90% (“one nine”)
99% (“two nines”)
99.9% (“three nines”)
99.99% (“four nines”)
99.999% (“five nines”)
99.9999% (“six nines”)
99.99999% (“seven nines”)
With companies accepting the advantages of hosted Exchange, SharePoint and Lync or going to business Gmail accounts if they don’t need those other services, Windows Server Essentials begins to make more sense for small businesses.
Introducing Windows Server Essentials
When Windows Server 2012 was released, it came in four different editions: Foundation, Datacenter, Standard and Essentials. Foundation edition, limited to 15 users and 50 RRAS connections, was only available to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and could not be bought at retail. Datacenter edition was available through volume licensing and OEMs. For small organizations, the choice was between the Standard and Essentials editions, both available through retail channels.
Essentials is limited to 25 users and 250 RRAS connections, whereas Standard supports an unlimited number of both. Standard edition also allows for many more processors and more RAM, and includes Active Directory Federation Services, Hyper-V and the ability to install in server core mode, none of which are supported by Essentials. Other than Hyper-V and perhaps server core, these are things that almost no small businesses would ever need.
In addition to a lower cost, one of the main benefits of Essentials is its simplified management, which can be done through a touch-friendly web interface. Essentials is also integrated with Office 365 to make it easy for small businesses to incorporate those services with their Active Directory. However, if the nature of your business (or your personal preference) dictates that you keep your email services on-premises, Essentials also integrates with Exchange 2013. Microsoft offered a supported migration path from SBS to Server 2012 Essentials plus Exchange 2013.
In November 2013, Microsoft released the R2 version of Windows Server Essentials, along with other editions of Windows Server 2012 R2. Interestingly, in Windows Server 2012 R2, the company provides the ability to install the “Windows Server Essentials Experience” as a server role when you install the Standard or Datacenter edition. What this does is give you the dashboard, remote web access and other features that were unique to the Essentials edition, but without the limitations on the number of users and connections and with the features (ADFS, Hyper-V, server core) that Server Essentials lacks.
Microsoft also introduced a number of new features and functionalities in the regular Server Essentials edition and made improvements to many of the existing features. Server and client deployment options were improved, and there are new functionalities for managing users and groups, storage, data protection and more. We will be looking at some of those additions and enhancements in Part 2 of this article.
When Windows Server Essentials first came out, there was a great deal of disappointment in the small business ranks, but both the consultants who deploy it for customers and the small companies themselves are now realizing that it has a lot to offer and can save them money, even though it doesn’t include all the on-premises server applications that were a part of SBS.
In this multi-part article, we’re delving into its benefits, its limitations and how it can be used to best advantage in some common small business scenarios. In Part 2, we’ll look a more detailed look at some of the enhanced and new features in Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials that can give small business admins more flexibility and control over their networks.
If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to:
- Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials: A Better Solution than you Thought (Part 2)
- Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials: A Better Solution than you Thought (Part 3)