Windows Server 2008 or 2012? Keep These in Mind When Choosing the OS for Your Server

Featured image for comparing Windows 2012 benefits to 2008


Whether you’ve decided you need a VPS or dedicated server, the operating system you choose to use will be the backbone of everything you do on it. Windows servers are typically easier to manage if you’re new to running your own server. But even after you’ve decided Windows is what you want to run on it, there’s still more to decide.

Customers often ask what the difference between Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2012, so that’s what this article will help you with.

Mostly, we’ll look at the many advantages that come with 2012. Because really, there are only a few situations where 2008 is used over 2012:

  • You need to run software that’s written for 2008 and won’t run on 2012
  • You’re used to 2008 and don’t like change (If you’re reading this, you probably aren’t in this category)
  • You don’t wanna pay more for 2012, or 2016 for that matter (If you’re reading this to decide what to use on a server rented from us, you don’t pay more)

Which one you should choose depends on what you’re going to be doing with your server and what you’ll be installing on it.


Note: While there is a 32 bit Windows Server 2008, we don’t offer that version here at Hostwinds. We only offer the 64 bit Windows Server 2008 R2 for security reasons. If you’re ready, you can view our affordable Windows VPS options or browse our fully-customizable dedicated servers.


First thing first… Security

Image of lock representing the improved security of Windows Server 2012 over 2008


Security is on everyone’s mind these days with the rising threat of cyberattacks. So that’s what we’ll look at first and it’s easy to say that Windows Server 2012 clearly shines over 2008 in regards to security.


BitLocker and AppLocker

BitLocker is an awesome tool to help prevent data from getting into the wrong hands. And while Windows Server 2008 R2 has BitLocker, it encrypts your entire disk. With 2012, you can decide whether you want the entire disk encrypted or if you’d just like to have the used areas encrypted.

2012 also will support running BitLocker on iSCSI drives or a Fiber Channel.

Then you also have the option of using AppLocker, which lets you give certain groups or certain users access to run and use specific applications/files.



IIS 8 features dynamic IP restrictions, as well as FTP logon attempt restrictions. Both add another layer of security for your server and are useful for preventing brute-force attacks.

Dynamic IP Restrictions lets you specify how many times an IP can send requests to the server before being blocked.

FTP Logon Attempts Restriction lets you specify how many failed logon attempts can be made with the FTP server within a certain time frame before that IP is blocked.

On top of that, you also get centralized certificate management, script pre-compilation, granular process throttling and more.


Easily fine-tune who has access to what

Windows 2012 makes it easier to setup access rules for everything on the server. This is done through claims. Claims can be assigned to any user or group. These claims are then used for authentication when they try to access something. And you can get super detailed with them.

Roger Grimes wrote a great guide to this, along with many other features that make 2012 the winner when it comes to security.


More user friendly interface

Image for section on the new GUI for easier management of Windows Server 2008 R2 and 2012


Traditionally with 2008, especially if using a Server Core installation, you’d need to be familiar with using the command line in order to run your server. Windows 2008 R2 (the version we offer here at Hostwinds) and 2012 now provides an easier-to-use graphical user interface.

While many people weren’t fond of this, it was mostly those already very familiar with running servers and those who know their way around the command line. If you’re new to all this, the GUI makes it easier to manage.

Either way, you’re able to change between the traditional command line input and the newer GUI whenever you please. That’s helpful, because some tasks are easier than others on one or the other.


Easy migration and customization with Hyper-V

Image for section on how migration can be done live with no downtime in Windows Server 2012


Hyper-V brings many benefits to the table. One of the most notable is the ability to migrate a virtual machine from one server to another with no downtime. No clustering required. If you needed to move your VM from your local machine to the cloud, or vice-versa, you could do it all live. Snapshots can also be done without ever having to shutdown the virtual machine.

You can also add new functionality to your server with Hyper-V’s Extensible Switch. This lets you add plugins that are already coded and developed by others. And the configurations and settings for each plugin you install are unique for each one.


Direct Access makes secure connection easier

Considered Microsoft’s replacement for a VPN, Direct Access lets users securely connect to the network without all the hassle of VPN connections. And it got a huge boost in Windows 2012. It works with both IPv6 and IPv4, whereas in 2008, you were limited to IPv6 (unless you wanted to fiddle with conversions).

Plus you have more control since you can use group policies for users and the new wizard makes getting it all setup and configured much easier than before.


Active Directory in a BYOD world

The Active Directory is used for a number of things, but one of the features that stands out is the ability to now add personal devices to a domain. This is helpful in today’s BYOD environments.

And thanks to the recycle bin, you can also restore deleted AD objects pretty easily now through the GUI.



Ultimately, as mentioned before, Windows 2012 is normally going to be the better choice. It’s more user friendly, more powerful, more versatile, more secure. The only reason you’d choose 2008 is if 2012 won’t work with something you need to run. Or if you’re just used to 2008 and don’t like change, but if you’re not sure which to use then that probably isn’t the case.

Of course, there are many other operating systems available with a Hostwinds VPS too. And if you’re interested in using something not listed, just talk to one of our friendly reps and chances are, we can accommodate that.

If this has been helpful, please don’t forget to share it with others!

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