Home > Sample chapters

Windows Server 2012 Administration Overview

This chapter from Windows Server 2012 Pocket Consultant covers getting started with Windows Server 2012 and explores the extent to which the architectural changes affect how you work with and manage Windows Server 2012.
  • Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8
  • Getting to Know Windows Server 2012
  • Power Management Options
  • Networking Tools and Protocols
  • Domain Controllers, Member Servers, and Domain Services
  • Name-Resolution Services
  • Frequently Used Tools

Microsoft Windows Server 2012 is a powerful, versatile, full-featured server operating system that builds on the enhancements that Microsoft provided in Windows Server 2008 Release 2. Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8 share a number of common features because they were part of a single development project. These features share a common code base and extend across many areas of the operating systems, including management, security, networking, and storage. Because of this, you can apply much of what you know about Windows 8 to Windows Server 2012.

This chapter covers getting started with Windows Server 2012 and explores the extent to which the architectural changes affect how you work with and manage Windows Server 2012. Throughout this chapter and the other chapters of this book, you’ll also find discussions of the many security features and enhancements. These discussions explore all aspects of computer security, including physical security, information security, and network security. Although this book focuses on Windows Server 2012 administration, the tips and techniques it presents can help anyone who supports, develops for, or works with the Windows Server 2012 operating system.

Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8

Before you deploy Windows Server 2012, you should carefully plan the server architecture. As part of your implementation planning, you need to look closely at the software configuration that will be used and modify the hardware configuration on a per-server basis to meet related requirements. For additional flexibility in server deployments, you can deploy servers using one of three installation types:

  • Server With A GUI installation An installation option that provides full functionality—also referred to as a full-server installation. You can configure a server to have any allowed combination of roles, role services, and features, and a full user interface is provided for managing the server. This installation option provides the most dynamic solution and is recommended for deployments of Windows Server 2012 in which the server role might change over time.
  • Server Core installation A minimal installation option that provides a fixed subset of roles but does not include the Server Graphical Shell, Microsoft Management Console, or Desktop Experience. You can configure a Server Core installation with a limited set of roles. A limited user interface is provided for managing the server, and most management is done locally at a command prompt or remotely using management tools. This installation option is ideally suited to situations in which you want to dedicate servers to a specific server role or combination of roles. Because additional functionality is not installed, the overhead caused by other services is reduced, providing more resources for the dedicated role or roles.
  • Server With Minimal Interface installation An intermediate installation option where you perform a full-server installation and then remove the Server Graphical Shell. This leaves a minimal user interface, Microsoft Management Console, Server Manager, and a subset of Control Panel for local management. This installation option is ideally suited to situations in which you want to carefully control the tasks that can be performed on a server, as well as the roles and features installed, but still want the convenience of the graphical interface.

You choose the installation type during installation of the operating system. In a significant change from earlier releases of Windows Server, you can change the installation type once you’ve installed a server. A key difference between the installation types relates to the presence of the graphical management tools and the graphical shell. A Server Core installation has neither; a full-server installation has both; and a minimal-interface installation has only the graphical management tools.

Like Windows 8, Windows Server 2012 has the following features:

  • Modularization for language independence and disk imaging for hardware independence Each component of the operating system is designed as an independent module you can easily add or remove. This functionality provides the basis for the configuration architecture in Windows Server 2012. Microsoft distributes Windows Server 2012 on media with Windows Imaging Format (WIM) disk images that use compression and single-instance storage to dramatically reduce the size of image files.
  • Preinstallation and preboot environments The Windows Preinstallation Environment 4.0 (Windows PE 4.0) replaces MS-DOS as the preinstallation environment and provides a bootable startup environment for installation, deployment, recovery, and troubleshooting. The Windows Preboot Environment provides a startup environment with a boot manager that lets you choose which boot application to run to load the operating system. On systems with multiple operating systems, you access pre–Windows 7 operating systems in the boot environment by using the legacy operating system entry.
  • User account controls and elevation of privileges User Account Control (UAC) enhances computer security by ensuring true separation of standard user and administrator user accounts. Through UAC, all applications run using either standard user or administrator user privileges, and you see a security prompt by default whenever you run an application that requires administrator privileges. The way the security prompt works depends on Group Policy settings. Additionally, if you log on using the built-in Administrator account, you typically do not see elevation prompts.

In Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012, features with common code bases have identical management interfaces. In fact, just about every Control Panel utility that is available in Windows Server 2012 is identical to or nearly identical to its Windows 8 counterpart. Of course, exceptions exist in some cases for standard default settings. Because Windows Server 2012 does not use performance ratings, Windows servers do not have Windows Experience Index scores. Because Windows Server 2012 does not use Sleep or related states, Windows servers do not have sleep, hibernate, or resume functionality. Because you typically do not want to use extended power management options on Windows servers, Windows Server 2012 has a limited set of power options.

Windows Server 2012 does not include the Windows Aero enhancements, Windows Sidebar, Windows Gadgets, or other user-interface enhancements because Windows Server 2012 is designed to provide optimal performance for server-related tasks and is not designed for extensive personalization of the desktop appearance. That said, when you are working with a full-server installation, you can add the Desktop Experience feature and then enable some Windows 8 features on your server.

The Desktop Experience provides Windows desktop functionality on the server. Windows features added include Windows Media Player, desktop themes, Video for Windows (AVI support), Windows Defender, Disk Cleanup, Sync Center, Sound Recorder, Character Map, and Snipping Tool. Although these features allow a server to be used like a desktop computer, they can reduce the server’s overall performance.

Because the common features of Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 have so many similarities, I will not cover changes in the interface from previous operating system releases, discuss how UAC works, and so on. You can find extensive coverage of these features in Windows 8 Administration Pocket Consultant (Microsoft Press, 2012), which I encourage you to use in conjunction with this book. In addition to its coverage of broad administration tasks, Windows 8 Administration Pocket Consultant examines how to customize the operating system and Windows environment, configure hardware and network devices, manage user access and global settings, configure laptops and mobile networking, use remote management and remote assistance capabilities, troubleshoot system problems, and much more. This book, on the other hand, zeroes in on directory services administration, data administration, and network administration.