Welcome to Windows Server 2012 Essentials

Server2012eLogoLast week, Microsoft announced this new edition of Windows Server 2012 called Windows Server 2012 Essentials.

This new edition replaces Windows Small Business Server (both the Standard and the Essentials editions) as well as the now defunct Windows Home Server.

What makes this release interesting is it shows what Microsoft’s strategy is around the “first server” space. It used to be that the preferred solution was the monolithic Small Business Server. Everything that a business needed was on one physical box. Exchange was there for email, SharePoint was there for collaboration, and being that it’s a Windows box, line of business applications could be installed.  However, with the huge bet that Microsoft is making on the cloud, they are doing away with SBS Standard and building on the Colorado platform (SBS Essentials and Windows Home Server).

Windows Server 2012 Essentials is really Windows Small Business Server 2012 Essentials, but Microsoft is killing off the Small Business Server branding and positioning Essentials as a core edition of the broad Windows Server family. Let’s dig in and learn more about this version of Windows Server.

Windows Server 2012 Essentials is aimed at small and mid-size businesses. It supports up to 25 users and up to 50 devices.  The design of Essentials is that of a hybrid infrastructure. File sharing, line-of-business applications, and other things live on-premise, but Microsoft wants you to use Office 365, and Essentials can integrate and federate to Office 365 right out of the box. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t run Exchange on-premise. You can, and Essentials will integrate with your Exchange server as well, but it would have to run on separate hardware or in a separate VM (depending on how you setup your infrastructure).

Being as Essentials is the evolution of Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials, features such as full PC backup and restore, Remote Web Access, add-in extensibility, and network alerting live on and in some cases are even improved.

New to Windows Server 2012 Essentials are the following features:

  • Support for DirectAccess and VPN access
  • With Storage Spaces adding storage becomes painless and easy
  • Remote Web Access has been refreshed and has a new tablet mode for easier navigation on tablet devices.
  • Bare-metal backup and restore of the server
  • Support for backup of volumes larger than 2 terabytes
  • Windows 8 Metro-style app for accessing company data stored on a Windows Server 2012 Essentials server
  • Integration with cloud or on-premise Exchange services

According to Microsoft’s edition listing for Windows Server 2012 Essentials, the Open No Level pricing is $425 USD, CALs not required.

I’d strongly encourage anyone interested, to try out the public beta, which Microsoft has released.

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