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News
Dec
10
SBS 2011 Give False RWA 404 with IE 11
Posted by amy on 10 December 2013 03:43 PM

Something interesting happens when you have IE 11. Most websites just start working. This is because IE no longer advertises itself by name or version. So those websites that were complaining that you needed a different version or a different browser when you had IE 10 now just start working. Ditto for most of them that you probably have in your compatibility list. I know that I’ve removed almost all sites from my list.

But the SBS 2011 Remote Web Access (RWA) site is different. The initial site displays you login box just fine but then after login you get this:

404Error

This problem can be solved two ways. I’ll first describe how to get your user working right now and then what to do to fix the problem for good and for everyone.

A quick check using another computer shows that the site is up! In the process of troubleshooting we also went to OWA and attempted to log in there from the problem computer too.

OWA Error

What we got was an automatically checked box that could not be unchecked, Use the light version of Outlook Web App.

This was the clue that we needed. The OWA issue was one known to us where the solution is to add the site to the compatibility list. We did that. OWA was now fine. Then we added the RWA site to the compatibility list and that site worked fine too.

How do you add a site to the compatibility list? They can be added via group policy but often a person will need to add their own sites. To do that just hit ALT-t on your keyboard. This opens the Tools menu in IE. About half way down the list of tools is Compatibility list. Select that. The website you are on will most likely be populated in the box at the top, if that’s the case just press Add to add it. Click OK that close that menu. Refresh your page to test. If your site isn’t already populated for you go ahead and add it in. All you need is the domain name portion of the site, i.e. yourdomain.com

Now you have the person that called back to work. It’s time to fix this problem for everyone all the time.

This issue can also be resolved by installed Rollup 4 for SBS 2011 which was released in November 2013. Once you have a chance to install the rollup you will no longer need to list the site for compatibility view. Below is the information from Microsoft about the update.

Issue: 404 error when you use Internet Explorer 11 to access the RWA page

loadTOCNode(2, ‘summary’); Consider the following scenario:

  • You enable Remote Web Access (RWA) on a server that is running Windows Small Business Server 2011 Standard.
  • You use Internet Explorer 11 to access “https://domainname/” to log on to the RWA site and then to visit the shared folders page.
  • You click the Company folder, or you click another folder that contains files.

In this scenario, you receive the following error message:

404 – File or directory not found.
The resource you are looking for might have been removed, has its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable.

404 error when you use Internet Explorer 11 to access RWA that is built on a Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials-based server:
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2885313/en-us

 

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Dec
5

This error occurs when a user logs into RWA on SBS 2011 and the Computers gadget is unable to determine which, if any, computers the user has permission to access remotely. In my case the user permissions were set correctly in the SBS console and she was to have access to one computer.

While researching the solution to this problem we found the following TechNet Forum solution: http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/smallbusinessserver/thread/386a0764-5623-4b0f-83b9-d442fdcdbb1b

It appeared to be a correct solution for the problem but the posted answer was a bit obscure to follow. Hopefully this is clearer.

  • In Active Directory Users and Computers, select View and pick Advanced Features. This will enable you  to see the security settings for your AD objects.
  • Browse down to the SBS Users OU and note the permission setting for Authenticated Users is Read. If you press the Advanced button here you will see that the permission is for this object only.
  • Brower down to the user having the problem with the Computer gadget. View the Security tab and note that Authenticated Users does not have any permission here.
  • In the above article, Microsoft CSS reported this as being the problem.

Go back to the Security tab of the SBSUsers OU. Press the Advanced button.

image

Browser down to Authenticated Users and Press Edit. Change the Apply to, to Third object and all descendant objects

image

Close any sessions you might have open in RWA for that user. Then login as that person and the gadget will now be working.

 

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Oct
9
Clear OS – An Alternative to SBS?
Posted by jeremy on 09 October 2012 12:40 PM

Part three of a six part series looking at ClearOS, one of the major commercial alternatives to Small Business Server.  In this post I look at the operation aspects of the server, primarily focusing on domain join and file sharing.  Be sure to read part one for an overview of ClearOS and part two for an introduction to the installation process.

