Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Windows Server 2012 R2 - what's in it for you?

Next week the new version of Windows Server will see its official release along with a bunch of other products. So let’s take a look at what Microsoft expert Mary Branscombe thinks about the new version. 

Windows Server 2012 R2 has been improved in terms of virtualization and storage, plus it now has high availability so your server systems can keep running. It will also provide wider support to users connecting to your systems through Android, iOS, Windows or Windows RT devices.

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

1st 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.

2nd level: lets you control settings on those devices – not as many as with Group Policy.

To 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 October. 

Work Folders

If you want to access files from your server while travelling, without a remote connection, you’ll love the new Work Folders feature. It'll sync a folder from a share on the office file server and update it with your changed documents, without you needing to connect via VPN.

When Windows Server 2012 R2 ships 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 upgrade to 8.1.

The Work Folders feature still isn't a replacement for offline files though, 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 won't try 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 sits high on the Work Folders team’s list of improvements – however we are 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 you get new features, but the R2 version does not cost as much as a completely new version (where the year changed) would.  

For example, if you have client access licences for Server 2012 features, you don't have to buy more CALs. Plus if you buy Windows Server on a volume licence (available to small businesses too) the upgrade is free of charge. Otherwise Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard and Essentials are 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 your logical update, if your budget and schedule allow.

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