Which should a small business choose: Windows Home Server or Windows Server Foundation?

Summary:Until quite recently, Microsoft officials emphasized the "home" in Windows Home Server (WHS) when explaining how that product fit into its server line-up. Last week, however, something changed. Microsoft officials added small office/home office (SOHO) users to its list of potential customers for WHS.

Until quite recently, Microsoft officials emphasized the "home" in Windows Home Server (WHS) when explaining how that product fit into its server line-up.

Last week, however, something changed. Microsoft officials added small office/home office (SOHO) users to its list of potential customers for WHS. On November 5, the WHS team posted a new blog entry entitled "Top 10 reasons to use Windows Home Server in your SOHO." From that post:

"Don’t let the name Windows Home Server fool you into thinking that this product was created for home use only. A lot of the reasons that you would use Windows Home Server in your home are just as applicable to a small or home office. Windows Home Server provides a dependable and affordable way to organize and safeguard your work on up to 10 computers."

Up until this point, Microsoft's business-focused Windows Server family looked like this (with entry-level servers listed first):

  • Windows Server Foundation
  • Windows Server Standard
  • Windows Server Enterprise
  • Windows Server Datacenter

Other "specialty" versions include the Web Edition, Windows Small Business Server and Windows Essential Business Server. (The latter two bundle together various Microsoft applications, like Exchange Server and SQL Server, with Windows Server.)

Microsoft delivered the first release of Foundation Server in April 2009. The R2 version of Windows Server Foundation is globally available (covering all countries in Western Europe, Central Eastern Europe, France, German and Korea and Middle East/Africa) as of this week. Like WHS, Foundation is primarily an OEM product. The first release of Foundation was available preloaded on servers from Dell, HP, NEC and Fujitsu. The R2 version will be sold by these same server vendors, plus IBM, Lenovo, Acer and local OEMs such as Wortmann (in Germany) Datateknik (Turkey) Lanix (Mexico), Positivo (Brazil) and NTT (Japan), among others, according to the company.

So which should a small business user choose: Foundation or WHS? The biggest difference seems to be in the number of users that are supported. Foundation scales up to 15, while Home Server only supports up to 10, company officials said. In addition, Home Server is also designed specifically as a media server, with storage and file backup features for movies, music and photos," a spokesperson added when I asked for more information.

"Windows Home Server is for people who work and play at home," said Eugene Saburi, General Manager in the Windows Server & Solutions Division. "And it's still based on Windows Server 2003," at this point, he said. "Windows Foundation is more of a general-purpose platform," Saburi added. "You can install a line-of-business app on it."

(There's no official word on when Microsoft plans to upgrade WHS so that it is based on Windows Server 2008 or 2008 R2. Maybe that's "Vail" -- which could be out next year if the latest rumors are right.)

Meanwhile, if you're wondering when will the R2-inclusive versions of Windows Small Business Server and Windows Essential Business Server will be out, Microsoft officials aren't saying. They are not talking about a month, a quarter or even a year (!) in terms of shipping commitments for these two products. Sigh.

One would think it wouldn't take the Softies long to update the existing SBS and EBS products to include the "minor" Windows Server 2008 R2 update... but if they also include the new Exchange Server 2010 bits, it could take a bit longer. And if they wait for the SharePoint 2010 ones, the next releases might not be out until after mid-2010....

Topics: SMBs, Hardware, Operating Systems, Servers, Software, Windows

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.