Part Three: General Operation

I have set up and installed a ClearOS server to see if I would be willing to use it to replace a Windows server environment.  Previously in part two I detailed the installation process.  Now I want to dive into the actual operation of the server.  I am working with a Windows Vista Client on this network.  I actually chose Vista for a specific reason.  It is the “red-headed step child “of the Windows Client OS’s .  If Vista works, anything will work.  The first thing I did was log into the machine with a local account and check my IP address and network connectivity.  I have an IP address from the ClearOS server, DNS points to the ClearOS server, NSlookup resolves clearos.linux.local (my server and domain name) .  Everything here is looking good.  I attempted to join it to the domain as I would if there was a Windows domain controller on the network.  System – Properties, Domain, Change: linux.  I entered my Winadmin Credentials, waited for a second, and received the positive news: Welcome to the LINUX domain.

I rebooted the Vista machine and at the login prompt I entered LINUX\Winadmin and my password and I logged in.  Domain Join worked, worked properly, and was painless.  There was no difference here than vs. joining a Windows domain.

I had a domain admin account, I can log in to my client machine.  The next testing step is to create some users and file shares.  Creating a user is done under the System tab of the ClearOs web interface.  There is nothing new or unusual about this setup.  You choose users, add, and add the user.

Enter the user’s information, and at the bottom of the page you have the option to add them to security groups if you have already created any.  If you choose to install the Messaging application Zarafa, the options are here to set up the SMTP address, set the mail quota, and add aliases.  I did not include a screen shot as it’s a really long form, but it’s a simple web page form, with everything you need for adding a user on one page.

As expected, limited and domain admin accounts work as they should on the Vista client.  The Domain Admin account can install software and make system configuration changes.  A limited user account can not.  There is no difference here compared to a Windows domain.  You are able to make limited domain users ‘local admins’ and assign them the right to log in via remote desktop.

The next thing I wanted to do was to create a share, and make sure that my users can access it.  This is where I hit a wall.  I clicked around for a bit on the different tabs, Server, File, no where can I create a share.  Network, nope, it’s not there.  I needed to find out how to create a share.  I realized that this is an OS where nothing is installed, unless I choose to install it.  To the MarketPlace!   It turns out that I missed installing the application FlexShare when I did my initial install from the MarketPlace.

Flexshares are flexible share resources that allow an administrator to quickly and easily define data sharing, collaboration and access areas via web, file, FTP and/or e-mail (as attachments).

I quickly installed Flexshares and then went to create my share.

Ok, so I have an HR share, I allowed access to the HR group, it’s enabled.  Being impatient that I am, I jumped back to my Vista box, logged in as an HR user, and I could not browse the share.

The actual next step is to enable the Share as a Windows File Share:

Going back to my Vista machine, I still can’t see the HR share, nor can I browse to it.  I go back to the Flex Share, choose edit, and look at it:

Notice the Top Status is: “Disabled”.  In the first screen shot, it is “enabled”

Once you set this back to Enabled, you can successfully browse the share from the Vista client.  This seems to be a minor bug, or it could also be user error, as I was not able to recreate it consistently.  This might just be something to be aware of when creating your shares.  Another major consideration with the default implementation of Flex Shares in ClearOS is that using FlexShares, there is no way to dictate where your share is located in the file system.  You can make changes in the system configuration files from a shell session, but this is not available in the web interface and changing it in the configuration files is not intuitive or simple.  By default, FlexShares stores all data on the root partition.  This is important to consider when you are sizing your server.

The next question is how to map these drives on a consistent basis.  ClearOS provides for Login Scripts to be run.  In the administration interface, browse to the Server, Windows Networking, mode.  Make sure the logon script is enabled. By default, the file is called login.cmd, you can change it as necessary if you want to run a different name, or a VB Script.  From a client workstation, you can open the share \\servername\Netlogon and upload the batch file to map drives.  This is a hidden share, so you need to navigate to it directly.  You can also set a Drive Letter Mapping for users home directories in this location as well.

There of course are no group policies to lock down the workstation, or to install software, or even to configure the firewall.  Advanced configuration could be done with a login script; however, completely managing client workstations from a script could become cumbersome.  The basic functionality of file and printer set up can be done with ease.

Domain join and file sharing work better than I could ever have hoped out of the box.  The native support for home directories and logon scripts is a big positive aspect when choosing to use ClearOS.  I tested several of my day to day tasks on domain joined machines and all of them worked.  I was able to remotely manage the machine, log on via RDP and limit user access.  Logon Scripts work, and I was able to use a VB script based on user group membership to map drives successfully.  Clear OS is a complete file sharing solution.  User and group set up is fast, easy and straight forward.  It truly does ‘just work’.  As a file server alone, that requires centralized administration, I would have no problem recommending ClearOS.


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Oct
8
Clear OS – An Alternative to SBS?
Posted by jeremy on 08 October 2012 12:20 PM

Part two of a six part series looking at ClearOS, one of the major commercial alternatives to Small Business Server.  In this post I look at the initial installation, setup, and configuration of the operating system.  Be sure to read part one for an overview of ClearOS.

Part Two: Installation

In part one we looked at the overall platform functions for ClearOS, and what it can offer a small business as a collaboration platform.  Let us take a look at its installation and configuration process to see what is required to get it up and running.

Linux, and ClearOS by extension can run on very minimal hardware, but of course, that’s all dependent on the configuration and applications that are running.  ClearOS recommends that if you have 50 users you should have 2GB of RAM, and their web page advises that messaging and firewall applications “following software modules are processor and memory intensive”.  Zarafa messaging recommends 4GB of RAM for 50GB of mail.  Therefore a server with 8 GB of RAM and a modern processor should meet the requirements of most small businesses.

Installation is straight forward, and if you are familiar with installing any server based operating system you are not going to be in uncharted territory.  When Windows Admins hear the words ‘Linux Server’ often their face goes pale at the thought of a complicated command line, this is no longer the case.  The installer is a nice, visually appealing GUI that you click through.  Boot from the installer media, choose your language, name your server, configure networking, and choose your disk layout.  For a test server deployment, the layout does not matter much to me, but in production this can be a big deal.  As a Windows admin, setting up my partitions is important to me.  The ClearOS installer does not offer a clear default choice that I should choose for a new setup.  For those or you that are used to working with Windows systems, you have implemented best practices where the operating system is on the C: drive, file shares are on the D: drive, etc…  You have done this so that the OS can be on a redundant Mirrored volume, while storage is on cheaper RAID 5 volumes.  You have done this to keep a clean file system.  You have done this for faster recovery in a disaster recovery solution. Linux has a completely different partition scheme.  There are three partitions created by default, the / root directory (think C: in Windows), the /Swap directory, and the /home directory.  The Installer does give you the option to modify these upfront, but if you are not anticipating it or if you have to add storage later this can be complicated to change.  The /home directory will be used when you create a user.  This is where the users data will reside.

After choosing my disk layout, the setup continues and installs all the packages and binaries and I am presented with a “Setup is Complete” message.  The server is rebooted and you are presented with the initial set up screen:

Verify that your network settings are proper, then connect to your server using a web browser.  The rest of your server configuration will be done through the web browser. Connecting to the server with a browser prompts you to complete a setup wizard.  You are afforded a vary large and compelling set of options that you can configure and install.  The first phase of the setup wizard is the network mode:  Private server, secured by and External Firewall, Public Server for when the server is installed in a hostile environment,  and Gateway Mode which  includes a firewall application that requires 2 NICs, and has monitoring and policies reminiscent of ISA server.

After configuring the network setup portion, you are prompted to install security updates and register your system.  If you have a ClearOS account and serial number, this is where you enter it.  If you need to create an account, the installer lets you do it there.  Creating an account from the installer automatically grants you a 30 day trial.

The next setup phase is titled Configuration.  The wizard prompts you for an Internet Domain Name, a hostname, and Internet Host Name.  The steps are straight forward to configure the settings, but at this point you need to have some familiarity with DNS domain names but there is nothing here that is confusing for an experienced Systems Administrator.  After configuring DNS and your systems’ Hostname you  are prompted to select your account synchronization method: Standalone, Master or Slave.  The installer advises you to “choose wisely”, you only have one chance, so get it right the first time.  For this deployment I chose Standalone.  Standalone configures the server so that it will be the “ONLY” server in the network, Master indicates that it is the “PDC” and slave configures it to pull directory replication from another ClearOS Server.

