What are the new deployment and remote access features of Windows Server Essentials 2012 R2?
Windows Server Essentials (WSE) is Microsoft’s replacement for Small Business Server (SBS), a popular product that served small- and mid-sized organizations for more than a decade. But with many businesses moving part or all of their operations to the cloud, Microsoft needed to rethink the SBS model. Unlike SBS, WSE doesn’t ship with Exchange; however, it is designed to integrate with Office 365, Microsoft’s cloud services platform, giving SMEs the option to create a hybrid cloud solution.
Integrating Windows Server Essentials with Office 365 is easy, and it doesn’t involve the complex configuration of Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) that’s required to achieve the same goal in the full version of Windows Server 2012.
Windows Server Essentials will be packaged as a server role in Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard and Datacenter editions, enabling organizations to benefit from WSE’s unique features and to join an existing Active Directory domain for better manageability. Just like any other server role in Windows Server 2012 R2, WSE can be deployed to multiple servers to improve scalability for some features, such as PC backup, which should be especially useful for companies with branch offices.
Hyper-V is now part of WSE, and licensing has been changed to allow companies to run one instance of WSE as the Hyper-V host and another instance running in a guest virtual machine. Microsoft has also included a wizard to make virtualizing WSE as easy as possible for those without previous Hyper-V experience. The inclusion of virtualization capabilities out-of-the-box will give organizations more flexibility to run WSE alongside other server workloads on a single physical device and make it easy for Microsoft partners to provide hosted WSE.
Secure remote access
Remote Web Access has been redesigned in WSE R2, and the touch-enabled user interface resembles the Windows 8 Modern GUI (formerly Metro). Microsoft has updated the Remote Web Access SDK to give companies greater control, more customization, add-ins, and a better shared folder feature.
There’s a new Windows Phone app for the Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 phones that provides much of the shared folder access capabilities of Remote Web Access, so that users can access files on the server and run search queries. The new app caches opened files locally and synchronizes them back to the server automatically when a connection is detected.
Virtual Private Networking
Configuring a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a wizard-driven process in Windows Server Essentials 2012 R2, providing easy management of VPN access for users. Client computers can be added to WSE 2012 R2 across a VPN connection, so they don’t need to be in the office.