In this R2 wave of Windows Server products, Microsoft is taking the time to update its “first server” version, Windows Server 2012 Essentials.
The Essentials SKU historically has been intended to be the entry level server for a small or midsize business. With Essentials R2, Microsoft is extending this feature set into the enterprise. Because the Essentials feature set is now an available role in the Standard and Datacenter editions of Windows Server 2012 R2, companies with more than 25 users can backup their PCs, seamless integrate with cloud services or on-premise Exchange servers, and provide remote access to company data.
Besides the Essentials features now being available as a role, there are number of additional new features.
- Full PC Restore over the network is now supported
- Mobile Devices can be managed in the dashboard using Exchange ActiveSync
- Quotas can be set on shared folders in the dashboard
- The client connector can trigger a VPN connection so clients can always be connected to the network
- Now supported as a member server in a domain
- Health monitoring and reporting is now built-in
- Remote Web Access theme now follows in the style of SkyDrive
What I like about this release is that its the small things that really make it all come together. There is now an option in configuring the remote access website to allow direct RDP access to the server or only access to the dashboard. PXE boot restores of client computers is awesome and is something I’ve been asking for since the Windows Home Server days. The dashboard now lets customers integrate with Office 365, Windows Intune, and Windows Azure Backup. BranchCache is now supported as well. If a company has multiple servers, the connector will now let users switch between them.
These are just a few of the many examples of what Microsoft has brought to the R2 release of Windows Server 2012 Essentials. Over the next few days and weeks I’ll be posting some tours of the new functionality.