Kevin Beares asks…

“So, I’ll ask the question a different way… Is there anything blocking you from deploying Windows Server 2012 Essentials today? If so, what is it? So far we have established price is a BIG obstacle. Do you agree with that? I have also heard that it would cost the customer more money because of a more complex deployment (ie. install Windows Server Standard, stand up two VMs. Deploy Windows Server 2012 Essentials into one VM, Deploy Exchange Server into another). Is that a problem for you as well? We want to hear from you. Thanks, Kevin”

Anything you post here I’ll remove names and forward them on to him.  If you’d like to answer him directly join the “You know you grew up with….” group on Facebook and post your response there.


20 Responses to A social question about the future of SMB servers

  1. John Murdoch says:

    While there isn’t much of a block on deploying Server 2012 Essentials into a greenfield site, the main block to upgrading from SBS 2008/2011 remains the inability to install Exchange 2013 into the same AD as Exchange 2007/2010.

    At the launch of Exchange 2013, it was announced that we would have to wait for a rollup for Exchange 2007SP3 and for Exchange 2010 SP3 to be released before they could coexist with Exchange 2013. Although both parts were eventually released last month, they now require the forthcoming Exchange 2013 CU1 to coexist. This means that four months on from the withdrawal of SBS2011, we still don’t have an onpremise option to move to the latest MS solution.

    I’d also agree on the increased price being an issue, as to replicate the features of SBS Standard onsite, requires two Windows Server 2012 Standard licenses (to give 1 VM as Essentials, 1 VM for Exchange, 1 VM for Sharepoint) plus 1 Exchange 2013 license.

    Hope that helps


  2. Pete says:

    I’m migrating my SBS2011 server to Windows Server 2012 Essentials. I’ll be done in a few days. I must say the Microsoft documentation is pretty weak compared to SBS to SBS migrations. Migrating Exchange to Office 365 is completely missing and assumptions are made. I understand there’s separate TechNet guides to migrate to Office 365 but this should be included in the SBS migration documentation as well.

    Planting the seed with my customers Essentials is available to them with Software Assurance on their SBS licenses, all are sticking with SBS for now. They’re weary paying an indefinite monthly fee to Microsoft and the deployment of an on-premises Exchange server with Essentials is VERY cost prohibitive in comparison to SBS. As a result they can’t use the licenses they paid with Software Assurance . This upsets them more. Hands-down Microsoft is forcing SMB to Office 365.

    Going forward with new deployment I’m only presenting Essentials with Office 365 first because its affordable. I don’t want potential SMB customers to get sticker shock with an all on-premises solution and then shelve the installation or worse not hire my company.

    Windows Server 2012 Essentials certainly has a lot of nice features and is state-of-the-art. However, I miss the simplicity of SBS and how everything was neatly brought together. Microsoft needs to bring back SBS. It was simply an affordable all on-premises solution that worked. Please don’t demonize me because I dare say, the cloud is not for everyone.

  3. Bill says:

    All of the combined issues is the problem. The user limit is also a major issue, granted there is a way around it but why do that in the first place? Set the user limit at 75 like SBS was. Without an integrated SBS-like solution adding Exchange to an Essentials deployment is the 800# gorilla for small businesses. Better to just go with Standard Windows Server 2012 with VM’s for Exchange and LOB apps running on SQL, etc. Or, you could just go to the all powerful Cloud, right.

  4. Bill says:

    By the way (Kevin), post the question on a website or blog. Not all of use FB.

  5. Sure, there’s a lot stopping us from deploying Server 2012 Essentials. Cost is a big factor, but complexity is another one.

    Contrary to many, we’ve found SBS 2008 and 2011 to be very reliable, easy to configure and better yet – provides for seamless migrations.

    We have many customers who do not want to move to a hybrid or full-on hosted solution for any number of reasons. We have others who do, but the fact remains that the integration, packaging and pricing of SBS was the right solution for a vast number of our customers. Migrations will be messier, but more to the point: complexity under the new model has increased as well as cost. Two bad things when you are an MSP trying to manage risk and costs.

    Microsoft’s mistake with SBS in the past was trying to market it the be-all for everyone and an out-of-the-box solution that Joe Consumer would be able to install, configure and manage. The truth is, SBS has always been a product that worked best, like all Microsoft products, when configured and maintained by professionals.

  6. Philip Elder says:

    In our move from SBS to the Stack we’ve seen about a 15% increase in overall licensing costs for our clients (Open Value Agreement with the 3 year spread payment option).

    Most businesses can absorb a 15% uptake on their server side licensing costs. Those that can’t have other problems needing to be dealt with first.

    We’ve done a few 2012 Essentials with Exchange 2013 greenfield deploys and are relatively happy with the results barring a few deadly misses in Exchange 2013 RTM.

    Many of you may have used our SBS 2003 to SBS 2011 Standard migration guide. It’s one of the busiest pages on our blog. One of the reasons that guide and the others that we have was put together was due to the terrible documentation from so many different Microsoft sources for the whole process.

