There are a few versions of Windows Server and if that’s not enough, the licensing options are confusing at the best of times. The important thing is to make sure you are not paying for something your business does not need and that’s why understanding the licensing options is critical.


Windows Server 2012 comes in three different mainstream versions, which are:

  1. Windows Server 2012 (the standard edition)
  2. Windows Server 2012 Datacenter version
  3. Windows Essentials

Datacenter versus Server 2012 Standard

In reality, the Datacenter and standard version are exactly the same product with absolutely zero difference in functionality. The only reason for choosing one version instead of another is the license that comes with each. Both versions have a license for on instance of the server installation and both need client access licenses for each workstation or client that will access the server.  In addition to the features that are available on each version, extra licenses are required for remote desktop services and active directory rights management because these features are not covered in the basic license.

Both Datacenter and Standard can be installed on a machine with two processors with each license regardless of how many cores there are in each of the processors. So if you were running Windows Server on Dell hardware with four processors or more in one unit, you would need 2 licenses for 4 processors, 3 for 6 and so on.


The real difference in licenses is important if you want to run many virtual machines with Windows Server 2012 instances. The Standard version comes with a license that allows two virtual machines, but the Datacenter version is not limited in the number of virtual machine instances you run at any time.

To Summarise:

  1. Windows Server 2012 (the standard edition) license is for 1 x host plus 2 x virtual machines
  2. Windows Server 2012 Datacenter version license is for 1x host plus an unlimited number of virtual machines.

Windows Server 2012 Essentials – The Basics

Windows Server Essentials is the replacement for Windows Small Business Server and small businesses are exactly the market at which it is aimed. Primarily, it is a server operating system, but with the added advantage of added data protection with customisable levels of control. Most small businesses will function perfectly with the features in Windows Server Essentials, but for a complete feature fact sheet, click here for Essentials.

Being part of the Dell team, I know we have a great range of Windows server solutions available, which can be found on our site. Visit the site and browse the solutions on offer.