Dude, where'd my Windows Server edition go?

Microsoft has dropped its 'easy' WHS and SBS server editions to push its cloud offerings -- and that's a good move

Did anyone else miss the memo that Windows Server options like Windows Home Server (WHS) and Small Business Server (SBS) were axed? I run WHS at home and have several clients running some flavor of SBS, and in the past week, I went to check with Microsoft to see when the next versions were coming. The folks there were surprised I hadn't hear the news (last year!) about the products' demise.

Well, there's no time like the present to get caught up on what was dropped and what remains. There are now four editions of Windows Server 2012: Datacenter, Standard, Essentials, and Foundation. WHS, SBS, Enterprise, High Performance Computing (HPC), or Web Windows Server editions are no more, though HPC users can still grab the new HPC Pack 2012 through a free download. WHS and SBS were discontinued because Microsoft appears to be focusing on cloud-delivered versions like Office 365 for your Exchange/SharePoint and cloud-based backup.

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If you were an SBS user, Microsoft has an olive branch of sorts: The Essentials edition of Windows Server 2012 has a 25-user limit and a low price tag (roughly $500). With that option, a small business can go with Office 365 to provide Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync for users rather than opt for in-house SBS.

Here's the key information on the surviving Windows Server editions:

Edition

Features

License Model

Price

Datacenter

Unlimited virtual instances (all features)

Processor + CAL

$4,800

Standard

Two virtual instances (all features)

Processor + CAL

$880

Essentials

Two processors (limited features)

Windows Server

25-user limit

$500

Foundation

One processor (limited features)

Windows Server

15-user limit

OEM only

When considering the features, note that BranchCache, Windows Server Manager, and PowerShell are available in all editions, while Windows Server Core is available only in the Datacenter and Standard editions. As for specific server roles, see the comparison in the Microsoft Windows Server 2012 Licensing Data Sheet.

Even if you have fewer than 25 users, I recommend paying the extra $400 for the Standard editions -- and never purchase Essentials or Foundation. Not only are your hands tied with those two versions when it comes to the likes of Hyper-V (a necessity in my world and a missing role I frankly don't understand -- after all, even Windows 8 includes Hyper-V), but I don't appreciate how many items are automatically installed and configured, like DNS and IIS.

If you're now running Windows Home Server, paying $900 is a bit steep. You might consider not having a home server at all. Instead, go with cloud-based file sharing and backup (the key uses for Home Server) to make sure your data is safe and accessible from practically any device.

Also, if you're running Windows Home Windows Server 2011 on a system like the HP MediaSmart Server, don't upgrade that server to a different Windows Server edition, such as 2012. Such servers lack a VGA port, but Windows Server 2012 requires you have a VGA-attached monitor to configure it. You cannot remote into the server because nothing is configured -- you'll brick your server if you perform such an upgrade. Fortunately, there's a debug board you can buy to retrofit a VGA-less server, so you can install Windows Server 2012, Ubuntu, or whatever you want.

I know many WHS fans and SBS fans won't like to hear this, but if it ain't makin' money, it's gotta go -- "no money, no honey," as they say. Microsoft is simplifying its offerings, and bringing the number of options from 12 down to four is a smart move. In the end, it'll be easier to figure out licensing and the best fit. If you've worked with SBS or WHS, you know that while they're made easy in some ways, they also require you to learn all sorts of workarounds and new ways of doing things because they don't operate in the same as the rest of the Windows Server family.

I, for one, won't be mourning the loss of WHS and SBS.

This story, "Dude, where'd my Windows Server edition go?," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of J. Peter Bruzzese's Enterprise Windows blogand follow the latest developments in Windows at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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