Can you tell me if we can logically implement MS-CRM in the way detailed below?

We are a split site. At one end is a network with an NT4 server and this is where the new CRM server will go. The other end has a network with a Small Business Server on it.

The idea is to place a SBS server at one end on to the existing switch so that users of that end can use the CRM system as well as the existing NT4 network. Then by setting up a VPN connection between the two sites (using programmable routers over 1MB ADSL) the users of the second site will be able to access the CRM server. Neither set of users will be able to access the other's servers the only shared bit is the CRM services.

The quantity of users that will be using the CRM is expected to be around 5 so not a major loading on the system. Several questions have been raised:

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  1. First, does this seem an appropriate way of linking the two sites on the single CRM system?
  2. Can the SBS and NT coexist on the same network, and how would users who logon to the NT logon to the SBS system (based on 2003 OS)?
  3. How would the users coming in over the ADSL log on to the SBS server?

I'm sure there are lots of other potential problems to still be highlighted, so any insight into this will be a great help.

The short answer is that YES, you can accomplish what you are looking to do; however, you'll most likely have to reinstall your NT 4.0 server software.

Here's the scoop. Microsoft created its Small Business Server as a very low cost solution for small businesses that would never need more then 75 users accessing it.

In the outline you provided of your current NT4 server configuration, you didn't mention whether or not it was set up as a Domain controller, but I suspect that it is.

The issue you must deal with is that, although an SBS and an NT4 server can coexist on the same network, by design, SBS must be a Domain controller (at the root of the forest), so it can not "join" an NT4 (or any other) domain.

One solution would be to create two separate domains; one for CRM and another for the NT4 server. Although it is possible to have two domains on the same network that "trust" each other, this would be messy and could create a number of (domain synchronization) issues going forward. So I don't recommend this approach.

A cleaner, more easily maintainable solution going forward would be to convert your NT4 server from a Domain controller to a Member server. Unfortunately, unlike with MS2000-2003, you can't reconfigure an NT4 server to a Member server; you have to reinstall it from scratch. Because a complete re-installation would be required, I would recommend that you upgrade this server to MS2000-2003, while you're at it.

As far as accessing your SBS CRM server from a remote location goes...this should not be a problem. The remote users can use a VPN connection to easily log into the CRM software utilizing their browser (it must be Microsoft IE, not Netscape, etc.). If you have the proper DNS setup, your remote users can just type in the server name in IE's address space and click "go." The CRM software will prompt the user for a login and password and then open.

I'd like to thank Ron Smoller of GraVoc Associates, Inc. for assisting me with the answer to this question.

This was first published in April 2004

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