Bob here.  Ok, for years (since the last millennium, at least) Microsoft has touted (albeit somewhat inconsistently) their Small Business Server (aka “SBS”) product for companies with fewer than 75 users.  It packaged Windows Server (traditional security, File/print sharing, SharePoint, remote access), Exchange (email) and sometimes SQL Server (database) with some reasonable pricing and relatively simple management tools.

Pretty decent product, all told.  It made a lot of these tools available to companies at a price they could afford.  At least, if they were talking at least 10-15 folks attaching to the server.  For companies with fewer users, the costs (especially the CALs, or Client Access Licenses) were pretty substantial for startups with 4-5 users.

Plus, with the advent of cloud based services like Microsoft BPOS (which includes Exchange, SharePoint, Live Meeting and Office Communicator), which requires no hardware or expensive licenses ($10/user/month), the need for all of that stuff on the server kinda went away.

So Microsoft, who will never walk away from the possibility of adding more options with their product lines, has split up their SBS product (click here for more info).  Currently in pre-Beta, they’ve split it into the traditional SBS (SBS 7), which will pretty much be the next version of SBS (think SBS 2008 R2).

But the interesting piece will be SBS “Aurora” (their code name, not necessarily the product name.  This version of SBS will be aimed at the smaller…um…small business.  Limited to 25 users, offering automatic backup of the computers connecting to it, remote access and other local tools.  But the key function will be to work with cloud based applications (like Microsoft BPOS).  I haven’t heard pricing yet, but I’ve heard rumors that there will be no CAL licensing.

If this sounds a wee bit familiar, it’s because it is.  Microsoft released their “Home Server” edition a couple of years ago, and many small businesses found it to be a great alternative to the more expensive SBS.  So Microsoft is adding the ability for small companies to have the benefits of a local server, but the economy of cloud based services as well.

Could be pretty cool.  Of course, Simplex-IT has already signed up to beta test both products, and we’ll keep everybody up to date with what we find!