Windows Server Essentials replaced Microsoft's Small Business Server (SBS) product line and offered an entry-level package for small businesses with up to 25 users and 50 devices. SBS included entry-level versions of Windows Server, Exchange, SharePoint and SQL Server for provisioning a local, small-scale datacenter. Unlike SBS, Windows Server Essentials does not include a bundle of application servers but provides a light version of Windows Server intended to be installed locally and capable of hosting in-house servers and applications. Windows Server Essentials is also designed also to connect seamlessly with Microsoft Azure cloud-based applications and services such as Microsoft 365, Dynamics CRM and Microsoft Azure Backup, which are available on a subscription basis.
Windows Server Essentials was introduced with Windows Server 2012. The final release was Windows Server 2019 Essentials. Microsoft recommends that small business customers migrate to Microsoft 365 as a cloud-connecerd replacement for all versions of Windows Server Essentials. (Learn about Progent's Microsoft Azure planning and cloud integration consulting services and Microsoft 365 integration with on-premises Exchange.)
With key features including client backup capability, Remote Web Access, and a management Dashboard, Windows Server Essentials offers small organizations a protected, anywhere-accessible, and easy-to-manage platform for supporting a mix of on-premises and cloud-based computing resources and can safely support local users, telecommuters, and mobile BYOD workers running a variety of smart phones, tablets, and netbooks. Close integration with the Microsoft Azure cloud makes it possible for small organizations to leverage Microsoft's world-class IT infrastructure for maximum uptime, advanced disaster recovery, and on-demand scale without the capital investment and management complexity associated with a modern in-house datacenter.
Progent's Microsoft-certified consultants offer cost-effective online consulting and troubleshooting services for all versions of Windows Server Essentials from 2012 to 2019. Progent can help you maintain your current deployment of WS Essentials and Progent can also provide comprehensive project management services to help you plan and carry out an efficient migration from Windows Server Essentials to Microsoft 365. To help small businesses derive the highest possible business value from WS Essentials, Progent also offers Help Desk Call Center services, IT management outsourcing, Exchange consulting, SharePoint application development, and SQL Server integration support.
Features of WS 2012 R2 Essentials
Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials is a scaled-down OS compared to the Standard or Datacenter editions of Windows Server 2012 R2. The regular release of WS 2012 R2 Essentials is designed and priced to support 25 users, 250 RRAS connections, 64GB RAM, two CPU sockets, and a single DFS root. WS 2012 R2 Essentials allows either one virtual machine or one physical server, includes Internet Information Services (IIS) and supports BranchCache. WS 2012 R2 Essentials does not include a Server Core mode or Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS).
WS 2012 R2 Essentials was available in either the Standard or Datacenter editions of Windows Server 2012 R2 as the new Windows Server Essentials Experience server role. This implementation offers the value-added features of Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials such as the management Dashboard and Client Computer Backup, but includes features missing from the regular addition such as unlimited users and connections plus the inclusion of Hyper-V, server core, and ADFS. Another innovative feature of Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials is an expanded license that allows you to run one Essentials instance on a physical server running Hyper-V, and a second instance of Essentials as a virtual Machine on the same physical server. A wizards-based process makes it easy to deploy Essentials as a VM, and this implementation lets you benefit from advanced Hyper-V features like Hyper-V Replica and Live Migration.
Although Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials is positioned as an entry-level operating system, it has the components required for being the foundation for a powerful IT ecosystem for small organizations thanks to advanced data protection, easy management, comprehensive support for remote access, and tight cloud integration. These features address critical drivers of IT costs and productivity and help WS 2012 R2 Essentials deliver significant business value within the modern paradigm of hybrid local/cloud-based computing.
WS 2012 R2 Essentials enables full system backups and bare-metal recovery of both the Essentials server and network-connected client computers. Volumes can now be larger than 2 TB. You can schedule daily or more frequent backups and access the Dashboard remotely to manage backups. Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials supports the new File History feature of Windows 10, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 client computers, which provides self-service recovery for users who inadvertently delete or overwrite files.
Three backup options are available. Server Backup backs up your server running Essentials to an external USB drive and can restore individual files and folders on the server or perform a full system restore. Client Computer Backup backs up network-connected client computers to the Essentials server and can restore individual files and folders from the server or perform a full system restore of a client computer. Microsoft Azure Backup performs an online backup of files or folders on the Essentials server. Data is encrypted using your passphrase before being uploaded to a secure datacenter on the Internet. With incremental backups, only changes to files are transferred to the cloud, saving time and storage.
The Server Backup feature supports Hyper-V VSS Writer for backing up volumes. To create a disaster recovery solution, you can use Windows Server Backup to replicate Hyper-V virtual machines from a primary site to a cloud replica site and recover from a local datacenter failure in minutes. This deployment is simple to configure and manage and automatically handles live migration for maximum uptime.
