Windows Server 2019, Windows Server Essentials 2019, Office 2019 and other 2019 Microsoft products for the SMB
So the 2019 lineup of products are basically all here now–Office 2019, Windows Server 2019, Exchange Server 2019, etc. Now with regard to the SMB space, I would usually be recommending that most organizations, especially very small sized business of 25 users or less, be looking toward the Microsoft 365 Business subscription rather than toward Windows Server based products or Open volume licensing. However, I recognize that some organizations in this bracket will still be refreshing (perhaps just once more) on this platform, so this post is just some quick tidbits I wanted to share on notable announcements that came out of Ignite, and the launch of these products this fall.
Windows Server Standard 2019
Okay, yeah–so they had some issues with the original release. But, when it is ready to go for reals, there are some pretty cool features here, for Windows Server nerds. Personally I am not focused on these products anymore, but check it out–security stuff here is getting really cool (Windows Defender ATP, encrypted virtual networks, etc.). And I hear there will be some included tools for hybrid options with Azure, although I haven’t investigated this much more; it sounds like Azure Backup, Azure File Sync and Storage Migration Service, which includes Azure options, will be of interest to some… See below links for some more info.
Windows Server Essentials 2019
This is most likely the last version of Windows Server Essentials. The “Essentials Experience” role is no longer available, and same with Client PC Backup, Remote Web Access features, and even the Office 365 Integration tools, etc. But the standalone edition of Windows Server Essentials which supports 25 users with CAL’s included, is still available. The best news for this product is that we now have official support for Azure AD Connect. Previously it was not supported, and instead there was a quirky sync tool which did not support all the features such as seamless SSO, or password write-back via Azure AD Premium, for example. Now customers of Essentials can take advantage of the “real” Directory synchronization solution, like all other Microsoft customers.
Honestly I won’t miss this product once they are done with it–as I’ve mentioned, we’re on to better things with Microsoft 365 Business. Still, Windows Server Essentials has a really attractive price point for small businesses, and some out there will still want an on-premises server for one reason or another.
Windows Admin Center
This looks really cool, although in the SMB the tool will be most likely be ignored, as Managed Service Providers tend to use their own management tools. If you are a smaller IT shop managing a mid-sized enterprise environment, you’ll want to check it out–think of this new interface as RSAT on steroids, although MS says it doesn’t completely replace MMC yet, it seems like that is the general direction it’s all headed. The tool can be installed on a management server or on a Windows 10 workstation, and it can manage down-level servers too, but with more limited functionality.
Office 2019 and Windows Server 2019
Office 2019 is supported on Windows 10 and Windows Server 2019, and it is not supported on previous versions of Windows, so if you want to publish Office applications on RDS server, you must use Office 2019 with Windows Server 2019. The real kicker, however, is that subscription based Office will not run on Windows Server 2019. In other words, Office 365 Pro Plus versions (e.g. with E3) and the “shared computer activation” feature will not work with Windows Server 2019–you must purchase a volume copy of Office 2019 for this scenario. Strange move, Microsoft, but whatever.
This may have been one of the most understated announcements of the year. From what I can tell, this is going to be a major shift for user experiences (and it isn’t really all rolled out yet–excited to watch for more developments). From what I gather, there will be some heavy AI at work tying Search together across all your Microsoft products, from Office to Windows to Bing–optimizing search results to find content related to your organizational work specifically. Read more about this announcement here.
Exchange Server 2019
There is no reason I know of for a small or mid-sized business to consider an on-premises Exchange server any longer. I’ve been saying that for a while now. Anything you want to do, any compliance requirement you need to meet–it can be done in Office 365 Exchange Online. And with Exchange Server 2019, they are giving us even more reason to pause when looking toward on-premises Exchange server: No more Unified Messaging! Strange they should be removing this, but there it is. If UM is a requirement, go to Exchange Online, they say.
I previously read some rumors that archiving would also be leaving this product, and that you’d have to go to Exchange Online in order to add an online archive mailbox, if you wanted that feature. So far since the release of 2019, I have not found any official Microsoft documentation corroborating this. Although it is interesting that in general, the code for Exchange Online vs. Exchange on-premises is now officially “forked” and 2019 forward will technically be a separate/different build from what we have in Exchange Online. I bet you can guess in which version all the cool new carrots will be waiting as development progresses…
Since I have to specialize a little bit more from now on, just to stay up-to-date and deliver the best service possible to my customers, I probably won’t be covering a lot of these “traditional” server/on-premises based products anymore. I’ve even thought of moving my domain to a new name which reflects more specifically the 365-oriented services for the SMB. Specifically I plan to focus my attention around the Microsoft 365 subscriptions–both Business and Enterprise. Nevertheless, since we still live in a hybrid world for the time being, I’m sure I will occasionally brush up against these other things and write about them. But enough of that for now. As always I wish good luck and all the best to you SMB consultants and admins out there. Keep fighting that good fight, my friends.