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Windows Server 2012 Essentials Download Available

Windows Server 2012 Essentials software can be downloaded, but you won't find it on hardware for a few more months.

According to a Microsoft announcement, Windows Server 2012 Essentials was released as a downloadable solution through the company's Volume Licensing Center. But a Microsoft spokesperson explained in an email that those looking to purchase it on new server hardware will have to wait until around the end of the year.

The server isn't available through Microsoft Stores, according to an online chat today with a store representative. It doesn't appear to be available through Best Buy or Office Depot retail stores. A search at Dell's Web site just turns up the older product from which Essentials evolved, namely Windows Small Business Server 2011, which is available on three hardware models. Hewlett-Packard's page for Windows Server 2012 doesn't list the Essentials version at all.

Windows Server 2012 Essentials is also expected to be available through Microsoft's partners. A search at the Microsoft Pinpoint site for "Windows Server 2012 Essentials" returned 934 results. However, it's not clear from the search whether all of those partners offer the new server or not.

Essentials is based on Microsoft's flagship Windows Server 2012 product, which has lots of advanced features for organizations with experienced IT pros. The Essentials version is billed by Microsoft as being more simplified in terms of management and connecting to cloud-based services. Essentials is designed for organizations with about 25 users and 50 devices max, and it doesn't require paying for Client Access Licenses, which is a license for each PC that grants access to the server. The Essentials software alone, without the hardware, is priced at $501 at the "Open No Level" estimated retail price, according to Microsoft's "licensing data sheet," available here.

One big benefit of Essentials is Microsoft's promise that organizations can perform an in-place upgrade to Windows Server 2012 Standard, without losing support for features. The Standard version of the server supports up to 75 users and 75 devices.

For those not wanting to wait till the end of the year for Windows Server 2012 Essentials products to show up, they can download the software and install it on hardware themselves. Essentials is 64-bit software only, with Microsoft's licensing covering two processors. The hardware recommendations for Essentials include a having a machine with a 3.1 GHz or faster multicore CPU, 8 GB of RAM and a hard disk with at least 160 GM of storage space.

Installing Essentials apparently takes some planning, particular if using older hardware. While small business users might not be expected to install Windows Server 2012 Essentials onto hardware, the helpful "We Got Served" blog provides a nice step-through presentation on how to install Essentials on older model of the HP MediaSmart Server. The installation required having a VGA cable, a USB drive with at least 6 GB of space and a "USB/DVD Download Tool" to transfer the ISO image of the operating system to the USB drive in a bootable fashion.

Essentials may actually fall somewhat into the hobbyist camp by default because Microsoft is planning to stop selling Windows Small Business Server 2011 after June 2013, while sales of Windows Home Server 2011 are scheduled to end on December 31, 2013. Another possible option for home users and hobbyists is Windows Server 2012 Foundation, which is only available from OEMs, licensed for one processor and supports up to 15 users.

Possibly, Windows Home Server users could find a future home with the Windows 8 client OS. It has PC library sharing capabilities via "HomeGroup," as well as a "storage spaces" capability that allows storage to grow dynamically by swapping out disks, similar to the deprecated (but much valued) Microsoft drive extender technology that's found in Windows Home Server.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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