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Windows Server 2019 'Essentials' Version for Small Business Coming

An upcoming Windows Server 2019 Essentials edition for small businesses is on tap from Microsoft this year, the company announced on Wednesday.

There's one catch: It might the last Essentials edition Microsoft ever ships. "There is a strong possibility that this could be the last edition of Windows Server Essentials," Microsoft's announcement indicated regarding its Windows Server 2019 Essentials plans.

Windows Server 2019 Essentials will have features like the Windows Server 2019 Standard edition. Microsoft specifically called out two features. For instance, the Essentials edition will support Storage Migration Services, a means of inventorying and moving old server settings to a new target server. The Essentials edition also will be capable of using System Insights, a Microsoft service that uses machine learning to predict system events, such as estimating CPU and networking capacities, as well as storage and volume consumption.

Microsoft won't include the "Essentials Experience role" in Windows Server 2019 Essentials, though, the announcement indicated.

"The Essentials Experience primarily simplified file sharing and device management," the announcement stated, suggesting that organizations could use the Windows Admin Center browser-based management portal instead.

This point is a little confusing since the Essentials Experience role previously had been described as an option for Standard and Datacenter edition users of Windows Server 2016 and Windows Server 2012. So, perhaps Microsoft is trying to say that it's dropping that Essentials Experience role option for the Standard and Datacenter edition users of Windows Server 2019. It's not clear.

Microsoft thinks that small businesses should prefer using its Microsoft 365 Business licensing bundle to access services hosted from Microsoft's datacenters, instead of hosting their own servers to run their applications and store their files. The cost to use Microsoft 365 Business is $20 per user per month, according to Microsoft's pricing page, but it includes Office applications, Exchange Online and SharePoint Online services, among other solutions.

In making its decision to go ahead with an Essentials edition of Windows Server 2019, Microsoft first consulted with the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) community and "other influencers" to get their views on small business needs. After those discussions, Microsoft saw a need to put out another Essentials edition.

"While our small business customers are embracing cloud services where they can, on-premises servers are still valuable and desired in the short term for reasons such as price and ability to run traditional applications that may not yet have corresponding cloud-based functionality," Microsoft explained.

Microsoft has previously said that Windows Server 2019 will arrive sometime this year, although pricing is usually announced last. Even though pricing for Windows Server 2019 isn't yet known publicly, the pricing of Windows Server 2016 might serve as a guide. Windows Server 2016 Essentials is priced at $501 for organizations with up to 25 users and 50 devices, with no extra costs for Client Access Licenses (CALs), according to Microsoft's pricing page. CALs are typically required when end users connect to Windows Server in some way, and are required when using the Standard and Datacenter editions of the server.

With Windows Server 2019 Essentials, organizations will be able to run "traditional applications, such as file and print sharing." However, one option concerning multiple-domain support will get dropped from this edition. For instance, while Microsoft had permitted an option for Windows Server 2016 users to support multiple domains and multiple domain servers, that ability will go away with Windows Server 2019 Essentials.

Here's how Microsoft expressed the matter:

Windows Server 2019 Essentials has the same licensing and technical characteristics as its predecessor, Windows Server 2016 Essentials. If configured as a Domain Controller, Windows Server 2019 Essentials must be the only Domain Controller, must run all Flexible Single Master Operations (FSMO) roles, and cannot have two-way trusts with other Active Directory domains.

If that's a limitation for small organizations, Microsoft didn't explain it. According to a Microsoft document, there are three FSMO roles, which are now called "Operations Master Roles." There's the primary domain controller emulator role for processing password updates. A relative ID operations role is used to maintain global IDs for the domain. Lastly, there's an infrastructure operations role for maintaining domain security. Apparently, those three roles have to be configured on the same server when using the Windows Server 2019 Essentials edition.

About the Author

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

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