Wednesday, 9 October 2013

What Windows Server 2012 R2 can bring to your small business


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In a few days the new version of Windows Server hits the stores along with a set of other products. So let’s see what Microsoft expert Mary Branscombe thinks about the new features. 

The new version has improved virtualisation, storage and high availability so your server systems can keep running. It will also provide wider support to users wishing to connect to your systems with Android, iOS, Windows or Windows RT devices.

These connections can use the new remote access role in Windows Server 2012 R2; giving you a way of allowing iOS, Android, Windows RT and Windows 8.1 users do a workplace join instead of joining your Active Directory.

First level: it gives you a record of connected devices and allows you to publish web apps through the Web application proxy so only your users get access.

Second level: lets you control settings on those devices – not as many as with Group Policy.

To further promote wider user support Microsoft, for the first time, is creating remote desktop clients for users of iOS, Mac OS X and Android, all available by the end of this month. 

Work Folders

If you need to access files from your server whilst on the go, without a remote connection, you’ll love the new Work Folders feature. It will sync a folder from a share on the office file server and update it with your changed documents, without you connecting via VPN.

Upon the release of Windows Server 2012 R2 the feature will work with Windows 8.1. But in the first half of 2014, the company will release clients for Windows 7 and iOS. However, Windows 8 users will be required to update to 8.1.

Work Folders still isn't a replacement for offline files, as it syncs the entire file when something changes. It also tries to sync the entire folder on the file server. It knows when there are too many files for your device and it will not attempt to copy them all, but for now, you cannot pick the files you want to sync unless you put them in a separate folder.

As future Windows Server updates arrive, selective sync is high on the Work Folders team’s list of improvements – however we're not expecting the next version of Windows Server to arrive as quickly as R2 did.

What's an R2 release?

Principal program manager Jeff Woolsey said: "The way we think about R2 is that we're going to keep the kernel changes to a minimum and we're going to be very surgical about that. We will include new code, but we won't make wholesale changes to the kernel." So basically you get new features, but the R2 version does not cost as much as a completely new version (where the year changes) would.  

For instance, if you have client access licences for Server 2012 features, you don't need to buy more CALs. Plus if you buy Windows Server on a volume licence (available to small businesses too) the upgrade is free. Otherwise Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard and Essentials are both the same price as Server 2012. If you need more cloud features and you also want to give your users more mobile options R2 is a logical upgrade, if your budget and schedule allow.

To see what Mary wrote about adding Azure to the new version, read her full article here.

About the Author:        
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry.