Upgrading from Microsoft Server 2012 Essentials to Standard (yes upgrade not migrate)

I recently read an article that stated that you can in fact do an "UPGRADE" from Server 2012 Essentials to Server 2012 Standard.  Is this possible?

I have a client that wants us to bring their Hosted Exchange back in-house and currently owns 2012 Essentials.  Our goal would be to upgrade Essentials to Standard then install Exchange 2013 on Server 2012 standard.

Who is Participating?
Seth SimmonsSr. Systems AdministratorCommented:
generally speaking, you can install a second 2012 standard server in an essentials environment and install exchange 2013 on it.  instead of upgrading essentials to standard (as mentioned, not recommended to install exchange on a domain controller and not supported on an essentials machine), add as an additional virtual guest.  there is a lot more planning around that but at a high level, what you are looking to do is possible

Transition from Windows Server 2012 Essentials to Windows Server 2012 Standard

Integrate an on-premises Exchange Server with Windows Server 2012 Essentials
Cliff GaliherCommented:
Yes, it is possible, but a few huge caveats:

You well have to uninstall ALL of the essentials features, and once uninstalled, they cannot be reinstalled,

Exchange has issues running on a DC, so even if you convert to standard and remove all of the features, I'd strongly recommend against installing exchange on the upgraded server.

Since you have to buy a standard license and CALs for then upgrade anyways, it'd be better to just keep essentials as-is, install the standard license as a second member (non-DC) server, and install exchange on that. It is a fully supported configuration. Using virtualization, you can even run it all on one physical piece of hardware.
creativenetworksAuthor Commented:
Great advice!

The client is only using Essentials as a data store, nothing else.  And I have read that Exchange doesn't like running on a DC too, but then again, look at SBS.  It goes against that theory completely and works like a charm.

So to be clear, your suggestion is to install another Virtual Server with 2012 Standard, and run Exchange on that, and use the existing Essentials server as the DC.  which means no additional hardware purchases are needed.  I have to check and see if there is any leftover data space on their VMWare server (I don't think there is) which I believe is why we are discussing upgrading the existing Essentials Server.

BTW it's worth mentioning that there are only 7 users on this network (very small) all things considered.
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Cliff GaliherCommented:
"SBS works like a charm."

I challenge that notion. Do even a basic search through SBS forums and you will see people needing to limit exchange memory usage just to keep the server stable on SBS 2011. This has gotten worse with .Net 4.5.1. And since doing that changed between exchange 2017 RTM and SP1, and no official support has come from MS, "like a charm" is not accurate.

Let ,e be clear. it CAN be done. But the management, overhead, patching, and security risks all tell me it SHOULDN'T be done. The exchange team spends zero time making sire exchange can run on a DC. The SBS team had to do all of their integration, and SBS 2011 took nine months to RTM after 2008 R2 standard RTMed. That should tell you that getting exchange to play on a DC isn't trivial.

And SBS (exchange on a DC) is no more. There will not be a 2012, 2012 R2, or future version (in the foreseeable future) with that configuration prebuilt.

So if you really want to take on managing something that even Microsoft, with its deep coffers, chose not to, go for it. I stand by my advice that it'd be a terrible idea.

As far as the second part, if the essentials server has enough power to run exchange, it should be able to run essentials and exchange virtualized just as easily. I'd P2V the existing essentials OS. Install the 2012 standard license in the essentials hardware. Enable Hyper-V. Create 2 VMs. Bring up the P2Ved essentials OS as the first VM. Install standard into the second VM. Join it to the essentials domain. Install exchange. All on the original essentials hardware, all virtualized, and all in an easily supportable topology.
creativenetworksAuthor Commented:
cgaliher, you have very good points.  I for one, especially specializing in small businesses, have no idea how we can sell Exchange to our customers without virtualization any longer.  It just doesn't make financial sense and with SBS being gone, well, we have a fairly cloudy future.

I agree with you however that VM is the answer, both financially and physically.  However in this situation, the VMWare server is pretty tapped out from an available data store arena.

In their current setup, Essentials is running virtualized on a VMWare server.  My issue however is that this being a small company, they don't want to purchase more hardware, and the existing setup has maxed out the existing Hard Drive space.

I'm trying to find a way to do this without rebuilding, or purchasing a second server.

So theoritically I could just let Essentials run as the DC, then create a second VM to run 2012 Std and Exch and add it to the domain.  Problem solved.  The question is, where do I get the additional HD space needed for STD and Exch?  

BTW great answer and response.  Appreciate your candor.
Cliff GaliherCommented:
If the server is that tight, how would you add exchange anyways? Essentials doesn't take up much space, so either way too much space has been provisioned for essentials, or it wouldn't have room to take exchange anyways.

As I mentioned above, the difference between virtualizing essentials and a second VM should be negligible when the alternative is running it all on one machine. Either the machine is capable of doing both, or is too constrained and would not be able to do either one.

but I wish you luck in your final planning and decision making.
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