eBay Purchase #9 – Microsoft BackOffice Server 2.0

msboffice2-1eBay Purchase Price: $60 AUD

Country of Origin: United States

Condition: Very Good

Long since discontinued, BackOffice was a suite of server orientated products in combination with Windows NT aimed at business. Originally released with Windows NT 3.5 Server included, the final version had Windows 2000 Server.

This particular version is 2.0 released in April 1996, and was the last to include Windows NT 3.51, just four months prior to NT 4.0. I grabbed this copy among some other newer versions of BackOffice from the same seller. The postage was pricey given their size and weight, though finding complete copies of these isn’t that easy.

msboffice2-2So what’s in BackOffice 2.0 exactly? Well apart from Windows NT 3.51 Server as mentioned, you get the following:

  • Exchange Server – for hosting an e-mail server
  • IIS (Internet Information Server) – for hosting a web server and web access
  • SNA (Systems Network Architecture) Server – for connectivity to mainframes
  • SQL (Structured Query Language) Server – for hosting and querying databases
  • SMS (Systems Management Server) – for managing client PCs and their software
  • 5 x Client Access Licenses (more could be purchased separately)

I could speculate that the BackOffice brand name was inspired by Microsoft Office, both comprising a suite of products, and that it was ‘out the back’ keeping things running. One thing though is common between the two – a big box with plenty of manuals.

By far the largest manual at over 700 pages is in relation to Systems Management Server. Oddly the Start Here guide (Document # 69935-0696) for Windows NT Server is for 4.0, when clearly the rest of the manuals are aimed at 3.51. Not sure what happened there.

The Getting Started guide for BackOffice 2.0 has some notable tables as below. The first table compares this to the previous version, 1.5, showing that the introduction to Exchange and Internet Information Server were major changes. For SQL Server one new feature was the Web Assistant where HTML pages could be developed from databases, and allow for automatic updating when changes to the data occurred.


BackOffice 1.5 vs 2.0.

The next table of interest was what Microsoft determined as the minimum processor and memory requirements for a specified number of users to moderately run all BackOffice 2.0 applications at once. On the back of the retail box though, the minimum requirements stated was a 66 Mhz 486 with 32 MB RAM, and around 400 MB of disk space for installation.


Recommended minimum requirements based on users.

Lastly, the next table stipulates which operating systems are supported to install clients for BackOffice 2.0 applications. The guide mentions that provided SMS is correctly configured on a domain, SMS provides the client utilities the first time logging in.


Client application support.

msboffice2-6BackOffice 2.0 comes with a total of four CDs. While the first CD has Windows NT, buried among the client related files a copy of Windows for Workgroups 3.11 is also included. The other CDs also have other files for clients, such as Exchange Client 4.0 and Internet Explorer 2.0.

The BackOffice suite had a hefty price tag particularly in combination with the purchase of servers and client access licenses, however in a similar fashion to Microsoft Office it proved to be better value than purchasing each product separately. Network World (September 1996) magazine’s review suggested it was 40% cheaper.

BackOffice 2.0 had a street price of $2,199 US, and $769 US as an upgrade from BackOffice 1.5. Client access licenses were $269 US for a single user, $1,309 US for five, and $4,179 US for 20 users. Another magazine, InfoWorld (May 1996) suggested a price of $23,663 US for two servers and 100 clients. The servers in this case were a base model Compaq Proliant 4500 5/133SE.

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