The server then launched into the Marketplace.  The Marketplace is where you choose to install the productivity applications that you want to make your server do things.  At this point you could skip to the end and not install anything else, but you would have a very bare bones server.  The MarketPlace is the killer feature for me so far in ClearOS.  A complete and organized list of the Applications that you can install on the server, a detailed description of what the application does, its cost and its EULA.  The MarketPlace makes it very easy to know what you need to choose, even if going into the server install you don’t know what you need.  I choose to install the Directory Server, Password Policies, Print Server, Windows Networking, and the messaging solution Zarafa.  This provides what I believe to be the primary functions of a complete server solution for a small business; access Control file and print sharing, and a messaging solution.

For many Windows admins out there, the concept of having to add a Directory Server AND Windows networking is an unfamiliar concept.  The Directory Server is just that, an OpenLDAP deployment.  This is where your directory, users and groups are stored.  A directory server provides information on users, groups and systems.  The Windows Networking portion provides authentication services, file and print services, and Windows Domain functionality.

The final phase of the setup has you configure the DHCP sever for your network.  You can also make changes to the running DNS server, and allow SSH access to your server.  After these final pieces are configured, the setup wizard completes and you have an up and running ClearOS domain controller.  You are returned to the Dashboard where you can get an overview of your system.

Overall the process of the installation is painless.  There was never any point where I felt like I didn’t understand what I was choosing, or why I was choosing it.  I am not a fan of the disk partitioning wizard at the beginning, and there will be further discussion on that in the domain and file sharing section.  I did encounter a hiccup where the Windows networking would not start.  I had to Google for an answer and discovered that I needed to SSH into the server and delete a lock file, and re-initialize the Windows Networking.  There seems to be a race condition between OpenLdap and SAMBA that can result in initialization issues.   This is not an unknown issue in the Windows world either, so I cannot bring major fault to ClearOS for this.  ClearOs has developed a smooth, process based, wizard driven installation that really shines when it comes to setting up the product for the first time.


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Oct
8
Clear OS – An Alternative to SBS?
Posted by jeremy on 08 October 2012 11:25 AM

A six part series looking at ClearOS, one of the major commercial alternatives to Small Business Server.  This is part one in the series that provides an introduction and overview of the operating system.

Part One: Introduction.

With the current uncertainty of how the Windows Server 2012 Essentials will fill the niche left behind by the discontinuation of Windows Small Business Server there have been many discussions of alternate products and deployment options. The focus of these conversations has primarily been on deploying Windows Server Essentials or Server 2012 as an operating system.  The other major discussion has focused on deploying an on premises mail server solution such as Exchange, or Kerio, or moving to a cloud based solution such as Office 365.  I wanted to look at an alternative option to Microsoft products and see what other options were available.  One of these options is Clear OS.  Clear OS is a Linux distribution focused on providing a server solution for small business and education.

ClearOS Community is a cloud-connected Server, Network, and Gateway operating system designed for small and medium-sized organizations. You can think of it as a next generation small business server that you can install on hardware, in a virtual machine, or in the cloud. ClearOS comes with a Marketplace full of easy to install apps and the solution is a snap to configure thanks to the intuitive web-based interface.

http://www.clearfoundation.com/Software/overview.html

I wanted to install Clear OS and get a sense of whether this was a product I would recommend and deploy as an alternative to Small Business server.  I am going to evaluate the installation process, configuration, productivity software, messaging, and backup solutions.

One thing to consider when determining to deploy ClearOS is the cost.  First, realize that there are two major different versions: ClearOS Community and ClearOS Professional.  The Community version is free, while the paid version starts at $80.  The biggest difference between the Community version and the Professional version is that Professional includes paid support options, and professional applications such as Google Docs Sync and the Zarafa messaging platform.  While you can install these aps in the Community version, in the Professional version they are packaged for easy installation, and fully supported.  Security updates and patches are deployed and tested in the Professional version.

There are four different versions of the Professional version: Light, Basic, Standard and Premium.

http://www.clearcenter.com/Store/store.html

The differences in between these versions are the support levels, and applications that are included by default.  For this article, I tested the Standard version.  This includes support in its subscription, while the Light and Basic are per incident.  This version is $480 per year.  In addition, the mail server Zarafa carries a cost of Zarafa Professional Edition for ClearOS,  $24 per user/year.

