Tactical Advice

Review: Microsoft's Windows Server 2012 Aims to Please

New admin-friendly OS sports security features geared for the cloud.

Microsoft opens a new chapter in its server software dominance with Windows Server 2012, an OS that goes far beyond the office and data center and stretches into the cloud. In addition to the usual file and print, storage and directory services, this OS also provides the operational, security and virtualization support required for a robust cloud environment.

Microsoft developed Windows Server 2012 alongside Windows 8, so the server OS includes the Windows interface changes that have been met with mixed reception. For example, there’s no Start button on the desktop — instead there’s a Charm Bar on the right side of the screen that the user invokes with the mouse pointer. Like Windows 8, there’s also a tiled Start Screen.

However, Windows Server 2012 features tiles that launch important server functions with a single click. While it takes some getting used to, the Windows Server 2012 Start Screen makes the server software easier and faster to operate.

Advantages

As expected, Windows Server 2012 supports more memory, a greater number of processors and more disk space than its predecessor. Additionally, the OS boasts several cloud and security enhancements well suited for cloud management. For example, Microsoft’s Hyper-V virtualization software includes new security features such as simplified authorization.

Other new features include the ability to encrypt only the drive space that is used, improved deployments, dynamic access control, Active Directory Domain Services and Direct Access. These features make Windows Server 2012 easier to use and more secure by reducing or eliminating errors and more closely tailoring the OS to today’s critical security needs.

Why It Works for IT

With Windows Server 2012, Microsoft aims to provide a server platform that’s more stable, easier to administer and more secure, with support for data protection, auditing and compliance. This includes the ability to classify information so that, even if it is mistakenly stored in a public area, it can’t be accessed by someone without the proper credentials.

2,300

The number of CMDLets available in Windows PowerShell 3.0 to ease server and security management

Active Directory Domain Services works in local, cloud and hybrid cloud infrastructures. Microsoft created a new Deployment Wizard that makes Active Directory Domain Services easier to deploy, which in turn helps ensure that a common security profile exists on servers, in the cloud or in hybrid environments.

Meanwhile, Active Directory’s support for Dynamic Access Control ensures that a user or device maintains the same security credentials throughout the network. A Security Configuration Wizard accessible through the Administrative Tools tile on the Windows Server 2012 Start Screen guides users through the process of creating, editing, applying or removing security policies.

Overall, Windows Server 2012 is intended to be admin-friendly. The OS includes both graphical and command-line functions, depending on what’s more efficient for the IT staff, and it allows IT to control security and access throughout the enterprise, including the cloud.

Disadvantages

Drivers for Windows Server 2012 must be available prior to upgrading an existing server. Normally those are obtained from the server manufacturer.

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About the Author

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a longtime technology journalist who has directed product testing centers. He is President of Wayne Rash & Associates, an analysis and editorial services firm located near Washington, D.C. He can be reached at wrash@mindspring.com. You can also follow him on Twitter as @wrash.

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