Go to Top

Which Windows Server version is right for you?

After 12 years of service, Microsoft is finally pulling the plug on Windows Server 2003 with extended support for Microsoft Windows Server 2003 ending on the 14th of July – next month. To avoid problems with software compatibility, security weaknesses and general operating system failures, any business still reliant on Server 2003 needs to upgrade to a newer version sooner rather than later. Because maintaining the status quo is not an option.

Here we outline the pros and cons for each of the available operating systems so you have the information you need to make a more informed purchasing decision.

Windows Server 2008

Offering support for both i386 and x64 architectures, Windows Server 2008 was the last Microsoft operating system to work with 32-bit processors.

As the second oldest Microsoft operating system still in use, there is little to recommend Server 2008 for anything other than the oldest hardware.

Pros

  • Windows Server 2008 still supports 32-bit architecture, making it the only “up to date” option for old i386 systems.
  • Provides native support for Windows XP and Vista clients.

Cons

  • Now four generations out-of-date, Windows Server 2008 is decidedly behind the curve in supporting new technologies.
  • Mainstream support for Server 2008 has already ended, expiring on January 13th There will be no further developments or enhancements to this product in future and you may have to take out a maintenance agreement with Microsoft.

Windows Server 2008 R2

Windows Server 2008 R2 marked the end of the road for the venerable i386 processor architecture by becoming Microsoft’s first 64-bit only release. The need for increased computing power meant that the 3.2GB memory limit inherent in the 32-bit architecture was holding back development, and so i386 support was dropped.

And despite sharing the same name as its predecessor, Windows 2008 R2 is actually considerably different under the user interface, being the server equivalent of Windows 7.

Pros

Includes all of the benefits of Server 2008 plus:

  • Perfect for managing a Windows 7 desktop environment.
  • Solid, robust and trusted platform that has proven its worth in the workplace.
  • Extended support is ongoing until 2020, giving Server 2008 R2 users another 5 years to upgrade or migrate.
  • Last version of Windows Server to support the Itanium processor range.

Cons

  • Legacy 32-bit applications may run slightly slower than on Server 2008.
  • Three generations out-of-date, Windows Server 2008 R2 is still behind the curve in supporting new technologies like Windows 8.1 and the forthcoming Windows 10.
  • Mainstream support for Server 2008 has already ended, expiring on January 13th There will be no further developments or enhancements to this product in future.
  • Extended support is a paid service and may require enrolment in a maintenance program.

Windows Server 2012

Building on the solid code base behind Server 2008 R2, Server 2012 added a number of new security features designed to help businesses cope with the challenges of modern computing like Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and virtual computing. Also of particular interest was the introduction of an automated data deduplication system designed to help systems administrators manage their ever expanding information store by identifying and removing duplicate data and files.

Pros

  • Remains a fully supported product by Microsoft until September 2018, during which period the product is still actively enhanced and improved. Extended support ends in October 2023.
  • Offers the best blend of security and functionality for a Windows 7 desktop environment.
  • A new Hyper-V version that offers significant improvements for virtual server computing.

Cons

  • Already nearly redundant, Server 2012 will be replaced by Windows Server 2016 at some point early next year.
  • Does not support the Itanium range of processors.
  • Cannot upgrade directly from Windows Server 2003 or 2003 R2.

Windows Server 2012 R2

Designed to assist with the management of the new Windows 8 desktop operating system, Server 2012 R2 improves upon many of the features first seen in Server 2012 and is the most up-to-date server operating system currently available from Microsoft.

Pros

Includes all of the benefits of Server 2012 plus:

  • The best choice for managing a Windows 8 and 8.1 desktop environment.
  • Remains a fully supported product by Microsoft until September 2018, during which period the product is still actively enhanced and improved. Extended support ends in October 2023.
  • Is the most up-to-date version of Windows server available.

Cons

  • Will be replaced by Windows Server 2016 at some point next year.

And into the future…?

As mentioned above, Windows Server 2016 is less than a year away, offering further core improvements including native support for the new Windows 10 desktop operating system. Other enhancements that have already been shown to developers and early adopters include storage replication for better management and protection of data, a soft restart function that avoids full reboots by resetting software and a new IIS 10 web server component.

Ultimately it usually pays to choose the latest version of any operating system because it provides the best balance between longevity, features and return on investment. That said, there are occasionally reasons to choose an older version of Windows Server, such as hardware limitations like those described above. And if buying a completely new server, Windows 2012 R2 is the only Microsoft-approved option.

, , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply