Windows Server 2012 Essentials released by Microsoft last month was dubbed as a “first server” mainly because it has the features, capabilities and flexibilities needed by small businesses looking to have an industry-grade on-premises or hybrid server implementation.

Essentials 2012 came as an upgrade of Windows Small Business Server 2011 and targets “first-server markets”. It is designed to be more flexible and simple for its customers and partners, and integrates better with Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8; and most importantly with cloud services such as Office 365 and Azure.

Essentials 2012 provides more utility to SMBs primarily because of its simplicity, flexibility and affordability. For instance, an Essentials 2012 installation is easy and requires minimal user intervention. Its built-in Dashboard enables businesses to manage their own servers and users – just like standard Windows Servers. Essentials 2012 is also packed with core infrastructure improvements such as simple migration to Windows Server Standard for business that outgrow the 25 user limitation, however the most notable of Essentials 2012 features is its flexibility to integrate with cloud services such as Office 365 and Azure.

Essentials 2012 Integration with Office 365
For SMBs, perhaps the biggest IT challenge is maintaining servers on-premises due to their Total Cost of Ownership (TCO); or to reduce reliance on in-house or external IT consultants and their control over infrastructure. However, these issues are now things of the past – Essentials 2012 which is now available is packed with features that allow more user flexibility.

For around $500, businesses can now have a server that seamlessly integrates with Office 365 which allows them to have total account management control straight from their Dashboards.

Windows Server 2012 Essentials Dashboard. Photo Courtesy of TechNet


By integrating with Office 365, Essentials 2012 empowers System Administrators by not only allowing them to create accounts for both network and Office 365 user accounts, but to also integrate existing accounts throughout their projected lifecycles. The Essentials integration with Office 365 also allows password synchronisation of network and Office 365 and view information about businesses’ Office 365 straight from their Dashboards – something not possible with other Windows Server 2012 variants.

Essentials 2012 Integration with Windows Azure
Something new to the 2012 server range is the ability for Essentials to integrate with a new service known as Windows Azure Online Backup – providing SMBs the power of having a hybrid cloud implementation and offsite backups. Windows Azure Online Backup as an Add-On to Essentials 2012 enables storage and archiving of server data on the cloud and is currently available as a limited pilot around the world.

Azure when integrated with Essentials 2012 allows easy and simple back-up procedures through the Dashboard. The current Azure Online Backup comes with a free 300 GB cloud storage when synced with Essentials 2012. Its user friendly user interface allows easy file and folder restoration at the event of data lost or corruption.

Windows Server 2012 Essentials as one of the new products offered by Microsoft for business productivity is perfect for SMBs due to its streamlined operations and simple interface. With this product, businesses can maximize the benefit of a hybrid server approach that would solve most issues of data confidentiality and security in the cloud.

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