SBS 2011 Essentials vs. WHS 2011- What’s the Difference?

A question came up on my twitter feed search about the differences between SBS Essentials and Windows Home Server. I tweeted back a simple reply, but got to thinking that perhaps those differences are not being explained or that the info is just not out there or easy to find. So i drew up this quick overview table showing the key differences between the two systems, and go into a bit more detail below.


Domain Controller

SBS Essentials, like all versions of SBS, HAS to be a domain controller. It HAS to hold all of the FSMO roles, and there can be only one SBS box per domain. The SBS domain cannot form trusts with other domains or forests.

WHS cannot be a domain controller.

Domain Join

SBS Essentials cannot join another domain as a member server, it can join an existing domain IF the FSMO roles are transferred and any other SBS Server is demoted down and removed.

WHS cannot join a domain as a member server,

Remote Web Access (RWW/RWA)

Both SBS Essentials and WHS have a remote web access portal page, Differences here are that WHS now includes the ability to access and stream your media through the RWA, Essentials does not have the ability to stream media.

Server Backup

This could be misleading to some, SBS Essentials will backup itself (a server) it will not backup member servers, save for a server running Windows Multipoint 2011.

WHS Cannot backup servers.

Client Backup

The feature first introduced with WHSv1, that many of us in the SBSC jumped on for business use – was client backup. This feature is now available to SBS Essentials to include up to the maximum of the 25 clients you are allowed on the network (storage permitting) WHSv2 is limited to 10 clients.

Health Reporting

SBS Essentials Health Reporting is much like that you will find in SBS Standard with reports and email alerts also in some cases recommended actions on how to fix problems. WHS Health reporting is limited to alerts only.

Home Group

SBS Essentials cannot be a member of a home group. WHS of course can be a member of a Home Group

Addins (Third Party Apps)

SBS Essentials and WHS can take advantage of custom addins, built by you, or by ISV’s. Notable addins include the cloudberry app, OWN’s integration for their email products, LightsOut and MyMovies for WHS. You will find that a lot if not all of the addins work across the platforms. More addins here.

Office 365 Integration

The big one! As you may be aware SBS Essentials is designed with a cloud email solution in mind, in fact most Small Business do already use Cloud Email in the form of POP3 or IMAP or plain old Webmail. The Office365 integration addin will be launched sometime this year and will allow you to sync your users to and from OF365, syncing passwords between systems Details on this are still being confirmed so this is subject to change.

No plans currently to have console integration with WHS – but this also may change.

Media Sharing

SBS Essentials will not have the ability to share media – this is related to the RWA access as above. I don’t believe there is any block on simply putting media files on a normal server share on the SBS.

WHS of course will host your media and stream it to you through the RWA.

Media Center

SBS Essentials does not have the ability to be integrated with a media center, and of course WHS Does have Media Center

So there you have it. As i said these details are subject to change, but these are the core differences, if you think SBS Essentials – Business use / WHS – Home use, you wont go far wrong.

You can find more information on SBS Essentials and WHS 2011 here:

SBS Essentials WHS 2011

get the bits…

SBS Essentials here and WHS 2011 here and here

About Robert Pearman
Robert Pearman is a UK based Small Business Server enthusiast. He has been working within the SMB IT Industry for what feels like forever. Robert likes Piña colada and taking walks in the rain, on occasion he also enjoys writing about Small Business Technology like Windows Server Essentials or more recently writing PowerShell Scripts. If you're in trouble, and you can find him, maybe you can ask him a question.

4 Responses to SBS 2011 Essentials vs. WHS 2011- What’s the Difference?

  1. Eric de Oude says:

    Nice List.
    For SBS, what is the disadvantage of not being able to be a member of a homegroup?

    • This link will explain what a home group has to offer (if you need to know). A homegroup is an evolution of a workgroup, which was often difficult to manage for home users, because passwords and user account names needed to sync accross computers. with a homegroup you just need the password for the homegroup and your machines (win7 only) will share pictures documents media, even printers with minimal effort.

      So it is a really quick way to share things between a group of pc’s at home.

      I think with SBS Essentials you are more or less getting that functionality with the client software installed, it is really easy to get setup it just isnt called a homegroup. Benefits of this atually are that other client operating systems are supported, not just Win7, you have Older OS’s like VIsta and XP (home versions as well as busines and ultimate) and even, if you want Mac’s.

      Hope that helps.

  2. Jim Shimota says:

    Your overview discusses a health reports yet I can’t find any reference to it except as it pertains to SBS 2011 Standard. Can you elaborate?

    • I think looking back over this i have made a mistake on the health reporting. SBS Essentials will email Alerts to you, but not reports. At this point i think this differs from WHS in that, WHS wont email you alerts.

      Just gonna build a WHS to confirm.

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