Introducing Windows Server 2019 Essentials

With the release of Server 2019 Essentials, the end of an era has been reached. Gone are the wizards and tools designed for the small business owner.

Gone is the Remote Web Access feature.

Gone is the Essentials Connector.

Gone is Client PC Backup.

Gone is Office 365 Integration.

Gone, is the Dashboard.

Gone, indeed, is the Essentials Role.

All that remains of Essentials, is the name Essentials and the licensing limits of the Essentials SKU, of 25 client access licenses.

What we are presented with, is now more in line with Windows foundation server from several years ago.

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.

25 Responses to Introducing Windows Server 2019 Essentials

  1. Brian Beckers says:

    Once again, Microsoft takes a great feature set and KILLS IT. Small Businesses that currently use Essentials do so for the exact features that they are removing. The Office 365 integration has been extremely useful for these customers to easily sync their accounts with 365. Many users take advantage of Remote Web Access rather than pay for yet another third party remote access solution (e.g. GoToMyPC). Some of the other features are less important, such as Client Backup as personal folders are redirected to the server and backed up from there.
    But, Microsoft, what are you thinking???
    This is just plain stupid on their part. I know that I will continue with 2016 Essentials for as long as I can. After that, maybe Server 2012 Essentials will bring back some of the tools we use.

  2. David Moen says:

    I have mixed feelings about this. I have been selling and supporting SBS/Server Essentials since the Windows NT days, but when I think of my current fleet of installed servers, very few of the features you mention get used. Remote Web Access is perhaps the most useful of these, but I’m sure there is another way to provide the functionality.

  3. Brian J says:

    The role is still in full Server 2019 though, right? It’ll be exactly the same as it was in 2016, but it’s at least there, I think.

    @David, the 365 integration was pretty decent (though still problematic) and is what I saw used. It saved tangling with (and keeping updated) Azure AD Connect or its predecessors.

      • Brian J says:

        What is the last blue section here saying then? The role in question is in the list beneath it.

      • I’m saying the role is not in 2019 Standard. I’m sure that is what the link also says. Or am I misunderstanding your question?

      • Brian J says:

        Just trying to understand what was meant by “They *are* present in the Server with Desktop Experience installation option, which we last released with Windows Server 2016 and will release again in Windows Server 2019.”

        And the “They” refers to a list…which contains what we’re talking about….

      • “We’re no longer developing the Essentials Experience role for the Windows Server Standard or Windows Server Datacenter SKUs. ”

        As far as i am ware, Essentials Experience, as a Role or a SKU will have no further development.

        The role will not be in 2019, and the 2019 SKU of Essentials is, as i said above missing all of the features we have used since 2011.

      • Brian Beckers says:

        Brian J: In response to:
        Just trying to understand what was meant by “They *are* present in the Server with Desktop Experience installation option, which we last released with Windows Server 2016 and will release again in Windows Server 2019.”

        Translation: “Server with Desktop Experience” will release again in Windows Server 2019. This does *not* imply that the features CURRENTLY included in 2016 (the “no longer being developed list”) will be included in 2019.

        Read the entire article. It is fairly clear, (as clear as Microsoft can be…), that the list of “Features we are no longer developing” will be maintained through the most current update for Server 2016. However, there are no developers working to improve/repair/etc. these features.
        For each feature, including Server Essentials Role, more information specific to the feature is provided. In the blue section, it is stated that these features are available only with the Desktop Experience, and not the Core editions.
        Quote: “We’re no longer developing the Essentials Experience role for the Windows Server Standard or Windows Server Datacenter SKUs.” Translation: What you have now is all you will have for Server 2016. There will be no changes/updates/etc. This is also the early indication that the EE role will not be included in Server 2019.
        However, Server 2016 Essentials is recommended in the article, which does signify that 2016 Essentials will not be prematurely “killed off”.
        The way the article is written, Microsoft is leaving the door open to the *possibility* that they may include Essentials experience features in a future release of Server Essentials. But don’t bet on this, as the Server 2019 Essentials article from the OP does clearly state that the Essentials Experience Role as we know it will not be included in future releases.

  4. Jon O says:

    I don’t like this at all! As an MSP, I have WSE 2012 R2 running at 10 customer sites, ranging from 5 to 23 users. With Microsoft removing all the benefits in the 2019 SKU, this most likely takes it out of the running when future upgrades are discussed.

    The Remote Web Access, Essentials Role, and super simple Office 365 integration made this a feature rich / inexpensive product for my smaller clients and saved me some manual setup steps. Personally I never used / needed the PC backup features and didn’t care for the connector or dashboard, would rather use the ADUC snap-in directly.

