Microsoft's Small Business Server 2003 offered a great value for small businesses that wanted to leverage many of Microsoft's most compelling technologies, such as Exchange, SharePoint, IIS and Active Directory. But the limitations built into the package meant that many companies outgrew SBS 2003 long before they reached the 75-user limit.
If your business has not outgrown SBS 2003 but needs to refresh its hardware (or if you simply want the latest editions of the bundled software included in SBS), then look to SBS 2008. This edition includes Exchange 2007 and a more secure remote access layer, and it runs on a 64-bit architecture.
The complexity of having so many services running on a single box can make SBS tricky to administer. Performing a combination hardware migration and upgrade in one step might not appeal to many administrators.
Fear not. Microsoft has included a Migration Mode in 2008, along with extensive documentation and manuals. We use the online SBS Migration Guide as our primary source. There is also an interactive demo of the migration process that we recommend users go through once to get a feel for the steps. If one does one's homework and follows the directions, it works quite well.
But there is a catch: In order to put the target SBS 2008 server into Migration Mode, you must have a prepared answer file located on a USB drive inserted into the target server during the initial setup. There is no other way to trigger Migration Mode — no secret command line switch, nada. The server must be put into Migration Mode by the answer file during the automated setup.
This can cause all kinds of problems if your chipset and BIOS are twitchy about booting up with a USB drive inserted during checks for bootable volumes. This generally leads to frustration, followed by cursing, then begging, tears — and finally, a breakthrough. I can attest to this because I recently experienced it with SBS and a shiny new HP ProLiant ML150 G6 machine.
But cry no more: My 18-hour emotional roller coaster is now to your benefit. The methodology below should work on any hardware that is picky about USB thumb drives and primary boot and installation volumes. The solution boils down to well-timed juggling of the USB drive into and out of the USB port.
The following is a step-by-step process for installing SBS 2008 in Migration Mode in as hassle-free a way as can be expected with this very complex product.
Begin Setup of SBS 2008 for Migration using the steps described in the SBS Migration Guide (we worked off Version 5, dated November 2009).