Microsoft threw its army of small business customers a treat in the form of confirmation that Windows Server 2019 Essentials was on the way. But it followed this up with the less-than-savoury news that it would probably be the last.
The follow-up from Windows Server 2016 Essentials will have the same licensing characteristics, with Client Access Licences (CAL) for up to 25 users/50 devices. As before, it will be cheaper than its bigger brothers, such as the Windows Server 2019 Standard, although actual pricing has yet to be announced. The server is due to ship with the rest of the 2019 range later this year.
Features from the Standard edition also make an appearance in the cut-down 2019 Server product, with Storage Migration Services getting a call-out because, hey, maybe you might want to migrate your data to somewhere. Like Azure, hmm?
The announcement makes it quite clear that Microsoft would rather have led its Essentials product out to pasture in favour of Microsoft 365 Business, but caved after a "collaboration" with its MVP community left the software maker in no doubt that users were not quite ready to throw in their lot with Microsoft's cloud.
The 2019 edition is only a temporary reprieve. Redmond warned: "There is a strong possibility that this could be the last edition of Windows Server Essentials." If that proves to be the case, it will be the end of a line that began as the Windows NT 4.0-based Backoffice Small Business Server just over 20 years ago.
To be fair to the software giant, the main use case for these servers is traditional file and print sharing. Shoving data in the cloud makes collaboration considerably simpler and a dedicated print server seems overkill these days in an office of a maximum of 25 people. Microsoft has also stripped the Essentials Experience role from the server, which made setting up file sharing relatively straightforward. Microsoft reckons that the new Windows Admin Center represents a "better management experience". Right.
While there may be no new versions after 2019, the team at Redmond pointed out that Windows Server 2016 Essentials is on the Long Term Servicing Channel with extended support ending in 2027. A similar arrangement for 2019 will give customers plenty of time to plan for any migration.
Axing the Essentials line is a calculated risk for Microsoft. While its Office 365 product remains the clear market leader, small businesses may look to the likes of Google's G Suite in future. It's made some great strides in the enterprise lately and attractive pricing will appeal to the wallet of a cash-strapped small business. Just keep an eye on those privacy settings, OK? ®