Windows Server Essentials is the relatively new line of server software from Microsoft. Compared with its standard edition counterparts, Windows Sever 2012 Standard vs. Windows Server 2012 Essentials 2012, it offers a simplified licensing scheme, built-in integration with Office 365 hosted services, and included solutions for easy remote computer and file access. It offers a simplified installation experience, but following its provided installation instructions leaves many of the features of Windows Server non-functional. If ultimately, you decided that Windows Server 2012 is right for your organization, you should still have a professional handle it.
Windows Server 2012 Essentials licensing model is very simple; you can have up to 25 users, or 50 devices on your network. There are no additional licenses to buy for users, but 25 users is the limit. If you are approaching, or foresee approaching this mark in the next 5 years, it’s probably better for you to invest in the Standard software. It will cost more upfront, but having to do a migration project early will cost even more. With Standard, there’s no limit to the user count, but it only includes licensing for five users, you have to purchase Client Access Licenses (“CALs”) for every user (there is a “per device” option, but it’s not ideal for most organizations).
The most notable features of Windows Server Essentials are Remote Web Workplace and it’s ability to integrate with Office 365. If the Office 365 integration is set up, your users can log into their Office 365 services (Exchange Online, SharePoint, Lync, etc.) using their same computer password. This combination offers a great solution for small businesses that don’t want to put up the extra investment to have these services in-house. Remote Web Workplace is a Remote Desktop and remote file access solution that allows your users to connect to either their work computer or access your company’s shared files with just a few steps beyond logging into a website. In addition to these features, Windows Server 2012 Essentials offers almost all of the functionality of any version of Windows Server. This includes file sharing, print sharing, central logon, and a platform to run your internal services such as your accounting software or business management software.
For small organizations with a significant need for the services these servers provide, Windows Server 2012 Essentials is usually a great solution, so long as they are able to keep under the 25 user mark. We agree with Microsoft’s statement that it makes for an “ideal first server.” Windows Server 2012 Essentials should be on your short list if your organization is less than 25 users and you’re looking for a new server or replacing an existing one.