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"I see SQL Is available in a version that offers web services - is that valid to me at all? Or am I good with just the MS SQL Express?"
>Sql express is just fine for start, if you are not happy stripped sql you can allways start to use other version and import db's there.
"Is MS Exchange going to function fine as the email server in CF, i.e., can I point it as the source in Administrator? I have the MX entry or whatever it's called from my ISP for faceitphoto.ca pointed to my static IP."
>yes you can. you can still use your isp mailserver if you dont want to use/maintain exchange.
"Most importantly, as per the title, how would you recommend setting this up? Should I buy XP Pro and run SQL under it, and CF under my Server 2003 with the mailserver (Exchange) running in the same environment? Is vmware the answer here?"
>same enviroment is fine. you can spend $ to dedicated sql box but why?
you can use wmvare too, it up to yours how you want to maintain you dev/prod enviroment.
"I want the OS/Apps drives all Ghosted when it's done (running, configured, current updates applied)."
>set some raid to your disks like 2 system disks and rest for data and/or apps.
wmvare and you can have easy machine images, it make life easy when troubles come..
if you do not select wmvare you can use symantec ghost software to create images
select some backup software and maybe external hd (network capable) where you do your daily backups
and firewall to protect your stuff!
Thank you VERY MUCH for the help with this.
I'd be much happier using Exchange than doing anything through an ISP, especially if that means I can configure Exchange once, check for securitiy occasionally, and otherwise simply be able to log into the web-based Outlook to check or send messages from my domain. I will have 2 groups of subscribers, I think, one who ask for notification when I update images in my gallery, and one when blog/comments are updated. Exchange hopefully will allow for that sort of thing, either automatically or even if I must create a distribution list and send such updates manually (which will hopefully make me less spam-like!).
My only concern with running everything under one OS is that I hear it's better for security reasons to physically separate things like your webserver and your web data and your email stuff...which I am willing to try out since my machine should have the power...but I don't have $3,500 for vmware, so I'd need to find a free/cheap solution to that end.
I'll study up on Ghost before I try to do the ghosting, after it's all running, updates and security applied, everything 'seeming' to work etc.
Thanks very much for your response, it was quite helpful.