Time to upgrade to Windows Server 2012?

used with permission from HP Technology at Work

Do you feel like you spend as much time evaluating new technologies as you do performing your job responsibilities? An over-exaggeration for sure, but carefully choosing network and computing technology obviously helps to determine whether your business operates as efficiently, productively or competitively as possible. That said, what’s the deal with Microsoft® Windows Server 2012?

Introduced last September in Datacenter, Standard, Essentials and Foundation editions—the latter two specifically targeted at small businesses with a maximum of 15 and 25 users, respectively—Windows Server’s sixth release has received mostly favorable reviews for its installation options, user interface, task manager, IP address management and active directory. It’s also received high marks for its inclusion of Microsoft’s newest Hyper-V, resilient file system (ReFS) and Internet Information Services (IIS) 8.0, as well as its overall scalability.

Naysayers lament the elimination of the popular Windows Small Business Server, Windows Home Server and Microsoft Exchange from the new lineup. But even they acknowledge that on-site email within small businesses is steadily disappearing into the cloud or a private cloud, and that Exchange’s exclusion simply speeds this process.

The perfect match?

How can you best decide whether to hop aboard the Windows Server 2012 bandwagon, part of Microsoft’s goal of transitioning and upgrading users to Office 365? Carefully weighing the benefits of lower management complexity and storage costs, improved access and greater network uptime against upgrade costs is a good start. Other enhancements encompass virtualization, networking, storage, cloud computing, automation and overall user experience.

Windows Server 2012 lowers costs through improved management, access and system availability. Key features and benefits include.

  • System management: The update’s Server Manager enables multiple-server control and allows remote users to deploy virtual server roles and features, and create custom groups.
  • Windows PowerShell 3.0: This feature includes more than 2,300 commandlets—as compared to 200 in Windows Server 2008 R2—delivering a broad management platform for servers, the data center, network and storage.
  • The “Server Core” and “Server with a GUI” installation options do not require full reinstallation.

Initial capital investment aside, Windows Server 2012 provides an affordable storage option that leverages commodity storage networking and server infrastructure. Its Hyper-V host and guest operating system levels consume less power than earlier versions and store application data on file shares for greater reliability and availability, with performance comparable to a storage area network.

Simplified administration and flexible storage

The system’s new version of Hyper-V, also included in Windows 8, supports your migration to the Cloud with backup capabilities, as well as network virtualization, multi-tenancy, storage resource pools and cross-premise connectivity. Access to as many as 64 virtual processors and as much as 1 terabyte of memory easily accommodates future business growth.

Combined with Windows Server 2012’s fault tolerance for network adapters, Hyper-V’s new disaster recovery features enable network interfaces to work together, preserving connectivity if one should fail. In other words, the OS delivers the replication of virtual servers for true, uninterrupted business operation. And, on the plus side, the ReFS does not require new APIs.

On the other hand, some businesses using SBS2011 and earlier—and still not sold on the Cloud for email and other applications—may decide to continue using those versions that include Exchange and support more than 25 users (the maximum allowed with Windows Server 2012 Essentials). Some industry experts recommend the 15-user Foundation version only for small businesses with an IT staff, and for those who don’t mind outsourcing management to a Microsoft partner or solution provider.

Making a case for your business

Other critics point to the new operating system’s lack of support for Itanium-based computers and its use of a server version of the sometimes panned Metro User Interface, similar to that used for Windows 8. Some businesses may opt to continue managing their servers with previous versions’ GUIs, rather than PowerShell.

But if you’ve determined that Windows Server 2012’s pros outweigh its cons, the Essentials version is a flexible solution that protects business data while providing access to information from virtually anywhere using almost every device. It accesses cloud services and can be virtualized.

HP ProLiant ML310e Gen 8 and HP ProLiant ML350e Gen 8 servers pair well with Windows Server 2012. The Energy Star compliant ML310e supports Intel’s latest Xeon E3 series quad core processors and accommodates expansion for changing business needs. HP’s built-in SmartMemory prevents data loss and downtime with enhanced data handling while improving workload performance and power efficiency.

The HP ProLiant ML350e also delivers low-cost expansion capabilities with the ability to add a second processor and more hard drive space, memory and storage. It supports both registered and unbuffered memory.

SBS2011 and earlier versions continue to deliver robust performance and comfortable features such as GUIs. The scalable and elastic Windows Server 2012 platform enables businesses to build a private cloud while more securely connecting to cloud services. It delivers the power of many servers with the simplicity of one, while opening the door to every app on any cloud and access to data and apps from any device.

Businesses with the confidence and initial capital to upgrade are positioned to reap strong operational, productivity and competitive benefits for many years to come.