Windows Server 2008 Editions

Windows Server 2008 Editions

The purpose of this page is to help you choose the best version of Microsoft Windows Server 2008 for your circumstances.

Quick Question:  Which version should I buy?
Quick Answer:  Windows Server 2008 Enterprise edition (64bit). Choose Windows Server 2008 Enterprise Edition

My point is that if you are unsure, make the Windows Server 2008 Enterprise edition your default choice.  Another way to make sense of Microsoft’s many versions is to start with the Enterprise version, assess what it has to offer; then use that knowledge as a baseline to evaluate the other versions. 

Note: for the purpose of this article, I will use the terms ‘edition’ and ‘version’ interchangeably.

Microsoft’s Windows Server 2008 Versions

  • Windows Server 2008 Standard
  • Windows Server 2008 Enterprise Edition (Recommended)
  • Windows Server 2008 Datacenter

Other considerations before you order a Windows Server 2008 edition are, firstly, do you want a 32bit version, or do you have 64bit hardware waiting to install your server?  Secondly, would like to try the new Hyper-V technology?  Alternatively, do you need to save money and buy a version without Hyper-V.

One new feature shared by Server 2008 and Vista is that Microsoft supply just one DVD for all 64bit editions; consequently it’s the Product Key that determines which edition you install.

There is sister DVD for all 32bit versions.  Incidentally, Windows Server 2008 is the last Microsoft Operating system to have a 32bit version.

Three Specialist Editions of Server 2008

  • Web – Very restricted, dedicated for one specialist role
  • HPC (High Performance Computing) – For clustering
  • Itanium-based.  These CPUs execute more instructions per clock cycle than x64 processors.  Two minor points,  Core Server is not available as installation option for Itanium-based systems.  Also there is no storage manager for SANs.


Windows Server Catalog (Hardware Compatibility List)Windows Server 2008 SP1

Two minutes of checking your hardware against the WSC (Windows Server Catalog), will save you a lifetime of grief dealing with incompatibilities.  Because server hardware is relatively cheap, if you are installing Server 2008 on a production server, don’t coble something together.  It’s just not worth risking nearly-incompatible kit, sooner or later the mismatched component will come back and bite you. 

The best answer is treat yourself to new kit which is plastered with the Logo – ‘Certified for Windows Server 2008 hardware’.  Don’t accept imitations, even at knock down prices.

Worth a look: check out the free Microsoft Assessment and Planning Solution Accelerator.  What this utility does is assess your present hardware, then produces an Excel report on the fitness of your machines to run Windows Server 2008.

Guy Recommends:  A Free Trial of the Network Performance Monitor (NPM)Review of Orion NPM v12 v12

SolarWinds’ Network Performance Monitor will help you discover what’s happening on your network.  This utility will also guide you through troubleshooting; the dashboard will indicate whether the root cause is a broken link, faulty equipment or resource overload.

Perhaps the NPM’s best feature is the way it suggests solutions to network problems.  Its second best feature is the ability to monitor the health of individual VMware virtual machines.  If you are interested in troubleshooting, and creating network maps, then I recommend that you give this Network Performance Monitor a try.

Download your free trial of SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor.

Guy’s Quick Edition Check List

Nobody gets the sack for ordering the Enterprise Edition.  If you try and save money by purchasing the Standard Edition, you only need to slip-up on one of the many ‘banana skins’ to nullify your savings.  For example, with the Standard Version you cannot deploy Hyper-V* or Terminal Services* in a big way.  You cannot install the Enterprise Edition of Exchange, neither can you create a cluster server.

My other rational for recommending Enterprise Edition is that compared with the Standard Edition, it makes you future-proof.  In two years you’re going to want to do extra ‘stuff’, if you install the Standard Edition you could be constrained.

If you are considering the Datacenter, HPC, or Itanium-based Editions, they you are going to need professional advice, thus contact a recognised Microsoft partner and quiz their salesmen.

* You can install Hyper-V and Terminal Service on the Standard Edition, but their restrictions will hurt all but the smallest organizations.

Licensing Your Windows Server 2008 Edition

You can bet that with Microsoft’s Windows Server licensing, the past will not equal the future.  Each successive version of the Server (NT -> W2K -> W2K3 -> Server 2008) brings new licensing rules.

The biggest shock for newcomers is that in addition to spending $1,000 on a server license, they are going to need Client Access Licenses (CALs).  No ordinary mortal understands the rules of one-time licenses, Enterprise Agreements (EAs) and Software Assurance (SA).

If you need to grapple with Microsoft’s Licensing then speak with an expert.  It’s best to phone your local Microsoft Support line and listen for the Licensing option.  Servers are more complex to licence than Vista or XP, because you also need to check the configuration, for example, per user, per device or per server.

Then there is Terminal Server, and its licensing rules, I say again, phone Microsoft and least ask them to explain their rules for your configuration.  To end with a piece of good news, Microsoft are going to ‘liberalise’ their licensing for Windows Server 2008 Web edition.  I think means that licenses will be cheaper than for W2K3 Web server.  Microsoft’s rational is to take some of the Apache web servers’ market share.

Summary of Windows Server 2008 Editions

Before you purchase a Windows Server 2008 product key, review the various options.  One mistake to avoid is buying a 32bit DVD when you have 64bit hardware.  If you are in doubt install the Enterprise edition or version.  Unfortunately, choosing the edition is only the start, you also need to research the best licensing option for your users.

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Microsoft Windows Server 2008 Topics:

Server 2008 Home   • Overview   • What’s New?   • Migration Advice   • Install   • Group Policy

Server 2008 SP1   •Server Shutdown Command   • Hyper-V   • UAC   • IPv6   • ipMonitor

 • Review of Network Performance Monitor   • Upgrade W2k8 R2   • Windows Server 2012