I am a freelance IT Consultant that deals primarily with small businesses.
I have supported many types of small businesses over the years, across many platforms, with varying degrees of reliability / performance / ease of use.
I have installed 2012 essentials, 2012 r2 essentials, 2012 standard and 2012 r2 standard to roughly 45 locations where they now continue to operate. Like the names should imply, Essentials is the way to go for many locations that only needs a basic IT foot print, and standard is of course the infinitely configurable beast we all know in the IT Admin world.
The biggest feature of 2012 for my smallest clients is that the built in server backup software is now compatible with very large drives. Thus saving the client the price of 3rd party local backup software.
I love using the Essentials version in small law offices. The built in file versioning and deletion prevention tools are a huge time saver.
And there are a ton more things that have been added/changed, but there is already a ton of info out there on it, and i need to get back to work. I just had to say that this is, without doubt, the correct way that Microsoft needs to be moving to stay relevant in the spaces that i operate in.