    Why should the SBS to W2012E migration documentation be any different? It is not, in fact as already mentioned it is worse than before.

    The biggest drawback to bringing a well thought-out SBS Standard setup into a W2012E via migration is the huge step back we would take with the AD/GPO structure.

    SBS 2003, 2008, and 2011 Standard all had a beautiful OU structure that was easy to manage with simple to deploy targeted GPO settings.

    With W2012E we lose all of that and in the end had to resort to WMI filtering to gain some of the targetting we had previously.

    Since RDS has been a part of our client’s licensing makeup since Day 1 with us we will be avoiding W2012E. RDWeb on 2012 or even 2008 R2 works well as a landing page. Users can then open their RemoteApp or log on to their internal desktop PC or dedicated VM.

    DirectAccess gives our clients the ability to access their files seamlessly. Again, all are on Desktop OS SA+MDOP with Enterprise on their laptops. So, this is a fairly steamless transition from VPN.

    Yes, the solution stack is a bit more complex. But, and I mean BUT, we gain access to the ability to put together solutions that we could only have dreamed of with the one-box solution SBS gave us.

    Is W2012E a worthy successor of SBS? In all reality we are comparing Apples to Oranges here. IMNSHO W2012E is a blip on the road to the Cloud in Microsoft’s eyes.

    It is up to us to build and provide the best on-premises SBS-Like IT Solution our clients need.

  7. bradley says:

    “Why should we expect any better”


    You want me to buy your product, then I expect you to be clear and crisp on how to get there.

    I don’t accept “we sucked in the past” as a good excuse.

    I don’t mean to be rude here, but not all consultants are you Philip. Not everyone has clients that accept a 15% increase as reasonable, that can afford DA. Many consultants really need the documentation as they don’t have the lab you have, the brain you have the inquisitiveness you have. You yourself was stuck on the SharePoint via the ARP thing until you got to Texas.

  8. Philip Elder says:


    True enough.

    However, that’s why we do what we do to blog/share/YouTube/SMBKitchen what we learn. We make sure to share what we have with our fellow IT support folks to help them along on the quest for the best.

    The end-game is to provide the best value for our IT Client’s dollars. It is about them and not us.

    That is another reason why we share. The more our fellow IT Support folks know the better _their_ solutions to their clients.

    So, when it comes to the “where we are, where we are going, and how are we going to get there” we do indeed need to roadmap the entire experience in a language our clients can understand. We are in the process of working that out with one of our last remaining SBS 2003 R2 Premium clients.

    In the end, we the SMB IT Solution providers need to stick together. The more we build out a solid, stable, and well appointed SMB IT Solution Stack for our clients the better off SMB IT will be in the long-run.


  9. bradley says:

    And when it makes more sense to look at other options, instead of accepting the status quo is what all of us are doing right now and that’s why Kerio is getting the buzz it is.

  10. Philip Elder says:

    This is an awesome time for the smaller vendors to step up and bring something about that can indeed augment the SMB IT Solution Stack.

    Kerio still falls short IMNSHO. Calendar sharing and management along with the ability to manage meetings is a huge draw for most firms once shown those features (available in Exchange).

    But, that does not mean that as the product develops to incorporate key features folks are already used to working with that we would not give them a chance. 🙂

    However, what we are discovering in our own process of figuring things out over the last year or so is the following:
    + Windows Server 2012 is _awesome_
    + Exchange 2013 when it matures is a great mail/collaboration platform (renders BYOD moot too).
    + DirectAccess is a game changer in SMB
    + RDS/RemoteApps/RDGateway are still “killer apps” for SMB
    + BranchCache is a viable option
    + Hyper-V 2012 will give and is giving VMware a run for the $$$.

    This is a good time to be in SMB IT, but it took a long time for us to see it that way. 😀

  11. bradley says:

    DA is too costly for SMB. I’m sorry Philip it may be good for you, but that’s not the solution stack for every client. Does Quickbooks support it? Does other lob’s support it?

    I see you on the lists strugging with the finer points of RD/RDgateway and finally making the pieces work. WE as the community shouldn’t be in charge of the technical documentation that ensures that sales occur, and yet we are.

    DA is not a game changer for me because my apps don’t support it – heck they don’t even know what it is.

  12. Philip Elder says:


    DA is not a game changer for LoBs.

    It is a game changer for users that turn their PCs/Laptops on and off at the end of the day who work out of the office running an audit.

    We both know that QBs and CaseWare Working Papers, as examples, are bandwidth hogs for their database style backends. Neither can run across a VPN nevermind DA configured for seamless remote access.

    No, DA is a game changer for the partner that forgot the YE.XLS file they needed to work on tonight. They turn on their machine and access their network drive just like they do while at the office. Then they can copy the file locally if need be.

    It’s a game changer for the partner and three helpers running an audit at a larger corporation that needs to securely access data bits that they prefer not to leave the network (RDS/RemoteApps also augments this situation).