    The fact the Microsoft marketing geniuses are still using the word “essentials” in the OS name is shady, this is a totally different product compared to previous versions of WSE. They better drop the price a couple hundred dollars more too, from the already low ~ $400, or what’s the point of this SKU really.

    Robert, is it also safe to assume they pulled any 1+1 virtualization rights for the 2019 Essentials SKU? If that’s the case then Windows Server Standard 2019 is my new base for all customers, even the smallest ones, moving forward. Every single customer I have is virtualized on Hyper-V, even the WSE 2012 R2 setups.

    • I don’t know for sure about that, but i dont think it would be worth considering 1+1 Virtualization rights, given the additional limits essentials has, i think Server Standard, 1+2 is a better way to go. Allowing for a DC & second VM that can run AADC, File & print etc.

      • Tony Snider says:

        Unless you need 3 Virtual Machines, then this would be cheaper than having Standard x2

  5. Ted Cogger says:

    It seams that Microsoft want to port everything onto the Microsoft cloud
    they are forgetting that there is a large community of small business users
    With the removal of essential services, remote access, Office integration and all the other services that my current clients use what is the point of being with Microsoft as the cost for ownership to Office365, Azure is getting beyond a joke for these small businesses
    I’m having to go back to the Linux platforms as they still supply a total office solution to small business
    This is Halving my business and the end result is that Microsoft don’t care

  6. Brian Beckers says:

    In my experience, several features of the Essentials Experience are outdated, are not longer relevant or useful, or just plain don’t work.

    The Dashboard has multiple flaws. Windows Admin Center does a MUCH better job than the Essentials Dashboard. I find myself doing more and more admin tasks outside of the Dashboard.

    In my experience, the only really, truly useful components left in Essentials is the Remote Web Workplace (Anywhere Access), Health Monitoring, and the Office 365 Integration. The remainder of the management features, including user and storage, are far superior in the WAC.

    Going forward, I really hope that in 2019 Essentials, they find a way to incorporate these three very much used parts of the Essentials Experience. Especially RWW, as I have moved many customers to this to avoid paying for a 3rd party remote access solution. Most of these people need to connect remotely so infrequently that there is no cost justification for those 3rd party solutions.

  7. Naysan says:

    This is sad news, I use Essentials for Remote Web access only. It’s perfect for providing a secure RDP session to a few machines over the internet, especially from computers which have restrictions on VPN, ports and third party software installation.

    Are there any good RD gateway like alternatives for small businesses? I assume there is no way to create an RD gateway from Windows 10? The only similar solution I have found is Royal Server however the client must have Royal TS/X installed – abit overkill for one RDP connection.

  8. Yogi says:

    Reading the comments above, it looks like I’m in the minority by using the client backup functionality of Essentials. It is pretty much the only thing I still use from the Essentials role, actually. That and as a simple way to setup a Remote Access Gateway with a dynamic DNS and free security certificate (

    Yes, data is backed up in the cloud by having users’ profile folders (Desktop, Documents, Music, Pictures, Videos) redirected to their OneDrive for Business synced folders and shared data in SharePoint Team Sites. However, having a full system image backup of all the client machines is so convenient when a drive dies. A simple replacement of the drive, a PXE boot of the client machine, and a restore from the last backup has the end user up and running on their computer with all software installed and completely configured. Then the OneDrive sync application pulls in any updated files that have changed while their computer was down.

    For many of my clients, that’s all that their on-premises server became… a simple backup repository for their client machines.

  9. John says:

    A few Windows Server 2019 Essentials installs later and this is a disaster. In all cases so far we repurchased volume license edition of 2019 Essentials and downgraded to 2016.

    The aspects most missed are:
    1. Remote Web Access (mainly for remote access to PC’s)
    2. Essentials Connector (to allow home workers join the domain via the /connect URL site and keep them on the VPN to be managed via GPO’s)

    Where can we complain? Since there are already unsupported 3rd party solutions out there that re-instates all these features in 2019 Essentials, is there a chance Microsoft will reverse this decision?

  10. mcbsys says:

    Has anyone dug into this far enough to determine whether 2019 Essentials still bundles (or does not require) RDS CALs for the 25 users it allows? I’m assuming one could still set up the server as an RDS gateway, but the cost of RDS CALs is not trivial.

    • paul gillespie says:

      Correct, you can setup a RDS gateway, handout a pre-configured RDP shortcut to the staff but you need CALs to be legal.

      Can you give your clients limited access to your RMM platform to give remote access? We do that for a couple of clients.

      The only thing we’ll miss is RWA. We have about 20-25 Essentials out there. Everything else was Junk.

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