Servers are a way to provide additional functionality to other networked computers, meaning that they use a special operating system. Microsoft’s Windows Server product is the leading solution for your server OS needs, with many different releases and editions to choose from. Learn more about the different Windows Server versions, how they work, and which one you should purchase.
In this guide, we’ll be looking at key Windows Server editions so you can understand the differences and strengths of each release. Let’s get started!
Windows NT Servers
Microsoft first announced their Windows Server operating system all the way back in the 1990s, under the brand “NT” (the abbreviation of New Technology.) This branding has stayed with the product until the year 2000, meaning that various Windows Server editions were released under the NT name:
- Windows NT 3.1: Developed to support new server hardware with a 32-bit system. This version began the evolution of the Windows Server product.
- Windows NT 3.5: Enhanced server functionality to support interconnectivity with both Unix systems and Novell NetWare.
- Windows NT 3.51: Support for computers running Windows 95. Amongst its many stability improvements, users also got to manage software licenses and applications on client computers over the network.
- Windows NT 4.0: Added Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS). This version also marks the start of additional service packs with the release of Windows NT 4.0 Enterprise Server.
Key Windows Server releases
After changing the branding to Windows Server, Microsoft began releasing more additions to its server OS product line. Here are some of the key releases that you should know about, and some interesting facts about them.
Windows Server 2000
As the first rebranded product, there were a lot of expectations for Windows Server 2000. Microsoft didn’t disappoint, instead, they introduced many new features that are still in prominent use in recent Windows Server releases:
- XML support
- Active Server Pages creation
- Active Directory use for user authentication
With this release, came core specialized editions as well, catering to the needs of different audiences. Advanced Server and Datacenter Server editions became a vital part of future releases, too.
Windows Server 2003
Windows Server 2003 came with many changes, as significant parts of the software have been rewritten for better functionality. The main purpose of this was to reduce the need of rebooting your server system in-between updates and new installations, improving uptime and reliability.
Some other significant updates in Windows Server 2003 include the following;
- Updated security
- .NET framework in the server OS
- Server roles
- 64-bit environment
- Various editions, such as Windows Server 2003 Web Edition for internet servers
Windows Server 2008
With Windows Server 2008, the major focus was on Microsoft’s Hyper-V system. This feature introduced virtualization via virtual machines (VMs), which quickly became a must-have for every IT team. Some other updates in this release include:
- Enhanced Active Directory
- Improved software support features and network services
- New software administration tools (Event Viewer and Server Manager)
- Server Core installation option
- Standard, Enterprise, Datacenter, and Web versions
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Windows Server 2012
The 2012 release of Windows Server focuses primarily on becoming a competitor in the cloud, even marketed as a “Cloud OS.” Meaning so, we got to see updates such as the following:
- Improved Hyper-V functionality to integrate local and hosts, onsite delivery, Hyper-V architecture with cloud technologies
- Hyper-V virtual switch
- Hyper-V Replica
- Updated storage system
- PowerShell and Server Core updates
- Standard, Enterprise, Datacenter, and Web versions with the addition of Essentials
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Windows Server 2016
One of the most recent releases of Microsoft’s server operating system introduced the Nano Server deployment, which is a scaled-down implementation to keep data more secure. This wasn’t the only new thing brought in this release, however. Let’s take a look at other key updates in Windows Server 2016:
- Network Controller to manage network devices
- Enhanced VM systems to support containers
- Encryption for Hyper-V
- Server Core installation option
- Standard and Datacenter editions
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Windows Server 2019
At the moment, Windows Server 2019 is the most recent addition to the product lineup, and this won’t change for an upcoming couple of years. Microsoft has adjusted the server operating system to meet the growing demands of the industry, bringing the most powerful and feature-rich server OS on the market to you.
- Windows Admin CenterHyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI)
- Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection
- Improvements to Server Core
- Full GUI front-end interface
- Windows Subsystem for Linux
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