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

Windows Server 2012 R2 Preview Now Available

Tonight Microsoft has made available the public preview release of Windows Server 2012 R2. With this release, Microsoft is laying out its vision for what it calls the Cloud OS.

The Cloud OS is the platform that Microsoft is building with the release of Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2, SQL Server 2014 and Windows Azure. The four key tenets of the Cloud OS are:

      • Transform the Datacenter
      • Enable modern business applications
      • Empower people-centric IT
      • Unlock insights on any data

New to Windows Server 2012 R2 are such features as:

        • Storage Tiering within Storage Spaces
        • Software-defined networking
        • Virtual IP Address management
        • Windows Powershell 4.0
        • Windows Server Essentials Experience

To get started with the Windows Server 2012 R2 Preview, go to http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/evalcenter/dn205286.aspx

Tip: Windows 8 Mail App and Outlook 2013

I thought I’d share something that I ran into after I installed the Office 2013 Customer Preview on a Windows 8 system.

Before Office 2013 was available, I’d been using the Mail Metro-style app. After I installed and configured Outlook 2013 I noticed something strange. When I’d click on e-mail addresses in messages from Outlook 2013, I’d be prompted to either open the Mail app or use them in Outlook 2013. This got annoying fast. Fortunately, there is an easy fix.

From the start screen, show Charms (either swipe or press WinKey-C) and click Search. Search for “default.” Click on Default Programs.

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Click on Set your default programs

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Click on Microsoft Outlook and then click on Set this program as default

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Welcome to Office 2013

At a press event in San Francisco today Microsoft announced the Customer Preview of Office 2013.

Office 2013 has been built around what Microsoft calls “the modern office.” People want to work where they want, when they want, and they want their data to be available from anywhere they are. With Office 2013, SkyDrive and SharePoint integration is baked deep into the entire suite of products.

One of the more important scenarios with Office 2013 is what I’m calling the Better Together scenario. With Windows 8 on the horizon, Microsoft has put much time and emphasis on touch and inking support, integration with Windows RT, and is bringing OneNote and Lync to Windows 8 as Metro-style apps.

As I mentioned earlier there is a huge focus on the cloud. Just like on Windows 8 your settings travel with you. Settings you make on one computer such as dictionaries, templates, and recently opened documents are synced to all your other computers. By default, documents are saved to your SkyDrive. This means that your documents are available wherever you are.

For the enterprise users, Microsoft will be integrating Yammer (a recent acquisition) into its SharePoint and Microsoft Dynamics products. Skype is being integrated with Lync. If you are a Lync user you can bring Skype contacts into Lync and call or instant message them. Lync 2013 feature HD video conferencing with the ability to show and markup presentations.

The Office 2013 Customer Preview is available from http://www.microsoft.com/office/preview/en and I highly encourage everyone to check it out.