Log onto Windows Server 2012, and it's straight into the Windows 8-style start screen. However, it's very much a program launcher here, and all applications (unless you've installed something from the Windows Store) run on the desktop.
Upgrading to a new version of Windows Server 2012 from Server 2008 or Servver 2008 R2 is easy enough. However, with the simplified range of SKUs, you'll need to be sure that you're on the right upgrade path. For example, Windows 2008 R2 Enterprise can only be upgraded to Windows Server 2012 Datacenter — and the default install is always Server Core.
The dashboard gives you a quick overview of the servers currently being managed, the services they support and their current state. Green means all is good, red indicates issues that need investigating — in this case some errors from a Best Practice Analyzer scan.
Server Manager is designed to work with whole datacentres full of servers, but there's still the option to drill down into a host server and see just how it's configured — and exactly what hardware is in place.
Server Manager is your one-stop shop for managing devices, tools and services. A Tools drop-down gives you quick access to management consoles and tooling.
Configuring remote access is as easy as walking through a simple wizard. You'll need to know the configuration of your network, and the public name used to connect to the service (which will set up the appropriate certificates).
After you've configured Direct Access, the wizard will create and deploy the appropriate client updates. To speed up installation, use an elevated command prompt on a target notebook to run gpupdate.
There are two Direct Access deployment scenarios, one giving full access from connected PCs to select network resources, the other allowing you to manage connected PCs — making sure that mobile users' PCs are always up to date.
Along with Windows 8, Windows Server 2012 gets a new, faster file copy — with a graphical view of file transfer speeds.
Hyper-V brings a new and more resilient virtual hard disk format, VHDX. You can use the Edit Virtual Hard Disk tools to upgrade to the new format — but remember to merge snapshots first.
If you're on the desktop and need quick access to key tools, just hit the Windows key and X, to open the new tools menu. You've got quick access to everything from command prompts to the File Explorer.