What to look out for in the new Windows Server 2012 Essentials

What to look out for in the new Windows Server 2012 Essentials

Summary: Better integration with cloud services and simpler virtualisation are some of the new features in the next release of its Microsoft Server 2012 Essentials, the version of Windows Server targeted at small businesses.

TOPICS: Windows Server

The preview version of the next release of Windows Server 2012 Essentials, the version of Windows Server 2012 targeted at small businesses, is available and Microsoft has detailed its new features.

Improvements in the release, known as R2, are aimed at making it simpler to manage larger IT estates, spanning on-premise and cloud services, and allowing small businesses to more easily virtualise their environments, according to a Microsoft blogpost released yesterday.

Cloud service integration

The release introduces new configuration options to make it simpler to deploy an Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials image onto the Windows Azure cloud platform. These configurations turn off features such as client backup and storage spaces by default to avoid large amounts of data being transferred across the internet. The release is also designed to work with the recently announced Windows Azure Pack.

Cloud services can be more easily managed from the Service Manager Dashboard, with the addition of a services integration status page that shows which services are attached and available.

The release also integrates Microsoft cloud services more deeply with the OS. The integration of Windows Azure Active Directory will provide identity and access services for on-premise and cloud applications. The feature enables single sign-on and password synchronisation between local Active Directory and cloud services such as Office 365. User Groups can be managed from the Dashboard, and these groups can by synchronized using Windows Azure Active Directory integration.

R2 Essentials enables new Office 365 features to be controlled from the Server Manager Dashboard, with a view to making it easier to manage a larger IT estate. These features include the ability to create and manage email distribution groups, to manage mobile devices connected to the Office 365 service and to create and manage SharePoint libraries.

Another addition is integration with Windows Intune, the cloud service for managing PCs and connected devices that looks after tasks such as software patch distribution and endpoint protection, as well as application distribution for staff using personal devices in the workplace. The administrator can manage users, security groups and licences for Windows Intune services from the dashboard.

Meanwhile, Windows Azure Online Backup service — which provides the ability to back up a server's key data to Windows Azure cloud storage — will be accessible from the services integration tab of the Dashboard in R2, although this feature is not available in the preview.

Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials attempts to simplify the complexity of configuring and managing virtual instances of the operating system. The Windows Server Essentials guest virtual machine can be set up on a Windows Server Essentials host server. This can be set up manually by the administrator or, depending on the OEM configuration, a wizard, which guides users through the process of setting up the guest VM during installation of the server. All of the setup, configuration and connection to the Essentials server from the client PCs is made to the guest virtual machine.

Microsoft Server Essentials 2012 R2 dashboard. Image: Microsoft


Remote management

Microsoft is also promising the release will make it easier to manage Windows Server from mobile devices with the release.

The Remote Web Access feature, which enables users and administrators to access data and connect to computers running in their office network from any internet browser, has a new touch-optimised interface based on HTML5 web technologies.

Microsoft is also promising to continue to update the My Server application for Windows Phone and Windows 8 and RT, with plans to add new features such as SharePoint Online libraries.

Businesses running Standard and Datacenter editions will also be able to add Windows Server Essentials Experience as a role to allow larger businesses to get the release's simplified remote access and client backup tools of the Essentials edition.

Topic: Windows Server


Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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  • Might want to change title of article

    2012 Essentials and 2012 R2 Essentials are very different.
    Stuart Becktell
  • It's real sad when Microsoft has to put R2 in the description

    I guess Bill Gates has told them (employees) he will not tolerate 2013 Essentials or 2014 Essentials...must keep same numbering...must confused customers...must act like an idiot...which Bill is!
    • Well.....

      It is a bit dumb but on the other hand the "R2" says it builds upon the previous release. On the other hand when Server 2008 R2 came out, it was already the end of 2009 [at least] - so it looked "old".
    • Yes, it has to be R2

      A bit of caution is in order before throwing stones. If it was Server 2013 or 2014, it would be a new product, and you'd have to buy it again. A new release to 2012 is usually free, or at worst a small upgrade charge. I'm sure Bill didn't need to be involved, because any junior Product Manager knows that.
  • The Single Missing Feature


    Since Microsoft killed the Home Server offering, they have nothing to offer to home users (hobbyists) who want an affordable Microsoft-based solution to centralize content like WHS did.

    The price went from about $50 to $500. That's a tenfold increase!

    There a whole community there that was left in the cold. Not fun.
    • Oh well....

      TechNet Plus would of been a solution but that option is just about dead....
    • WHS 2011

      I hope you're not seriously comparing WHS2011 to WSE2012.

      You can still pick up WHS 2011 licenses for $30 bucks a pop on sale at various places. It will work great for years. Running a business of up to 25 people, for $400, is a killer deal. You can put together a fairly decent server for under $1k.
    • Re: "affordable Microsoft-based solution"

      An oxymoron if ever there was one.

      Want to tinker? Go Open Source!
  • M$ trying to elimnate

    The middleman

    They want us consultants to sell their cloud and hand over any ongoing business away from us,over to them.

  • replacement product for SBS

    This I suppose windows server 2012 R2 essentials is the replacement product for SBS --- with the cloud services replacing local email and sharepoint servers?
    you can get a cheap key on www.getsoftwarekey.com