I work in a small office with 6-8 PCs. None of us have formal IT training. We have a "server" which uses desktop Windows XP, to run "server" versions of our software. We have about 5 user accounts on our system. Backup, remote access etc is handled by third party software, and we use debian Linux for email and web functions. Because of the simplicity of our system costs have been minimal as we are able to almost completely manage our network without requiring services of IT professionals for many years.

It is coming time to replace our "server" because XP is soon becoming unsupported and because of some relatively minor network annoyances. I would like some impartial advice as to which version of Windows would be most suitable for our business. The choices include Win Server Essentials 2012, Win Home Server 2011, Win 7 Pro and Win 8.1 Pro.

We would like to continue to manage our network ourselves without undue reliance on IT professionals.

Could somebody please advise.

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Linux is usually the best option for actual servers, but if normal XP was working for you and you want the easiest option then I would reccomend an upgrade to Windows 8.1 since it would most likely be the simplest to get installed and running.

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Kind of a loaded question, without a good answer I think. I personally would run a Linux server to handle the directory portion (DNS/LDAP/DHCP) though you may not even need that. The software you need probably doesn't run on Linux though.

As such, I would go with WSE 2012, I don't have experience with WSE, but Windows Server 2012 is solid. Would you be getting 2012 or 2012 R2?

I don't know anything about Windows Home Server 2011 though.

I wouldn't personally a server or server software on Win7 or Win8, run a proper server OS.

It's hard to come up with a good answer for shopping questions. I like to just say 'do it right' but you aren't always allowed that option. Good luck :)

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  • Thanks. I'd be interested in more comments. Any specific reason for preferring a server version of Windows? We'd probably get away with the file server functions and remote access of WSE - which can be done on desktop Windows. I might add that our Linux machine does DHCP and DNS. I've never understood LDAP very well. As we only have a small number of staff I doubt that its going to be necessary. – Robert S Jan 11 '14 at 2:20
  • I always felt that server versions had better management features. Since you aren't using Windows for any directory services though, it probably doesn't matter if you use a server SKU. If you actually just need it for running software, go with what's cheapest. – mortenya Jan 13 '14 at 16:13

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