Unlike the full-blown Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 Essentials boots up into the Metro Start screen, prepopulated with tiles for the Desktop, IE — and oddly, the Windows Store.
The Windows Server 2012 Essentials lock screen is Metro all the way, with clear typography and easy-to-see system notifications.
The Dashboard is where you'll configure and manage your server and your users. A setup checklist helps you get a system ready for users, and helps ensure that a server is ready to be taken live.
Fancy an office playlist, or want to use Windows Server 2012 Essentials as a home server? There's a built-in media server to stream stored media to PCs or over the web.
As well as the Metro Windows Store, you can install existing Home Server 2011 and Windows Server 2011 Essentials applications from the Microsoft Pinpoint marketplace.
Adding new users to a Windows Server 2012 Essentials network is as easy as clicking a button and filling in a form. If you've set up directory federation with a cloud service like Office 365, the process will also automatically provision email and collaboration services.
Setting up directory federation with Office 365 can be complex, but Essentials simplifies the process, giving you a wizard that sets up the connection and configures domain names appropriately.
Storage Spaces give Windows Server 2012 Essentials a simple-to-setup resilient file system, using the Windows 8 wizard rather than the more complex tools that ship with the full Windows Server.
Once set up, you can use the Storage Spaces tools in Windows Server 2012 Essentials to control how files are stored in a pool, and to add additional disks if necessary.