Windows Server vs Desktop OS for Running a Server
August 22, 2014 11:21 AM   Subscribe

I have to justify the extra cost of Windows Server over the desktop version and I'm having trouble finding what the advantages of Windows Server are. Can a server computer, being used as a server use a desktop OS? Is it advisable to do so?

The OS would be installed on a server computer (RAID, multiple network cards, etc.). This server will be used for an industrial safety monitoring system (i.e. it needs to be on 24/7 except during maintenance). It will be sending out data to anywhere from 1-10 client computers and be receiving large amounts of data every second from an outside source. It will also be doing real-time calculations on the data.
posted by exolstice to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Can a server computer, being used as a server use a desktop OS? Is it advisable to do so?

Yes. No.

Windows server OSes are tuned for stability and performance under load. The desktop OSes are tuned for single user speed and drivers and such are not as rigorously tested to ensure stability.

Also, server editions can be further peformance tuned by excluding those parts of the OS that are unnecessary (even the GUI in server 2012).

Lastly, good server hardware often won't have drivers for desktop versions of the OS. There are various tricks you can do to get them to install, but if you have a machine that is intended to be a server, you should put a server OS on it.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:51 AM on August 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Without knowing how the server will communicate to the clients, it is hard to know whether or not the features of the server os will be necessary. If it is a web server, then the better admin tools in Windows Server 2012 will probably be useful. If it will act as an Active Directory Server, then you will definitely need a server OS.

The difference is price between the server and desktop OS is about a day's worth of pay for the person with the skills to setup and maintain an industrial safety monitoring server. If that person exists, go ask him or her. If they don't, you should not be making these decisions without said person. You stand to lose much more time, measured in dollars.

Buying a bunch of hardware and software without having the technical expertise to go with it a recipe for failure. Given that your business is quibbling over three to four hundred dollars, they are either trying to do this too cheaply, or aren't seeing the cost in human hours as part of the equation.
posted by zabuni at 12:02 PM on August 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Please don't attempt to use a desktop OS instead of a server. You need the network management services that Windows Server has, that's why they created that OS. It might seem like a good idea now, but you will absolutely regret at some point soon after installing it. And you don't want to have to take your server offline to fix a mistake that shouldn't have been made in the first place.
posted by trogdole at 12:13 PM on August 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you don't care about whether the server lives or dies, then sure, use a desktop OS. If it's for anything important, use the server OS. I think a industrial safety monitoring system that requires 24/7 uptime sounds important, but maybe that's just me.
posted by empath at 12:20 PM on August 22, 2014

Pose the following question to the person challenging you on the server OS:

"When a lawyer asks us whether or not we were using a server quality operating system on the server that failed, what answer do you want to be able give?"
posted by DWRoelands at 12:44 PM on August 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers, they helped settle the issue.
posted by exolstice at 1:29 PM on August 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

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