The Storage Spaces feature of Windows Server 2012 R2 is supported in Essentials, allowing you to aggregate the storage capacity of multiple drives into a massive virtual drive, add drives to the pool on the fly, and create data volumes with defined resilience levels. A storage pool can include a mix of internal or external USB, SATA, SAS or solid state disk (SSD) drives, and you can use parity or mirroring modes with Storage Spaces for advanced fault tolerance.
The Health Reports feature is now integrated with Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials and no longer requires an add-in. This integrated health monitoring and reporting function automatically tracks the security status of servers and clients and sends alerts to designated managers when issues appear. Alerts include the severity level of the detected issue and offer suggestions for remediation.
Simple and Unified Management
A rich set of server and network management features are included with Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials. Two powerful tools are the Dashboard and the Launchpad.
The Dashboard simplifies admin tasks for managing the Essentials network and server. Functions accessible via the Dashboard include:
Secure Remote Access
Remote Web Access (RWA) makes it easy to set up and use a virtual private network (VPN) connection to a Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials network. RWA's web-based interface works with all popular browsers on virtually any device and allows authorized remote users to establish a VPN connection to the computers and applications on their Windows Server Essentials network, open the management Dashboard, and access shared folders and media files on the Essentials server. RWA eliminates the need for administrators to set up a separate VPN server or for remote workers to configure and run VPN client software on their computers. The Connector feature can trigger automatic VPN dialing for clients who are joined to the domain, allowing off-site users always to be connected to Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials.
The My Server app for Windows, a free download from the Microsoft Store, allows Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials clients with a Windows-based PC, laptop, or Surface device to work with files offline and automatically syncs files when the client's computer connects to the Essentials server. The My Server app shows file synchronization status and conflicts, provides light administration features, and displays users, devices, and alerts. With the expanded My Server 2012 R2 app, you can connect to the Essentials server or to client computers via Remote Desktop. If your Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials server is integrated with Office 365 SharePoint Online, you can use My Server 2012 R2 to work with documents in your SharePoint Online libraries and open your SharePoint team sites.
A hybrid computing environment allows small businesses to use a physically isolated on-site server for protecting sensitive data, which may be required for compliance, and for running specialized applications. At the same time, the hybrid model avoids the complications and costs of maintaining local Exchange, SharePoint, web, and communications servers. Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials supports the hybrid computing model through tight integration with Microsoft's cloud-based services and applications. You can integrate Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials with Microsoft online services, including Microsoft Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), Office 365, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, and Windows Intune. Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials includes an integration module that allows you to manage user accounts across local Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials and online Office 365 environments from within the Essentials Dashboard.
With Office 365 integration, when you create your user accounts in Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials an associated Office 365 mailbox is automatically created simultaneously. User passwords are synchronized between the Essentials server and the Office 365 service so users sign on the same way whether accessing local or cloud-based resources. Office 365 integration also allows you to manage SharePoint Online libraries and storage plus Office 365 distribution groups from within the Essentials Dashboard and simplifies SharePoint permission management. In addition, integration with Office 365 allows you to manage popular smart phones and tablets, supporting functions that include viewing connected devices, configuring password policy, enabling or blocking a device's access, and remotely wiping a mobile device.
Later Versions of Windows Server Essentials
After releasing Windows Server 2012 Essentials, Microsoft brought out Windows Server 2016 Essentials followed by Windows Server 2019 Essentials. These newer versions added Azure integration but ultimately removed the crucial Administrative Dashboard from the Essentials Experience Role. This means that all management and configuration must be performed manually. This also eliminates the client backup and remote web access features. Microsoft recommends that small businesses using Windows Server Essentials move to Microsoft 365. Progent's Windows Server experts can help you plan and implement an efficient migration from any version of Windows Essentials to Microsoft 365.
How Progent's Consultants Can Help You with Windows Server Essentials
All releases of Windows Server Essentials are value-priced, feature-rich platforms that allow small businesses to make the move from the traditional in-house datacenter to the modern hybrid networking model that combines local and cloud-based resources. This transition can be challenging for organizations who lack the in-house technical skills required to design, deploy and manage an optimal hybrid solution. The experience of Progent's Microsoft-certified consulting team can help you assess the value of Windows Server Essentials for your business, design a network that meets your current and future needs, implement a cost-effective hybrid ecosystem, and provide ongoing consulting and troubleshooting support.
Progent's information technology consultants can provide a broad range of online and onsite services to support a small business network built around Windows Server Essentials. Services available from Progent to support your Essentials solution include:
Contact Progent for Help with Microsoft Small Business Server
For more information about Progent's consulting services for Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials, call