Tip: Install Windows Server 2012 Essentials Connector without Domain Join

There may be times where you want to install the Windows Server 2012 Essentials Connector without joining a domain. By not joining the Essentials domain, the following features are impacted:

– Any features that require a domain such as Group Policy, SSO by use of AD credentials to domain resources

– Any 3rd-party add-ons or applications that require the use of a domain

The connector can be installed in these cases by creating a registry key prior to launching the connector installation.

1. Launch Command Prompt as an administrator

2. Run the following command (may need to remove the dash in “SkipDomainJoin” due to formatting):

reg add “HKLMSOFTWAREMicrosoftWindows ServerClientDeployment” /v SkipDomainJoin /t REG_DWORD /d 1

3. Launch the Connector Installation

Honored for 4th year in a row as a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional

I am very pleased to announce that Microsoft has chosen me to be a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional for the 4th year in a row. As many of you may know, I have been an MVP for Windows Home Server. However, with the discontinuation of Windows Home Server, I have been chosen to be an MVP for Windows Server for Small and Medium Business.

I am honored to have been chosen, and I look forward to all the amazing community work ahead in 2014.

Dear Tom,

Congratulations! We are pleased to present you with the 2014 Microsoft® MVP Award! This award is given to exceptional technical community leaders who actively share their high quality, real world expertise with others. We appreciate your outstanding contributions in Windows Server for Small and Medium Business technical communities during the past year.

Microsoft releases Media Streaming Pack for Windows Server 2012 R2

As some of you may have noticed, Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials no longer includes media streaming functionality out of the box. This feature existed in the non-R2 version, as well as previous versions, dating all the way back to Windows Home Server v1.

Instead of keeping this feature in the base product, Microsoft have released the Media Streaming Pack for Windows Server 2012 R2.

The Media Streaming Pack adds media streaming functionality to Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials as well as those Standard and Datacenter servers running the Essentials Experience role.

The following features are included:

  • Streaming of media (photos, music and videos) to DLNA-compliant receivers
  • Smooth streaming to HTML5-compliant browsers through Remote Web Access and web service applications
  • Configuration through the Windows Server Essentials Dashboard

The Media Streaming pack is a free download from Microsoft and is available at http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=40837

Windows Server 2012 R2 is now available to MSDN / Technet Subscribers

Today, Microsoft has released the RTM Windows Server 2012 R2 bits to MSDN and TechNet subscribers.

Microsoft has said that they will be continuing to improve the product between now and General Availability in October.

Windows Server 2012 R2 brings a ton of awesome new features from refinements in Server 2012 R2 Essentials, to the Windows Server Essentials experience, improved support for BYOD with Work Folders and Active Directory, Storage Tiering in Storage Spaces, and many other awesome features.

To learn more about What’s New in Windows Server 2012 R2, I suggest visiting the TechNet Library, and reading Brad Anderson’s blog about the new features.

For the build curious amongst us, the build string for Windows 8.1 RTM is 9600.winblue_rtm.130821-1623. The SHA1 hashes for the ISO have been posted below along with steps to check the integrity of the downloaded ISO.

Hashes for today’s release:

en_windows_server_2012_r2_x64_dvd_2707946.iso
SHA1: B6F063436056510357CB19CB77DB781ED9C11DF3

en_windows_server_2012_r2_essentials_x64_dvd_2707177.iso
SHA1: 8A4CB96563DDA4F1BF637E57A992F3255D56B6F8

To run MSCDCRC against an ISO file that you have downloaded follow these steps.

  1. 1. Download MSCDCRC to the same folder that you downloaded the ISO to. (Click here to download MSCDCRC)
  2. 2. Open a Command Prompt window and navigate to the folder from Step 1
  3. 3. Type “MSCDCRC InstallDVD.iso” (without quotes)
  4. 4. The integrity check will take a few moments to complete. After the check is complete compare the CRC and SHA hashes to the hashes posted above

Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials – What’s New

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.

Windows Server and System Center: Designed with You in Mind

If you’ve been keeping up with Microsoft related news, you’ve probably heard that Microsoft announced new features in Windows Azure, announced Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2, and SQL Server 2014. For many of these products, they are here less than a year after their predecessors. This is a huge accomplishment for Microsoft.

According to a blog post published by Brad Anderson, Corporate Vice President for Windows Server and System Center, Microsoft is able to do this because they are building for the cloud first.

By building for the cloud first, Microsoft says that they are able to do couple things:

  • Battle harden what is built. By deploying in Windows Azure first, Microsoft can ensure that they are delivering a solid product both in the cloud and on-premise.
  • Unify the planning and delivery across multiple products. With this wave of releases, Microsoft has brought together Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2, Windows Azure, and Windows Intune.

What this means for you as a Microsoft customer is that scenarios are being designed for better integration end-to-end, using real world feedback from people like you and I, and validated in the Windows Azure cloud.

It’s an exciting and interesting time for both Microsoft and its customers. I’m encouraged by the products I’m seeing and the scenarios that are being unlocked.

Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials Preview

Microsoft has released the public preview of Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials. Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials is Microsoft’s “first server” solution.

Included in Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials are:

      • Backup of client computers
      • Support for Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 File History
      • Support for Storage Spaces
      • Remote Web access to files, folders, and computers
      • Remote Domain Join
      • New Modern-style app for Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 for accessing files and folders stored on the server
      • Integration with Office 365 or on-premise Microsoft Exchange
      • Improved dashboard
      • and more!

To download the preview of Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials, go to http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/evalcenter/dn205288.aspx

For additional resources go to http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/evalcenter/dn205289

Another Year as a Microsoft MVP

Happy New Year everyone! I am pleased to announce that Microsoft has chosen me as a 2013 Most Valuable Professional. It is a real honor, I’d like to thank Microsoft for selecting me, and I look forward to working with the community and my fellow MVPs in the year ahead.

Microsoft releases Windows Server 2012 Essentials Public Beta

Today Microsoft has released the public beta of Windows Server 2012 Essentials.

Windows Server 2012 Essentials is the replacement for Windows Home Server, Windows Small Business Server Standard and Small Business Server Essentials.

Windows Server 2012 Essentials has the following features:

  • Dashboard implements the Metro user experience styling
  • Office 365 module is now built-in
  • Remote Access website has been updated with new color scheme and has option for tablet and desktop modes
  • Anywhere Access enables VPN and / or Remote Access website
  • Media Streaming
  • Built on Windows Server 2012 with full access to Storage Spaces, Windows Server Backup, and leverages Active Directory
  • Official support for Windows 8 Release Preview

For the build number curious amongst us, this is build 9552 and is available today from the Microsoft Download Center. The CRC and SHA1 hashes for the ISO have been posted below along with steps to check the integrity of the downloaded ISO.

Hashes for today’s release:

WindowsServer2012Essentials-Beta-English-Install.iso
SHA1: 7bd66fd27aa40e51a53c161f2b178a7123494ee0
CRC: e7bb8495

WindowsServer2012Essentials-Beta-English-Restore.iso
SHA1: 492cb8c4196705b12aee6ed405f6f2950172b1b2
CRC: 33ddcc37

To run MSCDCRC against an ISO file that you have downloaded follow these steps.

  1. 1. Download MSCDCRC to the same folder that you downloaded the ISO to. (Click here to download MSCDCRC)
  2. 2. Open a Command Prompt window and navigate to the folder from Step 1
  3. 3. Type “MSCDCRC InstallDVD.iso” (without quotes)
  4. 4. The integrity check will take a few moments to complete. After the check is complete compare the CRC and SHA hashes to the hashes posted above
  5. 5. If the hashes match then you have successfully downloaded the ISO

Welcome to Windows Server 2012 Essentials

Server2012eLogoLast week, Microsoft announced this new edition of Windows Server 2012 called Windows Server 2012 Essentials.

This new edition replaces Windows Small Business Server (both the Standard and the Essentials editions) as well as the now defunct Windows Home Server.

What makes this release interesting is it shows what Microsoft’s strategy is around the “first server” space. It used to be that the preferred solution was the monolithic Small Business Server. Everything that a business needed was on one physical box. Exchange was there for email, SharePoint was there for collaboration, and being that it’s a Windows box, line of business applications could be installed.  However, with the huge bet that Microsoft is making on the cloud, they are doing away with SBS Standard and building on the Colorado platform (SBS Essentials and Windows Home Server).

Windows Server 2012 Essentials is really Windows Small Business Server 2012 Essentials, but Microsoft is killing off the Small Business Server branding and positioning Essentials as a core edition of the broad Windows Server family. Let’s dig in and learn more about this version of Windows Server.

Windows Server 2012 Essentials is aimed at small and mid-size businesses. It supports up to 25 users and up to 50 devices.  The design of Essentials is that of a hybrid infrastructure. File sharing, line-of-business applications, and other things live on-premise, but Microsoft wants you to use Office 365, and Essentials can integrate and federate to Office 365 right out of the box. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t run Exchange on-premise. You can, and Essentials will integrate with your Exchange server as well, but it would have to run on separate hardware or in a separate VM (depending on how you setup your infrastructure).

Being as Essentials is the evolution of Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials, features such as full PC backup and restore, Remote Web Access, add-in extensibility, and network alerting live on and in some cases are even improved.

New to Windows Server 2012 Essentials are the following features:

  • Support for DirectAccess and VPN access
  • With Storage Spaces adding storage becomes painless and easy
  • Remote Web Access has been refreshed and has a new tablet mode for easier navigation on tablet devices.
  • Bare-metal backup and restore of the server
  • Support for backup of volumes larger than 2 terabytes
  • Windows 8 Metro-style app for accessing company data stored on a Windows Server 2012 Essentials server
  • Integration with cloud or on-premise Exchange services

According to Microsoft’s edition listing for Windows Server 2012 Essentials, the Open No Level pricing is $425 USD, CALs not required.

I’d strongly encourage anyone interested, to try out the public beta, which Microsoft has released.