Windows Server 2012: Foundation vs. Essentials

While I ’ ll leave it to my more enterprise-focused compatriots at Windows IT Pro to dig deep on the mainstream Windows Server 2012 versions ( Standard and Datacenter ), I ’ meter more refer with the lower end of the market : small businesses and base offices. With previous Windows Server versions, Microsoft served this market segment with a bewildering range of intersection offerings. But this meter around, there are barely two : Windows Server 2012 Essentials and Foundation. The question is, Which makes the most sense for you ?
Spoiler alarm : I ’ ve chosen the elementary Windows Server 2012 Essentials for my own home office setup. But I ’ ve gotten some questions from readers about the semi-related Foundation edition : What are the differences ? And why might an organization choose one over the other ?
I ’ ll specify what I view as the most significant differences — adenine well as some of the similarities — in fair a moment. But what it boils depressed to, I think, is this : Whereas Essentials is aimed at organizations with absolutely no IT staff at all, Foundation assumes at least some in-company IT. ( See besides, “ Introducing Windows Server 2012 “ ).

That distinction alone doesn ’ thymine justify an entire article, however — so let ’ s dive a bit deep .
Licensing. Whereas both Essentials and Foundation are typically acquired as depart of a raw low-end server purchase, this is in fact the only way you can acquire Foundation. But enthusiasts or home users will be able to purchase Essentials at retail for about $ 425 and install it on their own hardware, and OEM and volume licensing versions will besides be available. In my tests, Essentials works fine with any Windows 7- or Windows 8 compatible PCs, so this is an interesting option for those looking to repurpose a previous personal computer when they upgrade. ( See besides, “ q : What are the versions of Windows Server 2012 and how do they differ ? “ ) .
Availability. Foundation shipped in September with Standard and Datacenter, although handiness is of course limited by the PC/server makers that provide it to customers. Essentials will RTM by the end of the year, although the near-final RC version I ’ ve been using is very stable and feature-complete .
Users. Essentials supports up to 25 users, whereas Foundation supports alone improving to 15 users .
Processor count. Essentials supports servers with up to two physical processors, whereas Foundation supports just one. ( Don ’ thyroxine confuse this with cores, however : Both support whatever phone number of cores your processors contain. )
Hyper-V. Neither products support the Hyper-V function, which was actually a impermanent stumble jam for my own installation. ( You can virtualize Essentials on Windows Server 2012 Standard or Datacenter, but not Foundation : Remember, it comes with new server hardware only. )

Active Directory. Both products support active Directory ( AD ) but approach this functionality in wholly different ways. With Essentials, you must create a sphere during apparatus ( which you can ’ t change late ). Foundation works like the mainstream Windows Server versions : You get a bare facility during setup and can then promote the server to a DC as you would normally. ( AD international relations and security network ’ t the only server service that Essentials installs for you : You besides get DNS, File Services, IIS Web Services, and Remote Desktop Services preinstalled and preconfigured, in order to support some Essentials-specific functionality I ’ ll describe in just a moment. )
Server Core. Neither product supports Server Core. But that makes common sense : No little clientele or home office would need such a thing .
Product focus. Aside from the miss of Hyper-V, Foundation is your basic crank adaptation of Windows Server 2012. That ’ south both dear and bad : It features the lapp dense management tools ( the sometimes nasty new Server Manager, for model ) as the mainstream editions. So it needs experienced IT pros to configure and manage it. Essentials, however, is about ampere simpleton as servers get : In addition to pre-configuring a sphere for you, Essentials has integrated file and media sharing, centralize personal computer backup ( Windows 7 and Windows 8 ) and net health monitor and report, distant and network access, simple Group Policy, and optional integration with Office 365 or hosted or on-premises Exchange Server. It ’ s the apparitional successor to Small Business Server, minus the on-premises Exchange, SharePoint, and SQL, in a nod toward the way today ’ s minor businesses actually work .
Management. Essentials includes a third-generation version of Microsoft ’ s excellent Dashboard management interface, which provides a friendly front end to most server administration needs. If you venture excessively far into the rabbit hole, you might need to run Server Manager or another traditional management cock, but for the most share you won ’ t need to. Foundation, as noted above, only includes these more complex management tools. It ’ s not something distinctive users could handle .
Upgrading. Both products can be upgraded to Windows Server 2012 Standard, in set, if the environment grows. This is fantastic, of course, but it has interesting ramifications in the case of Essentials, because of that intersection ’ s many alone built-in features ( such as centralized personal computer stand-in ). I ’ ll be reviewing Windows Server 2012 Essentials when the final interpretation ships, and I ’ ll have more data about these issues at that time .
OK, there ’ s probably more, but that ’ s the high-level farce. How do you choose between them ?

Returning to my original bespeak, you should choose Foundation only if you have at least some in-company IT staff and/or are comfortable outsourcing management to a Microsoft collaborator or solution provider. ( And, of course, if that company has 15 or fewer employees. ) Essentials makes more smell for those organizations with no IT staff at all, and I don ’ triiodothyronine see a huge commercialize for partners supporting Essentials .
The early way to look at this is that Essentials is, in my thinker, ideal for any mod startup of fair a few people. today ’ s startups will do email, calendaring, and collaboration in the cloud and won ’ thymine want expensive and complex on-premises servers. What Essentials brings to this party is on-site repositing ( with redundancy if you need it ), the centralized personal computer accompaniment stuff, simple distant access, and more. It ’ s basically a plug-and-play server appliance .
In my mind, it’s all about Essentials. But you should understand the options so that you can choose the version that makes the most sense for you. (And if you have a valid TechNet or MSDN subscription, you can evaluate both products — with Essentials in near-final RC form — right now.)

In my mind, it ’ second all about Essentials. But you should understand the options so that you can choose the version that makes the most sense for you. ( And if you have a valid TechNet or MSDN subscription, you can evaluate both products — with Essentials in near-final RC form — right now. )

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