I have a physical server that has windows server 2008 r2 and has Active Directory Domain role installed on it. Now I have a new physical server (HP ML350 Gen9) and I want to install Windows Server on it and make it work as our production server (for our shared files and folders, sql server databases, web services ...) but I cannot decide which windows server version to purchase (2012 r2 vs 2016) and what license (Standard vs DataCenter). My company has currently 22 employees that will be on the network, the server will be managed by one administrator and will be accessed through a single user with RDP. I'm not expert at the different versions and licenses of windows server, and I do not understand how should I decide what to purchase for what I need. And what are CALs? Since in their website I see the following for Standard edition: "The licensing for Standard edition will continue to be processor plus CAL, with each license covering up to two physical processors on a single server, just like Datacenter edition." And similar description for DataCenter edition.

Please help me understand a bit about it and help me in my decision.

1 Answer 1


CAL = Client Access License so for each device that is accessing the server you need 1 CAL. Usually they come in bundles of 25, 50 and 100 so based on the 22 employee info I would go for the lowest bundle - 25.

The standard vs data center depends on the roles that you are going to need, I am guessing standard is what you should get, given the AD role and client deployments.

2012 vs 2016 - similar to above, it depends on the roles your server will perform. I am personally very happy with the changes Microsoft made in 2016 and I think if I would be buying new, that is what I would get.

But I would recommend you buy from an authorized reseller and talk to one of their sales guys who is certified in MSFT licensing - it is not simple, but they can help. CDW, Zones, SHI come to mind as possible places to buy from and get help

  • Thank you. So to be sure I got it, if I need to add 22 users to the domain that I created with AD in order to make them on my network I will need to purchase Standard and also purchase 25 CALs? And should I keep the AD on a different physical server? From what I know it's not recommended to add more roles on a server having AD installed
    – Saleem
    Mar 16, 2017 at 19:29
  • it really depends what other roles you are going to be running - for example file share and AD is OK, other roles might not be but it is such a small deployment that I would not worry about it, unless it is specifically recommended not to do it
    – TomEus
    Mar 17, 2017 at 3:20

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