    Firms that work with accounting data or health data should be running 7 Ultimate/Enterprise anyway. In our discussions with our accounting firm clients BitLocker and BitLocker To Go are must-have features.

    DA gives two-way management for _all_ domain joined devices. From a security perspective this is a huge plus for those firms that work with sensitive data.

  13. bradley says:

    Not all consultants have Accountants as clients. And I have that ability now with RWA and RDgateway. Personally I want all sensistive data to stay inside the server, not on any workstation.

  14. Bill V says:

    Susan / Philip,

    One point that seems to be getting lost here is that the small business customers still on SBS 2003/2008 are looking for the next solution that will not be cost prohibitive. I’m one of them. Office 365 is to expensive. CFO’s do not want to be tied to monthly fees forever. There are also tax advantages to installing servers on-site vs cloud implementations. However, there’s no good migration path for either. It’s either start over and cause temporary chaos or get strapped into a monthly recurring fee. SBS was the one solution that CFO’s could understand. The ‘stack’ that’s now before us is not. It’s just too difficult and expensive.

    Thanks, Bill V

  15. Philip Elder says:


    Yes, RWA and RDGateway with RemoteApps help with data access.

    However, when the folks see a system set up to use DA being turned on, logged on, and then used in their office (my own system) as though I was sitting in my own office instead of theirs the gears start turning.

    It’s dead simple.

    No one needs to do anything to make it work on the user side like a Web based VPN or VPN client requiring steps before connecting and then more steps to get to their share/app/resource.

    Folks see the value in simplicity.

  16. Philip Elder says:


    I’m not sure what they need to understand?

    SBS was a solution suite/set.
    Building a solution set on the Windows Server Stack is no different.

    Does the car owner know the difference between a forged or cast crankshaft and which one can take 10:1 compression and 12lbs of boost? No.

    So why would they want to understand the inner workings of their IT infrastructure?

    Our conversations always revolve around what their users will be able to do/not do with their IT infrastructure. Business processes and workflows that need to be augmented in some way.

    It’s our job to take care of the details that they don’t understand.

    They want it to work.
    They want the features to be the same and/or better.


  17. Bill says:


    Agreed, they want it to work. And no, they don’t need to know any of the inner workings, but they also want you (the I.T. person) to recommend a solution that does work into the budget. SBS fit the budget. Hosted email or a separate Exchange server really does not. Microsoft is not making it easy for the SMB’s IMO.


  18. Philip Elder says:


    I must admit that SMB IT has never “been easy”. 😉

    Yes, SBS fit the bill and did so beautifully. It provided an awesome Enterprise oriented platform for our SMB clients. Many of us have seen jealousy in the eyes of our fellow Enterprise IT Pros since SBS 2003 and the RWW were first released.

    Many of us have probably been through the flame wars that *NIX folks would toss our way, even Enterprise IT Pros too, about having everything on one box and EXPOSING it to the Internet?!?!?

    One big plus that has become one of the guiding lights for me through all of the pain and angst of figuring out where we (MPECS, Monique my wife and co-owner, and our contractors) fit in to the new Cloudy picture is that SBS has given us a blueprint (no pun intended on the book) to move on with.

    What is that blueprint?

    AD/GPO structure
    Exchange and its configuration out of the box (lots to learn here)
    File Resources and management (reports, quotas, etc)
    WSUS and patch management
    Reporting (we know we need something right?)
    RDS (RDGateway, RemoteApps, and RDS to users) ***

    SBS gives us a clear vision into how Microsoft would and does configure the individual components built into the SBS Suite of products.

    There is a learning curve involved here. No doubt about it.

    But, we have the tools today that can get us to the point of virtually automating the install and configuration of most of the above bits today in PowerShell and to some extent the new Server Manager and Exchange Admin Console.


  19. Kevin Beares says:

    So Bill and Phil et al,

    Sounds like what Windows Server 2012 Essentials represents to each of you is two sides of the same coin.

    For Bill it represents more licensing costs, more consultant fees to the customer, more configuration, more learning for Bill in his business model.

    For Phil it represents an opportunity to evolve his business model and expand the services he is providing the customer, but still at a cost of having to learn a lot more about the stack than he ever had to before as well as learn a new way to deploy the technologies.

    Did I get that mostly right?

    What I am confused by is you refer to RWA as if it is no longer available in 2012 Essentials. Did I read your comment correctly Bill? RWA is still here along with the admin console that we all knew and loved in SBS 2011.


  20. Bill says:


    re: “For Bill it represents more licensing costs, more consultant fees to the customer (himself), more configuration, more learning for Bill in his business model.”

    All of this is correct. RWA is not an issue, I know it exists in Essentials. At this time I don’t see Essentials as a contender in my deployment options due to the user limits and the need to use a transition pack to move beyond 25. I see either a Windows Server 2012 deployment with on-site Exchange or Hosted. More likely on-site at this time since the ongoing fees for hosted just doesn’t fit the capital budget.

    Bill V