I finished my Beta testing with Aurora and to summarize my experience, I was disappointed. I cannot see myself recommending this product.
Recently, Microsoft announced that Aurora will be called SBS 2011 Essentials and will sell for $550. In the same announcement, Microsoft all said SBS 2011 Standard will list for about $500 more. This only convinces me more to avoid Aurora.
If a client needs a simple solution for a small network, then maybe Vail (follow up to Windows Home Server) might be the way to go. If a client has 10+ users, then the options are Aurora or SBS 7 (SBS 2011 Essential, or SBS 2011 Standard).
In my opinion, Aurora lacks too many features and the cost is close enough to SBS that it makes more sense to get full blown SBS 7.
Some of my complaints about Aurora are:
- DHCP is not installed by default. Microsoft wants to “simplify things”, however, there is no wizard to take you through the process or creating a scope. I managed to do it, but I have many years or experience and training. I seriously doubt the small business owner could do that.
- No option to set up Groups? The Beta team argues that small businesses don’t need or use Groups (or for that matter Roles). In my experience, even for small businesses of 10-15 users, most can benefit from Groups. I know I always setup Groups for printer access, access to sensitive folders, etc.
- Drive partitioning in Aurora. It wipes out your drive (it does warn you) and gives you ZERO input into the partitioning. I'm not crazy about the 'storage pool' either. Aurora creates a "DE Disk" using all but 60G of the drive and formats that as FAT32?! Then it mounts four NTFS drives (more like shares?) that all show the same size. These are labeled W:, X:, Y:, Z: (for user shares, client computer backup, shared folder – company, shadow copies)
That technique will make data recovery more difficult. I booted the system and launched 'mini-xp' to examine the drive. While I could 'see' and recover anything from the C: (boot) partition, the "DE Disk" appears as a 32M (not 32G) drive that is full? There is only one readable file (txt) warning you not to touch anything. That drive is filled with .NG files that represent the data in ‘the pool’.
- Group Policy: here is another area Microsoft ‘dumbed down’ SBS. If someone finds full SBS too complicated, then why even bother with a domain? Why not setup a simple peer-to-peer share and forget about the server entirely?
- No Outlook or Exchange: this is my biggest objection. It doesn’t make any sense to save a few hundred dollars but give up the best parts of SBS 2011 Standard. I have had this discussion with many people from Microsoft and their answer is always, “Use our Cloud Services”. They actually say it believing it makes sense too, usually with a smile. I see the typical small business spending more in cloud services in a few months than they saved by “dumbing down to Aurora”.
To summarize (using by best impression of Yoda) .. “I doubt, recommend Aurora, will I.”