Growing Beyond 25 Users with Windows Server 2012 Essentials

Growing Beyond 25 Users with Windows Server 2012 Essentials

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[Today’s post comes to us courtesy of Cristian Molina from Windows Server Essentials Team]

Hi, I’m Cristian Molina, Lead Program Manager on the Windows Server Essentials team, and today I want to share with you more information around our growth story for moving past 25 users in Windows Server 2012 Essentials (Essentials).

One of the major pieces of feedback about the previous version, Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials, was that after a customer had grown beyond the 25-user limit, they had to migrate to Windows Server Standard. After the migration, key Windows SBS-specific features that they had come to depend on (such as client backup, Remote Web Access, and the Dashboard) were no longer available. We wanted to address this issue in Windows Server 2012 Essentials, so now we enable customers to do an in-place license transition to Windows Server 2012 Standard.

The process for performing the transition is documented on the TechNet page, Transition from Windows Server 2012 Essentials to Windows Server 2012 Standard. Customers need to purchase a copy of Windows Server 2012 Standard, and because Essentials does not have any client access licenses (CALs), they will also need to purchase the appropriate number of Windows Server 2012 CALs for their environment (these can be either Per User or Per Device CALs, but Per User CALs are more common). For example, if an organization with 26 users is performing the transition, they will need 26 Windows Server 2012 Per User CALs to be license-compliant.

After you have transitioned to Windows Server 2012 Standard, the Windows Server 2012 Essentials limits are removed, including restrictions on user accounts, number of devices, the Hyper-V role, and Active Directory. Instead, you will be subject to the limits and restrictions of Windows Server 2012 Standard. The Essentials features will still be there with the exception of the media features, which no longer work due to technical limitations. The removal of media functionality means that media features in other parts of the Essentials experience will be removed (for example, the ability to access media via Remote Web Access, media settings in the Dashboard).

After an in-place license transition to Windows Server 2012 Standard, the Windows Server 2012 Essentials features can support up to 75 user accounts and 75 devices. Note that there are no restrictions placed on the number of users and devices that can be added to a Windows Server 2012 Standard environment. For the Essentials features to function properly, the Windows Server 2012 roles and the features they depend on must not be removed or reconfigured, such as the Active Directory Domain Services role, the Web Server role, or others. Our goal is for Essentials features to work after the in-place transition for up to 75 user accounts and 75 devices. We used this goal to help scope our testing effort as well as our support statement. Customers can, of course, make any number of changes to their systems, but we had to strike a balance here of enabling customers to grow while also having a stable and supported system.

In the event that you grow beyond 75 user accounts or 75 devices, or you want to move to a different solution for specific pieces of Windows Server 2012 Essentials functionality, the Essentials features can then be turned off, which is also documented on the TechNet page. After the Essentials features are turned off, it is not possible to turn them back on.

Summary

Windows Server 2012 Essentials enables customers to grow beyond 25 users by doing an in-place license transition to Windows Server 2012 Standard. After making this transition, you will be able to continue using Essentials features with the exception of media features. Essentials features are supported for up to 75 users and 75 devices. If you grow beyond 75 or want to change the configuration of the server, we recommend that you turn off Essentials features.

If you haven’t already, please download the beta and give us feedback via the Windows Server 2012 Beta Essentials forum. We’d love to hear from you!

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Comments
  • If a customer has SBS 2011 Standard with Software Assurance, will it be possible to maintain the SBS functionality when utilizing upgrade rights by getting a license for SBS essentials for your DC/File/Print server and use windows 2012 standard for exchange on a seperate VM?  

    It seems it would be a fair solution for clients who want to maintain the functionalty of their SBS environment after SBS 2011 falls out of mainstream support.  

    Being able to upgrade to two instances of Windows Server 2012 Standard causes the client to lose key functionality such as Remote Web Access.

    Thank You.  

  • What if you have to re-install Windows after transitioning? Is there any way to regain the Essentials features?

  • "Our goal is for Essentials features to work after the in-place transition for up to 75 user accounts and 75 devices. We used this goal to help scope our testing effort as well as our support statement. Customers can, of course, make any number of changes to their systems, but we had to strike a balance here of enabling customers to grow while also having a stable and supported system."

    Does this mean that you aren't prevented from exceeding the limit, it's just that Microsoft haven't tested doing so and won't support it? Or is the limit hard coded into the interface?

    Also, could you explain if, after doing the in-place upgrade to Windows Server 2012 Standard, but continuing to use the Essentials features, you are able to move some or all of the Active Directory FMSO roles to another server?

  • This is sounding a lot better.  It appears I may have to take back some of the things I said a couple of posts ago when we were first told SBS was being discontinued.  

    I still think "Essentials" is a crappy name, however.  Windows Server 2012 SMB would be better, perhaps.  I don't know.  My degree is computer science, not marketing.  If I got a degree in marketing, I would have put a gun in my mouth by now after realizing how many lies I averaged on any given day.

    JamesNT

  • @Partner: We have some recent updates with regards to Windows Server 2012 Essentials licensing which will be announced on this blog soon.  Please stay tuned!

    @Another Partner: If you have to re-install Windows Server 2012 Essentials which has previously been license transitioned to Windows Server 2012 Standard, then you will need to first re-install Essentials and then do the license transition to Standard again in order to have the Essentials features be available.

    @Yet Another Partner:  The supported limits and the actual technical limits in the Dashboard are different.  While you can move some or all of the AD FSMO roles to another server, we won't be able to support the Essentials features in such a configuration.

    @JamesNT:  I'm glad that we were able to clarify things for you since the product was announced.  You'll see many more blog posts on Windows Server 2012 Essentials over the coming weeks.  Feel free to leave your questions and feedback.

    Cheers,

    Clinton

  • So why would I even bother with Essentials and just go to Server Std?