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Windows Server 2003 Editions

written by: Jesma•edited by: Christian Cawley•updated: 6/18/2009

Server 2003 is still one of the most commonly found server operating systems in use. When it released it offered four distinct editions marketed to different groups. Learn about the four editions and if one of them may be a good choice for your business.

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    Windows Server 2003 came as an update to the technologies and platform of Server 2000. While the newer operating system looks a lot like its predecessor, 2003 is a vast improvement over 2000 with enhanced security, reliability (up-time), and ease of administration. Server 2003 also is the first in the Windows Server line to include Group Policy Objects (GPOs).

    There are four distinct versions, or editions, of Windows Server 2003: Web, Standard, Enterprise, and Datacenter, along with 64-bit versions. Each edition is designed to cater to specific roles and hardware setups.

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    Windows Server 2003 System Requirements

    Web Edition

    • Min. CPU Speed - 133 MHz
    • Recommended CPU Speed - 550 MHz
    • Min. RAM - 128 MB
    • Recommended RAM - 256 MB
    • Max. RAM - 2 GB
    • SMP Support - 2

    Standard Edition

    • Min. CPU Speed - 133 MHz
    • Recommended CPU Speed -550 MHz
    • Min RAM - 128 MB
    • Recommended Min RAM - 256 MB
    • Max RAM - 4 GB
    • SMP Support - 2
    • Min Disk Space - 1.5 GB

    Enterprise Edition

    • Min CPU Speed - 133 MHz
    • Recommended CPU Speed - 733 MHz
    • Min RAM - 128 MB
    • Recommended Min RAM - 256 MB
    • Max RAM - 32 GB
    • SMP Support 8
    • Min Disk Space -1.5 GB

    Datacenter Edition

    • Min CPU Speed - 400 MHz
    • Recommended CPU Speed - 733 MHz
    • Min RAM - 512 MB
    • Recommended Min RAM - 1 GB
    • Max RAM - 64 GB
    • SMP Support - 32
    • Min Disk Space - 1.5 GB

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    Windows Server 2003 Defining Characteristics

    Besides having slightly different hardware requirements and supported technologies, the varying server editions also look and function differently. Identifying the one you're looking for can be tough, especially when you have to consider the rising cost as you go up the chain. Should you get the Web edition and hope it's enough, or should you spring for Enterprise to cover all of your bases? Let's identify the key features of each edition that set them apart.

    Web Edition - The Windows 2003 Server Web Edition is a toned down version of the software designed specifically for - you guessed it - web servers. It seeks to provide standard operating system features, as well as enables users to deploy Web sites, Web applications, and other Web services with minimal administration. It is also much lower in cost. The Web edition is very limited on multiprocessor support and memory capacity, however. Web edition does not include anything that isn't also found in the more expensive editions; instead, it is a lower cost version with less of the features that wouldn't really be needed on a Web server.

    Standard Edition - The Standard edition is designed to be a basic yet complete server platform with a number of features, like directory, file, and print services, as well as multimedia and Web tools. The broad included technologies are: Directory Services (Active Directory), Internet Services, Infrastructure (DHCP, DNS, WINS), TCP/IP and Routing, File/Print Services, Terminal Server, and built-in Security features. It is marketed towards small to mid-sized businesses.

    Enterprise Edition - The Enterprise edition of Windows Server is designed for mid to large-sized businesses and is essentially a higher-powered version of standard, supporting up to 8 processors and 32 GB of memory. It also includes a few features that aren't found in the Standard Edition, such as:

    • Microsoft Metadirectory Services - Includes support for the MMS technology, which integrates multiple information sources into a single directory and allows Active Directory to merge with other directory services to allow a unified view of all available information.
    • Server Clustering - A goup of servers that function as a single unit, sharing storage resources and jobs, as well as providing fail-over fault-tolerance.
    • Hot Add Memory - Allows technicians to add/replace memory in the server without shutting it off. Must be supported by the hardware.
    • Windows System Resource Manager (WSRM) - Allows admins to allocate resources to specific applications or processes. Allows limits to be placed on resources, or to keep track of resource use.

    Datacenter - Datacenter is designed for servers dealing with high resource demand applications, high traffic, and large system demands. Datacenter edition is very much like Enterprise, but allows for even greater scaling, supporting up to 64 GB of RAM and 32 processors. It does exclude a couple of technologies that are found in Enterprise edition - ICF and ICS, but only because it is expected that any server that needs to run datacenter will not be expected to also perform the roles of those features.