According to a 2015 report from the US Small Business Administration, there were over 30 million small businesses (under 500 employees) and the average small business had 10.5 workers. It’s probably safe to say that these numbers haven’t changed much over the past 4 years.

Ten years ago, though, almost all of these businesses with about 5-25 employees had an on-premises server. There was a server rush in the mid-2000s when Microsoft came out with Small Business Server 2003, which included email services, document storage, printer sharing, line of business application hosting, and identity management. It was the Swiss army knife of the small business. I know because I was there – I had an IT practice on Cape Cod in Massachusetts that primarily sold these custom-built servers and maintained them as a ‘managed services provider’ or MSP.

But now Microsoft’s website reveals that not only is Small Business Server a thing of the past, but its replacement, Windows Server Essentials, is deprecated, meaning that its core functionality has been stripped, including one of its endeared features, Remote Web Workplace. There are no more dashboards or wizards to set up your services – this all has to be done manually, just as it has always been done in the plain old version of Windows Server.

The second paragraph of that recently updated web page (June 19, 2019) tells the reader that Microsoft now recommends Microsoft 365 business as a replacement:

“We highly recommend Microsoft 365 for small business customers as a replacement for all versions of Windows Server Essentials. Microsoft 365 is a modern solution for file sharing and collaboration, and includes Office 365, Windows 10, and Enterprise Mobility + Security.”

The article goes on to specifically recommend Microsoft 365 Business, which is good for businesses with up to 300 end-users:

“Evolve your business further with Microsoft 365 Business, which includes even more Office features, like e-mail and calendaring, file storage in the cloud, data protection, and more. Microsoft 365 Business will help your small business achieve new levels of productivity.”

My opinion: It’s about time. I retired my own on-premises servers in 2008 and I’ve never looked back. As I mentioned in a conversation earlier today, if my laptop falls in the drink, then I just buy a new one, log in to Microsoft 365 portal and download my applications along with all of my documents and settings. Done.