Inside Microsoft's high-performance NAS for small businesses

Windows Storage Server Essentials has the ease of Windows Home Server but supports more users, offers more capabilities, and comes on better hardware

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Of course, if you have more than 10 users, you might be looking at some kind of line-of-business support, which means Small Business Server Essentials would be a better choice for on-premise Active Directory access security than WSS Essentials. But if you simply need client backup and centralized storage, WSS Essentials nicely fits the bill. And the domain join allows you to migrate to more capable server product if you later require more advanced capabilities.

Microsoft loves providing multiple versions of its products, which can be confusing. That's the case for Windows Storage Server and its three other versions beyond WSS Essentials:

  • WSS 2008 R2 Workgroup, which features block storage (iSCSI Software Target 3.3) -- important for application servers such SQL and Exchange.
  • WSS 2008 R2 Standard, which includes all the features of WSS Essentials and WSS Workgroup, plus has unlimited capacity and user seats; can work as a branch office server as a read-only domain controller with WINS, DNS and, DHCP support; and comes with single-instance storage (SIS) capabilities.
  • WSS 2008 R2 Enterprise, which includes all the features of WSS Standard and allows for high-availability clustering and BranchCache technology.

Microsoft has published the nitty-gritty details at its TechNet site.

I have to admit that from my vantage point as an admin who typically builds his own boxes (or buys expensive hardware) and installs the software himself, I didn't see the need for WSS Essentials. But from a small-business perspective, you want it to be easy and you want it to be supported should something go wrong. If my tailored server setup breaks, it all falls to me to fix. For many small businesses, that is a deal breaker, so support from the vendor is a big plus for a WSS Essentials box.

Pricing is also an issue for many small businesses that simply can't afford people like me. Microsoft suggests that a WSS Essentials system will be cheaper than even buying your own hardware and installing Wimdows Home Server, due to aggressive discounts Microsoft gives to PC makers that sell WSS Essentials servers.

The trick for customers is to know they're even getting WSS Essentials. That's because buyers may not even see the WSS Essentials name in the hardware product names, as each PC maker is using its own names for these hardware-and-software systems. But whatever a WSS Essentials box is callled when they begin shipping in the coming weeks, I believe this entry-level NAS option will carve out its own space in between Server and Small Business Server.

This article, "Inside Microsoft's high-performance NAS for small businesses," was originally published at Read more of J. Peter Bruzzese's Enterprise Windows blog and follow the latest developments in Windows at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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