Differences Between Windows Server 2012 Essentials and Windows Server 2012 Foundation
Article Summary: This article discusses the differences between Windows Server 2012 Essentials and Windows Server 2012 Foundation Edition.
Windows Server 2012 Essentials and Windows Server 2012 Foundation Edition are both intended for small business customers, but there are some important differences between the two. This article provides information on those differences, which can be split into several categories:
Intended Environment: While both are intended for relatively small environments, the expected level of IT expertise differs significantly. Essentials assumes that no dedicated IT staff will be available and thus includes tools to simplify administration. Foundation requires a bit more IT expertise, as it relies on the standard set of Windows Server 2012 tools for administration.
Hardware: While both OSes support multicore processors, Foundation supports a single physical CPU socket, and Essentials supports one or two sockets.
Licensing: Neither Essentials nor Foundation requires the purchase of client access licenses (CALs), but the built-in user limits are not the same for the two operating systems. Essentials allows for up to 25 users, while Foundation allows for up to 15.
Active Directory: Essentials must be a domain controller (DC) at the root of an AD forest. There cannot be any trusts between the domain and other domains, including parent-child trusts, and the Essentials server must hold all of the FSMO roles. Foundation can be a DC at the root of an AD forest (with the same restrictions as Essentials), or it can be configured in a workgroup. Neither OS can operate as a domain member server.
Administration: Essentials provides simplified administration using the Dashboard. Foundation uses the standard Windows Server 2012 tools for administration.
Virtualization: Neither OS can be used as a Hyper-V host, and the server license does not include virtualization rights as it does with Windows Server 2012 Standard and Datacenter. Essentials may be run within a virtual machine (VM), but Foundation must be installed on a physical server.
Networking: Essentials must be installed behind a router that supports IPv4 NAT, while Foundation has no such limitation.
Remote Desktop Services: The Remote Desktop Session Host role may not be installed on Essentials. It may be installed on Foundation, but only in a workgroup configuration.
Additional Components: In addition to the Dashboard, Essentials has other built-in components, such as Remote Web Access, centralized client backup, and health monitoring. Foundation is intended as a flexible, general purpose server for a small environment and thus has no built-in components that aren't present in Windows Server 2012 Standard or Datacenter.