Interesting Bits of Windows Server 2012 Essentials Information For SBS Customers

The goal of the product is to give an economic server OS for small businesses, with the flexibility to choose between on-premises (such as Exchange) and cloud (such as Office365) solutions.

SBS 2011 Essentials becomes Windows Server 2012 Essentials, a similar product that scales up to 25 users and 50 devices.  A small percentage of SBS customers had more than 25 users.

The question is: will you migrate your customers to Office 365, another cloud, or find an alternative to Exchange?

Available Roles and Features

Out of the box, the following roles/features are available in WS2012 Essentials:

  • AD Certificate Services (installed/configured)
  • AD Domain Services (installed/configured)
  • AD Lightweight Directory Services
  • AD RMS (requires RMS CALs)
  • Application (installed/configured)
  • DHCP Server
  • DNS Server
  • Fax Server
  • File Services (installed/configured)
  • Network Policy and Access Services (installed/configured)
  • Print and Doc Services
  • Remote Desktop Services (installed/configured and requires RDS CALs)
  • UDDI Services
  • Web Services (installed/configured)
  • Windows Deploy Services
  • WSUS

Normally WS2012 Essentials does not require CALs.  The only exceptions are if you choose to use Remote Desktop Services (RDS – widely used) or Rights Management Services (RMS – rarely used).

Features described in the FAQ

Here are some features of Windows Server 2012 Essentials from the WS2012 Essentials FAQ:

  • Windows Phone App: Remote Web Access provides a stream-lined, touch-friendly browser experience for accessing applications and data from virtually anywhere they have an Internet connection using almost any device. Windows Server 2012 Essentials also provides an updated Windows Phone app and a new Metro app for Windows 8 clients, allowing users to intuitively connect to, search across, and access files and folders on the server.
  • VPN: Windows Server 2012 Essentials turns setting up virtual private networking (VPN) into a painless wizard-driven process of just a few clicks, and simplifies the management of VPN access for users. Client computers can leverage a VPN connection to remotely join the Essentials environment without the need to come into the office.
  • Choose our email solution: customers can take advantage of the same integrated management experience whether they choose to run an on-premises copy of Exchange Server, subscribe to a hosted Exchange service, or subscribe to Office 365.
  • Storage Spaces: [this] feature allows customers to aggregate the physical storage capacity of disparate hard drives, dynamically add hard drives, and to create volumes with specified levels of resilience.
  • Improved Backup: Windows Server 2012 Essentials can perform complete system backups and bare-metal restores of the server itself as well as the client computers connected to the network – now with support for volumes larger than 2 terabytes [thank VHDX for that!].
  • Windows Online Backup: The Microsoft Online Backup Service can be used to protect files and folders in a cloud-based storage service that is managed by Microsoft.
  • Windows 8 File History: Essentials also centrally manages and configures the new File History feature of Windows 8 clients, helping users to recover from accidently deleted or overwritten files without requiring administrator assistance.

Some Upgrade Paths from SBS with Software Assurance

  • If you have Software Assurance on Small Business Server 2011 Essentials, you will receive one Windows Server 2012 Essentials license.
  • If you have Software Assurance on Small Business Server 2011 Standard edition, you will receive one Windows Server 2012 Standard edition license and one Exchange Server Standard 2010 license.
  • If you have Software Assurance on Small Business Server 2011 Premium Add-on edition, you will receive one Windows Server 2012 Standard edition license and one SQL Server 2012 Standard edition license.

I’m no SBS expert, but it seems to me that existing customers with SA will retain the same functionality through the upgrade.  But I can envision there being a price jump if they are on annuity licensing for SBS Standard/Premium (we’ll have to see the price lists to judge it).  They will have to choose between existing on-premises product and cloud-based product.

Opinions of the SBS Community?

It’s the MSFT partners that are this community.  Based on the online comments, let’s just say they aren’t too pleased.  It’s early days so I’ve yet to hear from local partners.

7 thoughts on “Interesting Bits of Windows Server 2012 Essentials Information For SBS Customers”

  1. Microsoft appears to be fumbling WSUS on SBS Essentials 2012 pretty badly. If having WSUS is important to you (I don’t know of any sane Windows admin that would want a network of more than a few Windows machines to NOT have WSUS), I would encourage everyone to file feedback per kariya21’s post dated September 13th.

    Thread: “Why can’t WSUS 3.0 SP2 be installed on Windows Server 2012 Essentials?” on MS Social forum:

  2. I would say “not too happy” would be an understatement with regards to how resellers and VARs feel about the upgrade path from SBS 2011 Standard to Windows Server 2012 and Exchange 2010. The cost of the server liceses are 40% more expenses, and the CALs are 45% more expensive than they were for SBS 2011.

    Microsoft has left most small business out in the cold. Small businesses are cost conscious, and I cannot believe how Microsoft is ignoring this large segment. This will cause companies to look for alternatives.

  3. I must say that I agree with above post… Beeing a part time SBS specialist, price tag is becoming a concern when it used to be an argument…
    too bad MS isn’t really taking this segment into concern, SBS used to be THE solution for 5 to 25 users SMBs, and while i’m really impressed and pleased with WS2012, i don’t see it as a perfect fit for SMBs…time will tell!

    1. Windows Server 2012 Essentials is still there for that <25 users <50 devices market. It just looks like vNext of SBS 2011 Essentials to me.

  4. I think as IT professionals / consultants we need to take a step back and look at the true market. Many small business in the past have hired consultants like us to setup SBS type installations because at the time it was what made the most since. Now with so many cloud based approaches, it seems difficult to justify in house / on premise server solutions. Yes I know there are exceptions. With all of the cheap NAS hardware and cloud based file sync software just seems like overkill. Again, I know there are exceptions. As far as Server 2012 Essentials, I like it a lot. I can see this being perfect for an office setup with 10 + employees either in the medical, legal, or financial industry. Microsoft knows the industry is changing and going cloud. I don’t think they are dropping the ball, I think the support / consulting industry needs to re-educate, Microsoft has put together a nice package here. I was shocked how easy the VPN was. If you guys haven’t tried adding a Windows 8 machine to a Server 2012 Essentials setup I recommend trying it. Works great!

    BTW I do not like the office 365 exchange offering. ATM I’m finding google apps hard to beat when it comes to email.

  5. @Jeff – cloud just doesn’t cut it for many organizations. Aside from the monthly fee’s that never go away, there are significant issues with data security still – just look at the recent quagmire caused by the South Carolina Supreme Court.

    For a significant number of organizations, on premise is still highly desirable. I feel no rush since SBS 2011 will be supported for some time – but when it reaches EOL I have to say, solutions like Zimbra that have native Outlook integration are looking more and more appealing. I wouldn’t even be considering them had MS not literally slammed the door in my face and not given me an alternative.

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