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

Fix for “Computer Monitoring Error” in WHS 2011, SBSe 2011, and Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials

If you use Windows Home Server 2011, Small Business Server 2011 Essentials, or Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials, and you’ve seen alerts that say there is a “Computer Monitoring Error”, Microsoft has a fix. There are various reasons that this alert can appear, and this is a fix for one of those reasons.

Please note that you might still see the alert after the update is installed. If it still appears, please go to http://connect.microsoft.com and report a bug. You’ll need to upload logs to the bug in order for the team to properly diagnose and produce a fix. The log collector tool is available from http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?id=27567. Follow the instructions at the bottom of the page to install the tool on your server and any affected clients.

You receive the warning “Computer Monitoring Error” in Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials after you install Update Rollup 2
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2685867

You receive the warning “Computer Monitoring Error” in Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials after you install Update Rollup 2
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2686867

You receive the warning “Computer Monitoring Error” in Windows Home Server 2011 after you install Update Rollup 2
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2686857

A server for the home or small business

After having used such servers as the HP MediaSmart Server, the HP Proliant MicroServer, and various Dell servers, I decided to set out to see if I could build my own server for a reasonable cost with features I desired.

The intent of this build is to showcase a server that can be used in the home with Windows Home Server 2011 (yes, this build is somewhat overkill), and in home based / small businesses, with Small Business Server 2011 Essentials or Small Business Server 2011 Standard.

My requirements were as follows:

· Total cost could not exceed $1500. (Ideally, I wanted to stay at or below $1000.)

· All parts used must be server grade. By that I mean, must have 3-5 year warranty depending on part, and similar to parts used by the major server manufacturers.

· Must support future expandability. Must support large amounts of memory and case used must support addition of multiple hard drives.

· With Windows 8 and Windows 8 Server on the horizon, processor support for Second Level Address Translation (SLAT) and hardware virtualization were key to this build.

So what parts did I use?

· Antec VSK-2450 Mid Tower Case

· Intel Server Board S1200BTS

· Intel Xeon Processor E3-1230 (3.2GHz, 8MB Cache)

· Kingston 4GB 1333MHz DDR3 ECC RAM

· Western Digital RE4 Enterprise 1.0TB Hard Drive

Specs as configured:

· Intel Server Board S1200BTS

· 16GB ECC DDR3 RAM

· (1) 1.0TB Western Digital RE4 Enterprise Hard Drive

· Intel Xeon E3-1230 Processor

How does this build stack up to my requirements?

· Total cost: $1050+tax. I bought all the parts I needed from a local vendor instead of online and was willing to pay a bit more because of it. It is entirely possible to find these parts for cheaper online, but if you can, support your local businesses.

· Warranties on all parts are at least three years. Western Digital’s warranty is five years on enterprise hard drives, and on memory Kingston has a lifetime warranty.

· From an expandability standpoint, the case allows for up to 6 hard drives, the motherboard allows for 6 SATA connections, and the motherboard supports a maximum of 32GB of RAM.

· The processor used in this build supports hardware virtualization and SLAT, or as Intel calls it, Extended Page Tables. When looking for an Intel-based processor to be used for virtualization I suggest ensuring that it supports Intel-VT and Extended Page Tables. The Intel ARK tool, http://ark.intel.com, is a great resource for that type of information.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be showcasing more about what this server can do.