Microsoft announced plans to release Windows Server 2019 Essentials alongside Windows Server 2019 today. Windows Server Essentials, the current retail version is Windows Server 2016 Essentials, is specifically designed to address the needs of small businesses.
Small in this context refers to businesses with up to 25 users and up to 50 devices. Microsoft said there is a high probability that Windows Server 2019 Essentials will be the last edition of Windows Server Essentials. The company will support Server Essentials products based on the servicing timeline.
The characteristics of Windows Server 2019 Essentials don't change according to Microsoft when you compare them to the 2016 versions: user and device limits are the same, price will remain "low" and businesses will have options to "run traditional applications and other features, such as file and print sharing".
Windows Server 2019 Essentials will have the "same licensing and technical characteristics" as 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.
Microsoft notes furthermore that Windows Server 2019 Essentials will support new hardware and features such as Storage Migration Services or System Insights but that it won't include the Essentials Experience role.
The removal leaves some system administrators and small businesses in a precarious situation as Windows Server 2019 Essentials won't support the following features anymore because of that:
Microsoft states that it talked to the MVP Community and "other influences" to understand the needs of small businesses and that the decision to release a Windows Server 2019 Essentials edition was the results of the talks.
At least one MVP that Microsoft consulted, Susan Bradley which you may know from the Ask Woody site, stated that Microsoft did indeed consult but that it appears that the company did not really react on the feedback provided.
As one of those MVPs referred to in the post, I can honestly say that while we gave feedback, it was not acted upon. This server is more like Foundation server, not Essentials. It does not have client backup nor Remote web accesss, two key technologies that now have to be replaced for those small business users and consultants that relied on those pieces.
Microsoft suggests that administrators and businesses use Windows Admin Center as a replacement for the lost functionality.
Microsoft's main motivation for crippling Windows Server Essentials is unknown but there is some evidence that it has something to do with getting as many businesses on Microsoft 365, especially Microsoft 365 Business.
Microsoft 365 is a subscription-based service that includes Windows 10, Office 365 and Enterprise Mobility & Security.
It seems very unlikely that Microsoft will release another Server Essentials edition after the 2019 version.
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