Many smaller businesses tend to have a limited understanding of the difference between peer to peer networking and making the leap to a proper client server network. Over the last few months, Microsoft has upgraded its operating systems and applications for servers, notably Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 and brining out Service Pack 1 for Exchange Server 2007. In doing so, they have brought out a very powerful, co-ordinated product offering for organisations from small businesses to the largest corporation.This can provide some of the advantages in time saving and efficiency to small businesses that have, hitherto, only been accessible to larger organisations.Windows Server 2008When you put a server in place, you need an operating system specifically designed to operate in a client sever environment, hence Windows Server 2008.One of the main advantages that this gives, is in security. The new technologies in Windows Server 2008 help prevent unauthorized connections to your networks, servers, data, and user accounts. Any computer that attempts to access you network runs into Network Access Protection (NAP) which makes sure that they comply with your organization’s security policy. As importantly, BitLocker Drive Encryption gives greater protection against data theft in the event that server hardware is lost or stolen, as well as providing more secure data deletion when your servers are eventually decommissioned.The Server Manager provides a single console that simplifies server set up , configuration and management as well as allowing administrators to automate routine tasks over multiple servers.If your business relies on remote workers, has satellite shops or offices, or needs to provide access to company data for sales representatives, Terminal Services RemoteApp provides this. Authorised staff can easily access standard Windows-based programs from anywhere by running them on a terminal server instead of directly on a client computer – without the need for a complicated virtual private network (VPN).Sharepoint, which comes with Windows Server 2008, provides the ability to share applications like Excel spreadsheets, which can be accessed and updated by staff, whether in the office or remotely. It provides a focal point for company and or team activity which can really boost productivity by having one set of documents that every one can access and update directly.Exchange Server 2007 SP1MIcrosofts Exchange Server 2007 is another invaluable aid to keeping everyone up to date and coordinated. It provides e-mail messaging, calendar organisation and unified messaging. It provides built in protection against spam and malware attacks with an integrated, IP based block-and-allow list based on sender reputation and are automatically updated. Administrators can also create additional IP allow-or-deny lists if necessary.The Calendar Attendant helps to reduce conflicting appointments by limiting calendar items (request, declines, accepts) in the inbox to the latest version. It also shows meeting requests as tentative on individual calendars until all the people invited to attend the meeting reply.In addition to Exchange Management Shell, the Public Folder Management Console lets administrators quickly manage public folders, including creation, deletion, and the replication configuration of individual folders.SQL Server 2008Of course, one of the great strengths, and main reasons for having a proper server based network is providing access to a common database for a number of concurrent users. Whether this is to control information , such as stock movements or provide information for customers from an e-commerce website, SQL Server 2008 delivers integrated services that let you query, search, synchronize, report and analyze data. Furthermore, as it is stored in an organisation’s server and accessed by desktops and mobile devices, it can be simultaneously updated and queried without having to manage replication issues.The reporting engine in SQL Server 2008 Reporting Services allows you to integrate and report on data from a number of functions within the company. Large and complex reports can be produced in various formats, including list, chart, table, and matrix. They can incorporate data from Oracle, SQL Server, DB2 and many other sources and then you can preview, print and publish the reports with the integral report builder. You can also export it easily to Office 2007 products such as Excel to manipulate it into “what if” scenarios or Word for presentations and reports.ConclusionEvery business has its own, individual, problems and what would be a critical benefit for one company, would be irrelevant to another, so it is not possible to cover all the features and benefits that might be relevant to all businesses. Suffice it to say, that, if you run a small to medium sized business, it would be worth examining the advantages that you might experience by moving to a proper client server network.