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Complete Guide to Windows Server + Compare Differences.
Servers provide functionality for other networked computers, and as such their operating systems differ from those run on regular computers. Windows Server by Microsoft is a leader in server operating systems, having released many Windows Server versions over the years, and it’s become the main rival for Linux.
This guide provides information for network administrators looking to understand the difference between Windows Server versions. It includes specifics for the different Windows Server editions up to the latest release of Windows Server 2019. I’ll also explain what to look for in a Windows server monitoring tool like SolarWinds ® Server & Application Monitor to help you get the most out of your server performance.
Windows NT Servers.
The Windows Server operating system was first introduced in the 1990s, and Microsoft branded it with "NT" (short for "New Technology") up until the year 2000. The company had several releases of the NT version of the operating system, as follows:
Windows NT 3.1.
The original release of the Windows NT server was not version 1. Instead, it was Windows NT Advanced Server 3.1, with the release numbering designed to match the version of the standard operating system at the time.
This first release came out in 1993 as a 32-bit system and was developed to support new server hardware. This began the evolution of the Windows Server line of operating systems.
Windows NT 3.5.
The next version, Windows NT Server 3.5, was released in 1994. This version enhanced the server functionality to support interconnectivity with both Unix systems and Novell NetWare. Because Unix and Novell servers were the standards at the time, this approach was essential for Windows NT Server to be competitive in the market. The interconnectivity meant servers with the Windows operating system could be incorporated in an existing network running on Unix or Novell.
Windows NT 3.51.
Windows NT Server 3.51 came out in 1995 to align with the regular operating system release of Windows 95. The server version supported computers running Windows 95 and provided some improvements to make the system more stable. The upgrade also provided the ability to manage the software licenses on client computers, including installing and updating operating system elements on client computers over the network.
Windows NT 4.0.
Although Microsoft released a server version alongside Windows 95, the user interface for the operating system didn’t match the Windows 95 look and серверы под эмуляторы feel until 1996, when Windows NT Server 4.0 was released.
One of the most important components of the 4.0 release was Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS). This free addition is now the most popular web management software in the world. Apache HTTP Server is in second place, although up until 2018, Apache was the leading web server software.
Windows NT Server had additional service packs to support increasingly complicated networks, and this led to the release of Windows NT 4.0 Enterprise Server in 1997. The Microsoft Transaction Server and Message Queue enhancements were designed to handle interactions with congested networks. The updates also added the ability to manage operating systems for server clusters and provided integration for public-key encryption services.
Finally, in 1998, Windows NT 4.0 Terminal Server Edition came out. This was the last enhancement to the NT operating system series, and it provided a bridge for 16-bit DOS applications to interface with 32-bit desktop environments. The release also supported connections with non-Windows systems.
The Evolution of Windows Server.
In 2000, the branding for Windows servers changed. Microsoft dropped the "NT" and released Windows Server 2000 to highlight its relevance for modern systems. After that, the server versions were named based on the year each edition was released.
Windows Server 2000.
Windows Server 2000 provided the initial functionality for many features of the operating system still in use today. The main features included:
XML support Active Server Pages creation Active Directory use for user authentication.
The release also included specialized versions for different server environments, with Advanced Server and Datacenter Server editions as well as the standard Windows Server operating system.
Windows Server 2003.
The release of Windows Server 2003 brought a significant rewrite to the server software. The main goal of the change was to reduce the need to reboot the system, specifically by providing the ability to install updates and patches without needing to restart.
With Windows 2003, Microsoft provided updates to the security features. This was also the first time the company included the .NET framework in the server operating system.
Another major addition with the 2003 release was the ability to define server roles. This allowed the operating system to be customized for specific tasks, like a DNS server. Microsoft also provided multiple versions of the release, including the Standard, Advanced, and Datacenter versions, and a new Windows Server 2003 Web Edition meant for internet servers. Another update came out not long after the initial release to convert the Windows Server system to a 64-bit environment.
Windows Server 2003 R2.
In 2005, Windows Server 2003 R2 came out as a free upgrade to the Windows Server 2003 edition. Once this release was available, all Windows Server 2003 sales were for Windows Server 2003 R2.
This release focused on enhanced security, especially user authentication. This was based on Active Directory, which remains the foundation for user authentication today. The R2 release also included a new feature, Active Directory Federation Service. This gave network administrators more flexibility when managing server permissions, such as the ability to include external devices when enabling "single sign-on" permissions.
The upgrade for Active Directory also added Active Directory Application Mode. This gave users access to third-party applications without going through all the authentication steps for the external software, as long as the users were verified through the Active Directory extension.
Another security feature of R2 was the Security Configuration Wizard, which provided the ability to define security policies for groups of computers. Additionally, Windows Server 2003 R2 contained improved data compression for transfers and files and multi-site WAN replication procedures.
Windows Server 2008.
Microsoft took another three years to develop significant updates to Windows Server, which were released as Windows Server 2008. This release saw more improvements to Active Directory and changes in the interaction between the operating system’s software support features and network services.
A major enhancement came with Microsoft’s Hyper-V system. This virtualization product allowed Windows Server users to create virtual machines (VMs), which was increasingly important to IT teams. This may have been included for серверы под эмуляторы Nox competitive reasons, to prevent Windows users from looking elsewhere for a VM system.
Windows Server 2008 included new software administration tools called Event Viewer and Server Manager. These utilities gave administrators more control over important server activities.
A different version of the Windows Server software was available with Server Core. This bare-bones version of the software, without the standard graphical user interface (GUI), provided command-line access to the server.

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