WindowsNetworking.com - Monthly Newsletter - April 2013

Welcome to the WindowsNetworking.com newsletter by Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MVP. Each month we will bring you interesting and helpful information on the world of Windows Networking. We want to know what all *you* are interested in hearing about. Please send your suggestions for future newsletter content to: dshinder@windowsnetworking.com

Windows Server 2012 Essentials: "Real Deal" or Rip Off?

If you have a small business or just want to run a domain-based home network, or if you're a consultant who supports small business clients, you're probably familiar with Microsoft's Small Business Server (SBS). It's been around for a long time in various incarnations; the first was BackOffice Small Business Server, introduced way back in 1997. That first version was based on Windows NT 4.0 and included Exchange, IIS, SQL Server and Proxy Server.

As the years passed, we had Microsoft Small Business Server 2000, Windows Small Business Server 2003, 2003 R2 and 2008 (Standard and Premium editions). Windows SBS 2011 is the most recent product with the SBS branding, and it likewise comes in two flavors: Standard and Essentials.

It's interesting to follow the changing criteria for qualifying as a "small business." First it was 25 clients, then 50, then 75, then with SBS 2011 back to 25 for the "Essentials" fork (staying at 75 for Standard). In 2012, the SBS branding went away completely (and with it, the 75-user option). The new product is branded as just a "lite" version of Windows Server 2012, identified by the "Essentials" label tacked onto the end. You can find out more about WS 2012 Essentials on the Microsoft web site.

And that's "essentially" what it is. Unlike its predecessors, you no longer get the additional server products (Exchange, SharePoint and SQL in SBS 2011). And that has some small business folks up in arms. Of course, you can still install those server products on your network, but that's an extra cost – you'll have to buy WS 2012 Standard edition for them to run as well as the server products themselves – not to mention having to deal with separate licenses and CALs. Of course, that's not what Microsoft wants you to do.

Yep, you guessed it: The vision is to lure all the small businesses into the cloud. Given that plan, the omission of the server products makes sense; you don't need them because you'll be using a cloud service for mail, collaboration and data storage. Of course, to Microsoft that means Office 365.

Now, that's not a bad plan – for some organizations. Many small businesses just don't have the resources and personnel to deal with an internal IT infrastructure and they may be able to cut costs and operate more effectively by relying on cloud services. However, there are three big reasons that many companies are hesitant about doing so: Reliability, security and control.

Cloud reliability is still spotty. Microsoft recently had a 16 hour Outlook.com outage. In February Office 365 was down for several hours. And it's not just a Microsoft thing. Amazon, Google, all the big cloud providers have had outages ranging from a few hours to days or even weeks.

I'm primarily a security person and cloud security still has a long way to go. Providers and cloud advocates will tell you that security can be better than with on-premises datacenters because cloud providers have more money to invest in security, etc. etc. But can is the operative word. The problem is that it's all still in a state of flux right now. There are no real standards yet and no oversight. Big cloud providers are going to be targeted for attacks whereas your small network might not ever be. Gartner recently put out a report finding that their clients are "almost universally disappointed" in cloud providers' contracts when it comes to security.

Control, though, is perhaps the biggest issue when taking into account the entrepreneurial spirit – which can be a big factor in businesses with 25 or fewer users. In your own network, you have control and you know what is or isn't being done. Someone is accountable. In the cloud, you pretty much have to take it on faith.

Microsoft is selling WS 2012 Essentials as a way to "retain core network and security functionalities in your local environment while enabling robust integration with cloud-based services." If the cloud is in your plans, Essentials might be just what you need to run local applications and store company data. As Paul Thurrott described it, it combines features of SBS, Windows Home Server and Windows Storage Server Essentials.

Essentials 2012 makes it very easy to set up a domain, and management is easy via the Dashboard. It also gives you easy backup of client PCs (up to 50 devices, recognizing that many users have more than one device) and it includes Storage Spaces, the storage pooling feature in Windows 8 and the "big brother" editions of Windows Server (Standard and Datacenter). The Anywhere Access feature makes it absurdly easy to set up VPNs, RDP and other remote access features.