I contacted support twice during my trial period.  I submitted my support request via the Clear Community portal and I had a response both times within two hours.  Working on a free trial, I was glad for the speedy response.  The second time, support acknowledged that what I was doing was cumbersome (enabling public folders) and that it should be enabled in the web configuration page.  They stated that they were submitting this as a feature request.

You can lower your subscription to a Light or Basic version, support becomes Per-incident at this subscription level.  If you are new to Linux, or this is your first ClearOS box, I can see that having support on demand as being valuable.  After becoming more familiar with its operation, if you do not use some of the additional features, you might go to a cheaper subscription.

I wrote this review to see if there was alternative platforms that would be a viable solution after Microsoft discontinued the Small Business Server product.  The intention was so that IT Professionals would have a clear view of the alternatives.  Other than contacting tech support through normal channels, Clear OS was not involved in this review in any way.  On paper, Clear OS presents a viable option to SBS Server.  The features and packaging are a complete collaboration, file sharing, and messaging platform.  The included options of firewall and gateway anti-virus bring an additional value add to the ClearOs platform.   It is a cost effective solution where the subscription model allows for a low upfront investment.  Tech support is prompt and the answers are on target.  Continue on to part two to see about the installation process and hardware requirements.


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Jul
23
The Spirit of SBS
Posted by cliff on 23 July 2012 04:33 AM

Unless you’ve been living off the grid, chances are you know that Microsoft has been putting out a stream of announcements over the last month. And if you are a trusted advisor in the SMB space, chances are good that some of those announcements will impact your business. In particular, the reaction to changes with the new 2012 server lineup has been quite strong.
 
Many SMB specialists are angry, as witnessed by comments to this announcement on the SBS Team Blog. You can read the post and the comments. There are plenty of people that were caught by complete surprise and are quite emotional about the decisions made and the new directions Microsoft is going.
 
Then there are the pundits and the prognosticators that saw some of these changes on the horizon. Karl Palachuk, for example, has said that these changes and Microsoft’s decisions aren’t about you. His insight is interesting and I encourage you to read this post on the subject. And while I agree with his logic, that can be a bitter pill when the ramifications will impact you and your business plans.
 
With all the changes and comments, I have been reminiscing and I’ve decided to put my thoughts into actions. Where some people have written about these SMB changes from a Microsoft perspective, and others have written from a partner perspective, I felt that there is an untold story and one perspective that is missing. And hopefully with this post, I can start that story. It will not be completed with one post. Nor will it be completed by me. But this is a call to action. A kicking off point. I write this in hopes that people will view these changes through a new lens and find new hope moving foward.
 
But each story must have a beginning, and this one starts in the late 90s with SBS 4.
 
What if I told you that SBS, as a product, were a failure? You’d probably call me nuts. You’d point to great sales, a passionate base, and plenty of evidence to its success. And while those are indeed successes in their own right, SBS as it was envisioned was a failure. Indulge me for a moment while I explain…
 
When SBS first was announced, it was marketed as a do-it-yourself server solution for a small business owner. It was, in part, intended to reach an audience that didn’t have a relationship through a traditional partner channel. In fact, existing partners felt like their business model was being threatened. Sound familiar? Microoft built a solution that they wanted to get into a new market. One where the small business owner was unwilling to pay for a technology advisor. The ads that were taken out, the venues that it was advertised in, and the message that was crafted was all about the non-technical user.
 
Of course that strategy was inherently flawed. Built on NT4, SBS could not hope to streamline the hot mess that was NT in the pre-Active Directory days. SBS 4 did not succeed at its primary goal; being a DIY server solution. Windows 2000 brought Active Directory with Group Policies, and with all of the added complexities they offered. SBS 2000 again tried to streamline it, but with an attempt to reduce the complexity came the unfortunate reduction in flexibility. Exchange 2003 was *finally* a first-class messaging platform, but with that newfound power came yet more complexity. Again SBS 2003 was given the task of reigning that complexity in, but it did so at some other expenses.
 
