If you're using products from Microsoft on your servers and workstation PCs, you'll no doubt be aware that this year is set to be a hugely important one for the US software giant.
Later this month, the firm will release its Windows 8 operating system to general availability, while it also has a new cloud-based version of its Office application suite in the works. But for IT personnel, one of the most important updates to its portfolio is likely to be its new Windows Server platforms.
The main version of this software for enterprises, Windows Server 2012, has been available since September, but if you're a small business or a home user looking to build a server, this may be more than you need. However, the good news for these users is that the Essentials edition of the operating system is moving closer to launch.
Last week, Microsoft confirmed the software has reached its release to manufacturing (RTM) milestone. This means the product is ready for delivery to hardware and ecosystem partners. Following on from this, it is expected to be generally available on November 1st.
But why should you consider upgrading to the software? There are a wide range of options available if you're looking to build your own dedicated server, but if you're a small enterprise or individual user, Windows Server 2012 Essentials could offer some key new features to make your life easier.
Cloud-enable your server
In a blog post announcing the RTM milestone, director of program management at the Windows Server Essentials development team Sinead O'Donovan explained the platform has been designed to make it easier than ever to run Essentials in a hosted environment. She also promised greater flexibility, which should allow you to choose which applications and services you want to run, whether your server is on premises or hosted remotely.
If you want to find out what Windows Server 2012 Essentials can do for you, you can download a trial copy now. With a wide range of new and updated features, you may find it offers all the tools you need to take your home or small business server to the next level.