Windows Server Essentials vs Standard - Learn the Differences

With all the various versions of Windows available to purchase, you may wonder: what are the differences between them, and are they big enough to really impact your decision? In the case of the Windows Server Essentials and Standard licenses, the differences are surely significant enough to consider. We will delve into details to help you make an informed decision, as well as tell you what exactly are the specific features of both versions. We will also provide you with a short, useful guide on choosing the best system for your servers.

What is Windows Server?

Windows Server was first launched in April 2003 and has ever since been a popular solution among businesses. It is a line of convenient and reliable operating systems that provide a range of features and capabilities. Enterprises and smaller companies alike rely on Windows Server to store data, run applications, manage their networks, and more.

Visually, the system looks the same as the usual Windows—with the familiar layout, icons, and menu options. You can also install third-party software and applications on the Server editions, just like you would on a regular PC with, say, Windows 10.

Naturally, this operating system is not for use on personal computers but on servers—powerful machines designed to handle heavy workloads and intense processes. It differs from the regular Windows operating system in that it is specifically optimized for server use, offering enhanced security, scalability, and performance. It features some functions that are not available on the standard Windows OS, such as Active Directory for managing users and resources, and more.

Overall, the Server version of Windows is a robust option for businesses. It comes, however, in different license types: Essentials and Standard. There is also the Datacenter license meant for large corporations with high virtualization needs, but our article will focus on the Essentials and Standard versions, which are more commonly used by small to medium-sized businesses. These versions offer a choice of great features for a reasonable price, making them a cost-effective solution for those who look to improve their IT infrastructure without breaking the bank.

Comparison of features and characteristics of Windows Server Essentials and Standard

The choice between Essentials and Standard largely depends on your business needs and your organization's size. It also depends on what features you need and what you can do without. Let's compare the two so you can see what best suits your business.

Characteristic Essentials Standard
Number of users/devices 25 users or 50 devices Unlimited
Hyper-V containers No Up to 2
Windows Server Containers No Yes
Storage Spaces No Yes
Host Guardian Service No Yes
Nano Server No Yes
CAL required? No Yes
Recommended RAM 16GB 48TB
Licensing model Service license Core-based

Whether you decide to purchase the Essentials or Standard version, you will not be disappointed, as both options are reliable choices for business purposes. However, as you can see, the Standard one offers slightly more benefits. We will discuss the features of both versions in detail now.

Features of Windows Server Essentials

This version provides the user with all the necessary tools to easily set up, manage, and maintain a small business network. It is designed for 25 users or 50 devices, making it a cost-effective solution for small businesses looking to establish a secure network infrastructure. The included services do not require CALs (Client Access License).

Windows Server Essentials allows you to run two virtual machines using one Hyper-V host per license and supports processors of up to 10 cores. It also offers remote access capabilities (great if your employees work from home), robust data features, and integration with cloud services such as the useful and reliable Microsoft Azure. It's a cost-effective and efficient solution for small businesses looking to streamline their operations. It is designed to be user-friendly and easy to set up, making it a great option for businesses without specialized IT staff.

The Essentials version is easily integrated with external host versions of SharePoint, SQL Server, Microsoft Exchange and Windows Server Update Services. Additionally, the Storage Spaces feature allows for flexible storage management, ensuring that your data is secure and easily accessible from any authorized device.

In general, it is a cost-effective and comprehensive solution that would fit a smaller or medium-sized business that does not have a large budget or heavy workload.

Features of Windows Server Standard

For a slightly higher price, you can buy a Standard License. It is very similar to the Essentials version, including all the functionalities it has, but it also grants access to more advanced features, such as Storage Replica (extremely useful for disaster recovery and business continuity) and the use of up to two virtual machines. Another thing worth noting is the ability to run an infinite number of Windows containers (although only two Hyper-V containers). The Standard edition also does not limit the number of users, so it is perfect for businesses that have a considerably large team. It does require CALs, but they are worth the investment.

Windows Server Standard offers server core installations, which are ideal for organizations looking to minimize their server footprint and reduce maintenance overhead. The Windows Server core option allows you to choose which server roles to install, cutting out the redundant functionalities that may not be needed for your operations.

All of these additional features can greatly enhance the technical capabilities of your business, especially if your organization is large or expected to expand rapidly.

Whether you decide to purchase the Essentials or Standard version, you will not be disappointed, as both options are reliable choices for business purposes. However, as you can see, the Standard one offers slightly more benefits. We will discuss the features of both versions in detail now.

How to Choose the Right Version of Windows Server for Your Company?

Seeing as the two different versions available are actually quite similar, you might think that this makes the choice between them less important. This is not true. Choosing the best version for your business guarantees optimal performance, security, and efficiency suited for a business of your size and growth potential.

You need to consider the specifics of your business, as all the requirements and needs must be addressed to ensure that your preferred version can handle your current operations and future growth. There is no point in purchasing a version that is either too basic or too advanced for your business needs, as it could either be inefficient or negatively affect your budget. The Standard edition can be used for up to 16 cores. If you have more cores on your server, you will need to purchase extra Windows core licenses to ensure compliance with licensing requirements.

A thorough assessment of your business needs in terms of servers and network infrastructure is absolutely crucial before making a decision on which version to invest in. Consider factors such as the number of users, security measures required, scalability potential, and the amount of work the server needs to handle on a daily basis. Additionally, assessing your budget to know how much you can spend on the server operating system license is needed to ensure that you can indeed justify the investment.

Factor in the industry you operate in and any specific compliance regulations that may impact your choice of Windows Server version. Different laws may apply to security measures or data handling requirements, depending on what niche you are in.

Making an Informed Decision

Ultimately, the decision is only yours to make. As long as you have thoroughly researched and evaluated your options, you can make an informed decision on whether Essentials is enough for you, or if you would prefer to opt for a more advanced Standard license. Once you factor in all the important considerations, you can choose the best Windows Server version for your business with confidence.