As for your email, it may end up costing you more, but you do have more flexible choices with Essentials. You can use an on-premises Exchange Server, a hosted Exchange (or other email) server, or integrate with Office 365. Note that you can't install Exchange directly on the WS 2012 Essentials server.

The forums are alive with SBS users who are not happy campers. The biggest complaint is the exclusion of the additional server products. Of course, the Essentials version of SBS 2011 doesn't include them, either. Microsoft was obviously preparing the way to this transition when they introduced that edition.

Is Essentials 2012 a ripoff? It's not as if you're paying the same to get less. The Standard edition of SBS 2011 costs over $1000, whereas Essentials 2012 is less than half that. For those who don't need the on-premises mail and other servers, and who have fewer users, it's a money-saver (SBS 2011 is priced at $545). And for those who have a few more users, Microsoft has put in place a way to upgrade to Server 2012 Standard while keeping the Essentials features (except for media features), for up to 75 users.

Tell us what you think. Is Essentials the best idea since sliced bread, a slap in the face to small business customers, or something in between?

By Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MVP

dshinder@windowsnetworking.com

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Quote of the Month - A perfection of means, and confusion of aims, seems to be our main problem. – Albert Einstein
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3. WindowsNetworking.com Articles of Interest

4. Administrator KB Tip of the Month

Processors that support Client Hyper-V on Windows 8

A tip on how to determine which processors support Client Hyper-V on Windows 8:

In order for a processor to support Client Hyper-V on Windows 8, the processor must support SLAT.

The following Intel processor SKUs support SLAT:

  • Core i3
  • Core i5
  • Core i7

For a list of AMD processor SKUs that support SLAT, see here:

http://support.amd.com/us/kbarticles/Pages/GPU120AMDRVICPUsHyperVWin8.aspx

Tip: If you have a processor that supports SLAT but you can't enable Client Hyper-V when Windows 8 is installed on the machine, check to make sure you have the latest BIOS update.

For more great admin tips, check out http://www.windowsnetworking.com/kbase/

5. Windows Networking Tip of the Month

If you haven't heard about Azure Virtual Machines and Virtual Networks, then you're in for a treat. Azure has, in the past, been a playground for devs and many IT pros felt it really didn't have much to offer them. With the new Azure Virtual Machines and Virtual Networks, you have a real Infrastructure as a Service solution where you can spin up virtual machines in minutes to extend your corporate network into the cloud. Consider a scenario where your current datacenter is at capacity. You want to start up a new service for one of your business units. What do you do? Do you requisition some hardware and make your business unit wait three months? Or do you opt to stand up the new service in Windows Azure Virtual Machines and Virtual Networks and do that in a day? I know what I would do. Check out this new offering.

6. Windows Networking Links of the Month

7. Ask Sgt. Deb

QUESTION:

Hey Deb,

Someone said to me that the unsung hero of Windows Server 2012 is the new RDP server. I haven't heard anything about that. What's new?

Thanks! – Karl.

ANSWER:

"Someone" is right. Windows Server 2012 Remote Desktop Services has been significantly improved so that you can support connectivity scenarios for users who have low bandwidth or jittery connections. Users now have access to a very rich experience, even more like what they experience when they are running the desktop experience directly on their own computers. What's even better, you can enable almost the same great RDP experience with Windows 7 computers. Some of the things you get include:

  • Remote Desktop Connection 8.0 Client
  • Dynamic In-Session USB Redirection
  • Improved single sign on experience for Remote Desktop Web Access
  • Reconnect for RemoteApp and Desktop Connections
  • Support for Lync 2013 in VDI
  • Support for Nested Sessions

When you enable RDP 8.0 for Windows 7 SP1, you get:

Give it a try, I think you'll love RDP 8.0.