With each SBS revision, SBS became harder for a non-IT person to manage. At the same time, it became so customized and different from “standard” servers that enterprise or independent IT professionals also struggled to properly manage SBS. SBS became a product that required a specialty: SBS specialists were the only people who advocated SBS. How many SBS servers have you seen broken because someone tried to follow their “enterprise” ideas of best practices?
 
I’m not bashing SBS. While I had not particular love for SBS 4, it has grown into a robust and worthwhile product. When held to the standard of what the product’s original vision was, however, it never achieved that goal. It failed. How could SBS be so successful despite that glaring fact? The simple answer is that some wise people saw the potential of this product even though it was being marketed to the wrong audience. They gathered and shared ideas. They provided their own fixes and solutions to fill holes in the product. Some of those holes were, if we are honest, rather large and gaping. Books were written. Information was shared. Entire companies, such as SMBNation and SBSMigration.com were born. If you think that releasing SBS 2003 without a better migration story was a fairly significant oversight then you might want to take a moment and take an honest look at this beloved product.
 
If SBS, any version, were a truly perfect product, it wouldn’t need an SBS Specialist. It wouldn’t need people rallying around it. It wouldn’t need conferences, 3rd-party products, and user groups. It’d just…exist. The failure of SBS is also the reason for its many successes. And that isn’t a bad thing!
 
Therein lies the story I want to be told. SBS cannot credit its successes solely to Microsoft. It was a collective effort of thousands of voices that didn’t rely on Microsoft to tell them how to succeed back then. They paved their own path. I don’t want to sell Microsoft short either. It certainly helped that Microsoft had the vision back then to embrace this emerging community and encourage their success. And without that encouragement, things may have turned out quite differently. But by no means does Microsoft, nor any individual, deserve any credit either. It was a a group effort. It was the focal point and spark that created a community that has endured time.
 
So I will leave this post with these final few thoughts which I hope will inspire a new future.
 
SBS of yesterday was successful not because of the product. Nor because of Microsoft. But because of the commnity that was built around it.
 
SBS 2011 today is still a great product. If you attended one of the SMB MVP Community Roadshows, you may have seen how this product fits. Just because there is a new line of 2012 servers being released doesn’t suddenly make SBS 2011 less suitable. If it is the right solution, continue to embrace it!
 
As far as tomorrow goes…that future is unwritten. There has been a debate about the aging of the SMB community. In my opinion, the problem isn’t that the pool of talent for the SMB community is getting older, itis that the SMB community is struggling to engage in the younger talent. The new community is simply more versatile. They use iPads and Android phones. They run Macbooks and stream Netflix over Roku boxes. They are technically savvy, but haven’t dedicated themselves to one product. As the existing SMB community looks at the challenges that we see moving foward, finding ways to pull in those new voices can be beneficial.  This is a challenge that the SMB community must meet and conquer.
 
And finally, if you are one that says you don’t have time to learn something new and this is killing your business; you don’t have to learn this stuff alone! The best communities are the ones that thrive on sharing knowledge. Let someone else take 2 months to learn about IPv6 and then teach you in two hours. In turn, take two months and learn Hyper-V and then teach them. Just as I feel that the SMB community is struggling to grab the interest of younger talent, I see a trend towards complacency in sharing knowledge. We need to come together, recommit, and re-assert ourselves to learning new technical skills, not just new sales strategies.
 
I look at the future and I see an environment that is ripe for a community revival. This is the shock to the system that I think has been long overdue, and I for one am excited to see what happens. I don’t have to agree with every Microsoft decision. Nor do I have to let Microsoft dictate the best solution for my customers. We can build our own solutions and we can hope that, like before, Microsoft will see the value of engaging the SMB community again and make that job easier. But as long as we look to a single vendor or product to solve all of our problems for us, we will leave our business at their mercy.
 
So go to national and regional technical conferences. Start learning new skills. Engage with your vendor sales reps. They talk to businesses like yours all over the country and while they clearly have a goal of selling their product, they also have insight and resources that you can leverage. Join an IT Pro group. If your local area is large enough, make sure it is SMB oriented. If there is no such group, start one! Each one of these suggestions is about engaging with your peers, not as competitors, but as colleagues who are facing similar challenges. My call to action for you is to revitalize the community roots that were always the TRUE spirit behind SBS. It is time we find that spirit again.


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