Windows Server is a line of operating systems that Microsoft specifically created for use in a normal version of Windows to suit business requirements. In almost all cases, normal users don't need the complexity of Windows Server. You won't even find it in stores and you can't mistakenly download it for Microsoft when you meant to get the standard version (Windows). Basically, the standard version of Windows is for normal users while the Windows Server is for business.
Another way to understand this is that Microsoft designed Windows for use with a desktop you sit in front of, while Windows server is a server that runs services across a network and other systems. The Windows server is designed to share services with multiple users and provide administrative control of data storage and applications.
Now that we are clear on that, we are going to be looking at the types and features of Windows server.
1. Windows Server 2003
Microsoft word introduced the Windows server brand with the release of Windows server 2003. This was the first time a .net environment was included with the Windows Server operating system.
The 2003 version of Windows Server was featured with server roles that allowed the operating system to be tailored to specialized tasks such as a DNS (Domain Name System) server.
This version also featured Volume Shadow Copy Services (VSSC). Microsoft VSSC is a Microsoft Windows Server feature that takes snapshots of files for shared folders and backups.
Other features are:
2. Windows Server 2003 R2
This version came out in 2005. At this time (2005) all Windows Server 2003 sales from the release of this version were actually Windows server 2003 R2.
This means that the R2 only used the CALs (Client Access Licenses) of the immediately preceding server version (in this case Windows Server 2003) to avoid upgrading those licenses.
The key new features are:
Active directory federation services enable administrators to broaden single sign-on access to applications and systems beyond the corporate firewall.
The active directory extension enabled external services to be included in the 'single sign-on' permissions managed within the network.
The R2 package also featured Active Directory (AD) application mode, which creates arm's length relationships with third-party applications. This feature stores data for applications that may be considered not secure enough to use in the Active Directory system.
This package also included better data compression for files and transfers and application processes for multi-site WANs (Wireless Area Networks).
3. Windows Server 2008
Windows Server 2008, the next version which took three years to evolve had another upgrade to AD (Active Directory).
Some vital changes were made to how network services interacted with the software support features of the operating system.
Its features include:
Hyper-V virtualization software- this was introduced to enhance the company's competitiveness in IT management. The idea was that, if system administrators already have a Hyper-V installed, there will be no need to bring in a rival VM virtual machine system.
Server Core- this increasingly important product of Microsoft was the bare version of Windows Server that allowed command-line access.
Other new features into the Windows Server 2008 were Event Viewer and Server Manager which were system administration tools that permitted administrators to have better control over the activities of the server.
4. Windows Server 2008 R2
First made available in 2009, Windows Server 2008 R2 is still in use today.
Microsoft kind of used its Windows 7 basic and modified its scalability and availability features to a 64-bit operating environment from a 32-bit operating system.
There were more changes in Active Directory (AD) to enhance group policy implementation.
The terminal services were also repackaged to the remote desktop services RDS
New features in this series (2008 R2) include Brand Cache and Direct Access which were both aimed at improving access to the server from users at remote locations.
5. Windows Server 2012
By 2012, Microsoft added features to Windows Server to enable better interaction with 'off-sites' so much so that the company marketed Windows Server 2013 as "Cloud OS". This was probably why the VM was initially introduced in the Windows Server 2008 version.
Imperial updates were also made to the storage infrastructure of the operating system and Hyper-V virtualization platform to make cloud resources as easy to integrate into on-site delivery as local hosts.
New features were:
Hyper-V virtual switch
Also, the Server Core and PowerShell became significant with this release Microsoft switched the default installation option to Server Core which requires administrators to use PowerShell.
Windows Server 2012 came in 4 editions: Essentials, Foundation, Standard and Datacenter.
6. Windows Server 2012 R2
This version, a revised 2012 was released in 2013. The massive changes that were singing this version included enhanced virtualization, information, security, and web services.
The ability to serve mobile devices with software from the server was also improved.
New features included are:
Desired State Configuration was built on PowerShell to prevent configuration drift and maintain consistency across the organization's machines.
Storage tethering was added to storage spaces to boost performance by automatically moving frequently called blocks of data to solid-state storage.
Work folders allow users to retrieve and save company files on work and personal devices through replication to servers in the organization's data center.
7. Windows Server 2016
Here, VM (Virtual Machine) systems were also added with an encryption system for Hyper-V and the new ability to interact with Dockers.
Microsoft introduced the Nano Server along with the inclusion of Server Core with the intention of boosting security through the light-weight server implementation that made it harder to attack.
Another plus to security is shown in the new Hyper-V shielded VM feature which uses encryption to prevent data inside a VM from being compromised.
Microsoft included the network controller as a key feature that permits administrators to manage both physical and virtual network devices from one console.
Windows Server 2016 came in Standards and data center versions.
8. Windows Server 2019
Behold! The latest version of the Microsoft server operating system- Windows Server 2019 -was released in October 2018.
Windows Server 2019 features were consistent with numerous innovations: hybrid, security, application platform, and Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI).
The HCI features of Windows Server 2019 are aimed at service to consumers. The system is capable of supporting software-defined data centers as well as their customers. The HCI is able to adjust virtualized services without taking the system down.
Project Honolulu, the Windows Admin Center, is a server management utility that also manages servers that operate Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2016.
The console covers multiple servers irrespective of the platform of the monitored server.
The server core option that was built in since the Windows Server 2008 edition is now more compact, about half its size on this version.
Users of Windows Server 2019 get access to the full front end administration tools in the GUI interface.
A highly vital security addition, Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) has also been featured in this version.
You might be wondering what the processes involved in the replacement of the Windows Server operating system are. It is not automatic, and it requires the new version to be purchased separately, except for the R2 versions which are allowed free upgrading of the original version of the particular server.
Not to worry though, the 2008 R2, 2012 R2, and 2018 are still actively operating. Also, bearing in mind that every purchase of Windows Server comes with 10 years’ support, it will only be rational to take full advantage of the mainstream support until it expires.