Free My Server 2012 R2 Apps for Remote Management Released
Microsoft released its free My Server 2012 R2 applications this month for Windows clients and Windows Phone devices.
The apps enable remote access to files on a server for end users, as well as management capabilities for IT pros. The apps work with Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials. In addition, they will work with the Standard or Datacenter editions of Windows Server 2012 R2 when the Essentials server role has been turned on in those products. Microsoft refers to that server role option as the "Windows Server Essentials Experience" edition, which is a clumsy phrase, but it reflects a new capability in which organizations can add Essentials capabilities to their Standard or Datacenter server deployments.
The apps are available for Windows 8 clients at the Windows Store here. Microsoft is recommending using Windows 8.1 clients with the My Server 2012 R2 Windows Store App solution for "better functionality." There's also a version of the app for Windows Phone 8 devices available at this page.
Organizations using Windows Server 2012 (the non-R2 version) should stick with the earlier released My Server apps, according to Microsoft's announcement. Microsoft released My Server for Windows Server 2012 back in January.
With the My Server 2012 R2 apps, individual users can access files and folders remotely. The new My Server apps now support streaming media. However, Microsoft indicated that making that streaming media capability work requires first making sure that the Windows Server Essentials Media Pack is installed.
If the user has administrator privileges, then it is possible to "manage user accounts, server alerts and computers from your mobile devices," according to Microsoft's announcement. The new capabilities for IT pros with this release of the My Server 2012 R2 apps include resetting passwords and deactivating users.
The apps leverage a capability in Essentials that Microsoft calls "anywhere access," which combines Microsoft's "remote Web access" technology with virtual private networks or DirectAccess technology. Microsoft has integrated the ability to establish remote desktop connections (a feature of Remote Web Access) into the new My Server Windows Store app. Using that feature requires installing the free Remote Desktop app from the Windows Store first, according to Microsoft.
The My Server 2012 R2 apps now enable remote document access via SharePoint Online. Using that new SharePoint Online capability requires carrying out an Office 365 integration step first, but it represents yet another way for users to access shared files and folders.
Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials is a successor product that evolved from Windows Small Business Server 2011. It's designed to make management aspects a little easier for small-to-medium businesses. It's billed as a "first server" for smaller organizations.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.