful. A few things broke, but all-in-all the experience was quick and relatively painless, far less so as a matter of fact than some recent Microsoft updates. With two new IT staff members, neither of whom are intimately familiar with SBS 2003, I jumped at the chance to review "Windows Small Business Server 2003: A Clear and Concise Administrator's Reference and How-To" in order to a) find out what I missed, and b) to see if the book provides a ready reference for future staff.

Cons: "Windows Small Business Server 2003: A Clear and Concise Administrator's Reference and How-To" contains an excellent table of contents poorly backed up by a thin index. The author repeatedly mentions SBS 2003 applicability for medium size businesses and I dispute this. SBS 2003 can handle only a single domain—that's how it's designed—and many medium sized companies use more than one domain. This dispute may arise from the fact that the author appears to consider a network of 75 computers (the limit for SBS 2003) to represent a medium sized business, but that's still a small business by most popular definitions. If you're a beginner or otherwise inexperienced with server operating systems, this is not the book for you. The author and Packt Publishing have clearly targeted experienced network people and have made the appropriate assumptions about readers' knowledge of server terminology. While some fundamental explanations are present, it's just as clear that networking beginners or server software novices are not the target audience. Some structural reference issues can create problems for careless readers. For example, Chapter 5 (pg. 207) briefly discusses upgrading to SharePoint services and provides basic instruction and a command line. Unfortunately, the warning to first remove any installed FrontPage 2002 server extensions is only given afterward, along with a suggestion about preserving the contents of a related web site. The book is concisely written, but it is not a concise reference as titled because in my view the word "reference" implies much more technical detail and indexed cross-referencing than is present. Only brief coverage of the mobile access technology built into SBS 2003. If you want to help train new IT staff on Windows Server 2003, you'll something more robust.

Pros: The book accomplishes what it sets out to do and touches on every aspect of SBS 2003. It amounts to a general guide to each and every part of SBS 2003 for experienced IS/IT staff and network administrators. It will definitely help IS/IT staff or an administrator familiar with Windows Server 2003 get SBS 2003 up and running very quickly. Thorough coverage of Exchange in particular which won't leave you guessing as Microsoft's documentation does. Clear guidance for upgrading from other Windows server products. The roots of SBS 2003 and Windows Server 2003 are clearly explained and provide insight into the differences and similarities between the two server versions. Microsoft's own SBS 2003 documentation remains a powerful technical reference manual, but "Windows Small Business Server 2003: A Clear and Concise Administrator's Reference and How-To" provides the much narrower focus required by experienced admin and IT staff who already know most of the technical details surrounding each function, configuration change and feature. Despite my complaint about the rather thin index, what's there coupled with the solid table of contents will still help experienced staff find what they need. Chapter 7 devotes 30 pages entirely to SQL Server 2000 and database management in SBS 2003, a welcome emphasis for what I believe to be a rather large number of IT people who struggle with SQL. Generally effective coverage of security, firewall and VPN setup and configuration. The book is well written, using concise language in a clear and easy to read style and structure. Recommended.





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