Is Windows Server 2012 Essentials Really `Essential’?

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What does WS 2012 Essentials hold in store?


1. Roles and features of Windows Server 2012 are included that are configured

automatically according to best practices for small business environments.

2. Storage spaces, which allow you to have a finer degree of control over how

you logically manage different physical storage media.

3. Server and client backups, including support for volumes larger than 2

terabytes and the File History feature of Windows 8 clients.

4. Remote web access, including touch-friendly browser experience for accessing applications and data. There is also a Windows Phone app and a modern UI app available for Windows 8 clients.

5. Simplified VPN set-up, allowing to establish a connection quickly in less steps than earlier.

6. Health monitoring for both clients and servers.

7. Extensibility. Allows other software vendors to add capabilities and features to the core product, and adds a new set of Web Services APIs. It also maintains

compatibility with the existing software development kit (SDK) and Add-Ins created for Windows SBS 2011 Essentials.

What do you get in `Exchange' for WS 2012 Essentials?

One of the key drawbacks with WS 2012 Essentials is that it does not include any bundled product for messaging and collaboration, unlike previous versions of SBS Standard, where Exchange Server was a component product. You would either need to have a separate copy of Exchange Server installed on-premise, or go for a hosted Exchange service or other collaboration and messaging products like Office 365.

Microsoft defends this change by terming it as a workload flexibility feature. However, there is nothing denying the fact that this has implications for regulatory requirements. If you are required to store records on-site, moving to a hosted solution is not the answer. In addition, users of Windows Home Server may need to go for WS 2012 Essentials because the consumer-focused features, such as support for DLNA compliant devices and media streaming, have now been included in WS 2012 Essentials instead and no further version

of WHS is planned.


Which client operating systems are supported?

Unfortunately, neither of XP and Vista. You need to have either 7 or 8 installed on the client systems. In case the client is a Mac, it must have at least Mac OS X version 10.5.

What are the limitations of WS 2012 Essentials?

Up to 25 users and 50 devices are supported, which, although is higher than the user account limit in Windows Server Foundation, might become a bottleneck in expansion if transitioning to higher editions of WS 2012 is not feasible, though in-place upgrades to WS 2012 Standard are allowed. However, WS 2012 Essentials can be used as the primary server in a multi-server environment.

You also need to keep in mind that as with all other editions of WS 2012, WS 2012 Essentials too is 64-bit only, which was a change Microsoft introduced with WS 2008 R2 (which has no 32-bit variant).


Comparison with WS Foundation

WS Foundation too is an SMB-focused solution, but in addition to the difference in user account limit as mentioned above, there are further differences. For

instance, if you have very limited IT skills available in-house and are considering to make use of online services for your day-to-day business operations, WS 2012 Essentials is a better option, whereas with WS Foundation, there is higher

flexibility for fine-tuning and tweaking, which, although requires expertise, allows for customization to specific requirements as opposed to WS 2012 Essentials which aims to be closer to a `one-size-fits-all' solution for SMBs.


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