Microsoft Windows Server 2012 Essentials has reached the release to manufacturing (RTM) milestone, meaning the final code is now available to download for MSDN and TechNet subscribers.
It will then be generally available in all other channels from November.
Announced on the Windows Server blog, Windows Server 2012 Essentials is effectively a replacement for the former Windows Small Business Server (SBS) product. It's the last version of Windows Server 2012 to be released, following availability of the editions aimed at larger enterprises last month.
Like SBS, Windows Server 2012 Essentials is described by Microsoft as an ideal first server for smaller companies, but it lacks the integrated Exchange email and SharePoint collaboration capabilities.
Microsoft said this is because small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) are largely moving towards cloud-based services such as its own Office 365 platform, rendering built-in on-premise capabilities largely redundant.
Instead, Windows Server 2012 Essentials delivers new features such as automated backup and restore capabilities to help customers protect their data and continue operations in the event of a disaster.
It also includes a Remote Web Access feature that enables workers to access applications and data while outside the office using mobile devices, coming with apps for Windows Phone and Windows 8 devices.
"Windows Server 2012 Essentials is a significant milestone in our efforts to help cloud-enable small businesses and home offices," said Sinead O'Donovan, director of programme management for the Windows Server Essentials team.
"It is designed to help you protect business data, to allow highly secure access to the information you need from virtually anywhere by using almost any device, and to offer the flexibility to choose which applications and services you want to run on-premises and in the cloud."
Like other versions of Windows Server 2012, it supports Microsoft's Storage Spaces technology for pooling hard drives, making it easy to expand storage of required by simply adding extra drives.
Windows Server 2012 Essentials costs $425 and is limited to 25 users and servers with up to two processors and a minimum of 2GB RAM.
However, companies needing to expand beyond this will be able to perform an in-place upgrade to Windows Server 2012 Standard, Microsoft said.
Daniel Robinson is technology editor at V3, and has been working as a technology journalist for over two decades. Dan has served on a number of publications including PC Direct and enterprise news publication IT Week. Areas of coverage include desktops, laptops, smartphones, enterprise mobility, storage, networks, servers, microprocessors, virtualisation and cloud computing.