bCentral Home
Your Online Business Center

Server safety

Small Business Server 2003 can help your business - securely

Quote�Adding a server can really help make business more efficient.�End Quote

At the beginning of 2005 I installed Microsoft Small Business Server 2003 on a new server and lodged the whole thing precariously in a kitchen cupboard. I got it to solve a problem I was having with junk email but it has really helped in other ways.

I keep all my MP3s and digital pictures on it which means I can access them on any of the seven computers that inhabit my flat. My wife and I use Exchange Server to keep track of our diaries. She is a busy writer, actress and director. I'm a freelancer. Co-ordinating our lives is much easier when we can open one another's diaries.

Now, here's a translation for business readers. For MP3s, read spreadsheets, letters and sales data. For scheduling dinner parties, read meetings and appointments.

Adding a server (mine cost less than �1,000) can really help make business more efficient and Small Business Server 2003 is the operating system of choice for businesses with fewer than 50 employees. But it does require some care and attention to keep it safe.

My recommendations

Get a professional to install and commission it for you. It's my job to play with technology but yours is to run your business.

Buy server hardware that is right for the job. Don’t use a server as somebody's workstation. At a minimum, you’ll need 1GB of memory, big fast hard disks and an appropriate backup device.

For maximum reliability, consider an uninterruptible power supply and RAID disk technology. Sounds confusing? Your hardware supplier can advise you.

Keep the server under lock and key and control physical access to it. You probably shouldn't keep it in a kitchen cupboard.

Once you have the right kit set up, there are some routine security chores:

You need to install anti-virus software. The leading suppliers sell small business editions that will protect your server and make it easier to manage employees’ computers.

Set up Microsoft's Intelligent Message Filtering (it's a free download) to block unwanted junk email.

Install Windows Software Update Services. This automates and streamlines the installation of patches and updates on all your computers.

Regularly check for updates to Small Business Server 2003 itself on the Downloads and Updates page of the Information Center in the Server Management application.

The other tool you'll need is Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer. This will scan the server and other computers on the network for potential security problems.

Make sure you remove users who have left the company and routinely review access privileges so that people access sensitive information on a need-to-know basis. You wouldn't want the whole company to have access to the payroll system, for example.

Many companies rely on their IT partners to provide a remote management service that takes care of these routine admin and setup tasks. The good news is that installing Small Business Server 2003 solves some security problems that small businesses commonly face.

If you use it as an internet gateway, it includes a firewall, and you have complete control over who has access to sensitive files. It stores all your files in one place, so they can be easily backed up, and it even comes with backup software included. Finally, you can put an end to passwords by implementing centralised policies that ensure everyone uses strong passwords.

What next?

We've produced a free guide to help you understand what a server can do. Order or download it.

Matthew Stibbe writes a new column every fortnight. Sign up to receive them automatically by email.

Sign into Microsoft Small Business+ for free web-based training and software support.

sign in
Security information

Find a local Microsoft Small Business Specialist to help with your IT needs

Microsoft Small Business SpecialistMore info >

What do you want your PC to help you with?

What do you want your PC to help you with?

Free business newsletters - subscribe now

Our free newsletters are packed full of business advice and ideas - plus all the latest news

Security information

Get the latest bulletins and updates direct from Microsoft