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Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials from Microsoft provides small businesses with a server solution that can support up to 25 users and 50 devices. It provides management, networking, data storage and backup, security, and document and printer sharing. All your applications and information are protected, centralized, and organized using Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials and can be accessed almost anywhere using virtually any device. Carrying over all the same features of Windows Server 2012 Essentials, this release 2 version has added options to server and client deployments and enhancements in users and groups, server storage, remote web access, and more.
Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials provides improved data protection capabilities by offering Windows Azure online backup that can be used to protect files and folders in a cloud-based storage service that is managed by Microsoft. Another feature is Storage Space that allows you to group physical drives together into a storage pool to create storage spaces, which are virtual drives that appear in File Explorer. This allows you to create larger storage spaces by adding more drives when you run low on pool capacity.
This product is part of the Microsoft Business Open Licensing program that is designed for businesses with 5 to 250 users or devices. The purchase of this product provides one perpetual software license for Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials that is installed on a server with 1 or 2 CPUs. However, a minimum initial purchase of five licenses is required to qualify for the Open License Agreement. You can purchase any combination of Open License software products to fulfill the Open License Agreement. Once you have met the requirements, you can purchase additional licenses during the two-year term. You will receive an e-mail with instructions to access the Volume Licensing Service Center website. Afterwards, you will use your Windows Live ID, an Open License authorization number, and a license number to access the VLSC website to download your software product. The VLSC stores all your licenses so that you can better manage and track them. You can also obtain a physical media disc from Microsoft for an additional fee to install the licensed software.
Microsoft Software Assurance enhances the licensing agreement for Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials during your term. It includes beta and final versions of the latest software versions of Windows Server Essentials when they are released. When help is needed, you can contact the 24 x 7 problem resolution department via phone or web. Software Assurance also offers TechNet experts to train your IT department. In addition, it provides licensing for servers used as offline "cold" backups for disaster recovery purposes, deployment planning services, extended Hotfix support, and technical information.
Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials must be the domain controller at the root of the forest and domain, and must hold all the FSMO roles.
Windows Server Essentials Experience as a server role in the Standard and Datacenter editions of Windows Server 2012 R2 can be installed as a member server in a domain. If an Active Directory domain does not exist, installing the role will create an Active Directory domain, and the server will become the domain controller at the root of the forest and domain, holding all the FSMO roles. You can have more than one server with the Windows Server Essentials Experience role installed in your network.
As part of your installation process, you can opt to install Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials as a virtual machine by following instructions in a wizard.
The Connector can be used to connect to a server running Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials from a remote location.
The Connector can trigger automatic VPN dialing in domain-joined clients, so that customers can always be connected to Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials when they are working off-premises.
The Connector can be configured to connect to other servers running Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials without re-installation.
The Connector performance has been improved by reducing its memory and CPU usage.
Users and Groups
You can create user groups and add user accounts to them. User account permissions can be managed through their user group memberships.
If your server is integrated with Office 365, you can manage your Office 365 distribution groups from the Dashboard.
You can create shared folders on a secondary server while keeping the same Universal Naming Convention (UNC) path prefix.
You can specify a space quota for a server folder. You receive an alert when a server folder size grows beyond its defined quota.
Health Reports is integrated with Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials, and it no longer needs to be installed as an add-in. The Home page includes the Alerts and Reports tabs. Depending on your business needs, you can customize the system health reports to display items that you want to monitor.
You can turn on BranchCache to improve data access if the server running Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials is located offsite.
Office 365 Integration
The following functionalities are available when Office 365 is integrated with Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials:
Manage your Office 365 SharePoint Libraries from the Dashboard.
Manage your Office 365 distribution groups from the Dashboard.
If your server is integrated with Office 365, you can manage your mobile devices by using the Exchange Active Sync functionalities; for example, you can define email access from a mobile device, set up password policies, and perform a remote wipe of the mobile device.
Client Full System Restore
You can create a client restore service by using the Set Up Client Restore Service task, and you can perform client full system restore over the network instead of using an image that is saved on a DVD.
Microsoft Online Services Integration
The integration of Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials with Microsoft online services, including Microsoft Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), Office 365, Windows Intune, and on-premises Exchange, is only supported in a single domain controller environment. The integration wizard for these Microsoft online services must be run on a domain controller.
Windows Server 2012 Essentials leverages several features available in Windows Server 2012 to provide greatly improved data protection capabilities. The Storage Spaces feature allows customers to aggregate the physical storage capacity of disparate hard drives, dynamically add hard drives, and to create volumes with specified levels of resilience. Windows Server 2012 Essentials can perform complete system backups and bare-metal restores of the server itself as well as the client computers connected to the network - now with support for volumes larger than 2 terabytes. Additionally, Windows Azure Online Backup can be used to protect files and folders in a cloud-based storage service that is managed by Microsoft. Windows Server 2012 Essentials also centrally manages and configures the new File History feature of Windows 8 clients, helping users to recover from accidentally deleted or overwritten files without requiring administrator assistance. File History backups are configured per user instead of per device. Also, you can automatically restore your data through File History backups on a new computer if your old computer is no longer functional or is unavailable. The first time you log on to your new computer in the network, you are prompted to restore your files from your File History backups.
Remote Web Access is enhanced with HTML5 support and provides a stream-lined, touch-friendly browser experience for accessing applications and data from virtually anywhere you have an Internet connection using almost any device. Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials also provides an updated Windows Phone app and a modern app for Windows 8 clients, allowing users to intuitively connect to, search across, and access files and folders on the server; files are also automatically cached for offline access and synchronized when a connection to the server becomes available. Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials turns setting up virtual private networking (VPN) into a painless wizard-driven process of just a few clicks, and simplifies the management of VPN access for users. Client computers can leverage a VPN connection to remotely join the Essentials environment without the need to come into the office.
Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials monitors its own health status and the status of client computers running Windows 7, Windows 8, and Mac OS X version 10.5 and above. Health status notifies you of issues or problems related to computer backups, server storage, low disk space, and more.
Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials has been designed to allow customers the flexibility to choose which applications and services run on-premises and which run in the cloud. With Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials, customers can take advantage of the same integrated management experience whether they choose to run an on-premises copy of Exchange Server, subscribe to a hosted Exchange service, or subscribe to Office 365.
Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials builds on the extensibility model of Windows SBS 2011 Essentials, which allows other software vendors to add capabilities and features to the core product, and adds a new set of Web Services APIs. It also maintains compatibility with the existing software development kit (SDK) and Add-Ins created for Windows SBS 2011 Essentials.
Table of Contents
Minimum CPU 1.4 GHz (64-bit processor) or faster single core 1.3 GHz (64-bit processor) or faster multi-core RAM 2 GB Hard Disks and Available Storage Space 160 GB hard disk with a 60 GB system partition Network Adapter Gigabit Ethernet adapter 10/100/1000baseT PHY/MAC Internet Some functionality may require Internet access (fees may apply) or a Windows Live ID Account Router A router or firewall that supports IPv4 NAT
Recommended CPU 3.1 GHz (64-bit processor) or faster multi-core RAM 8 GB
Client Operating System
Windows 8, Windows 7, Macintosh OS X version 10.5 to 10.8
Super-VGA 800 x 600 (minimum) or 1024 × 768 (recommended) or higher-resolution monitor (headed mode only)
Keyboard and Microsoft Mouse or compatible pointing device (headed mode only)
Your server computer must be connected via a network cable to a router
The router should be a UPnP-certified device, but it is not required
The router should be in the 192.168.x.x subnet, but it is not required
Microsoft Open License for Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials with Software Assurance Review