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Top 10 things you don't know about Windows Server 2008 R2

Often times it's the little things that count. While improvements to Hyper-V have gotten most of the press, other changes to R2 have fallen under radar.

By now you know that the latest version of Windows Server has hit the streets for a lot of folks and will be available to all in just a few weeks. Some of the big features like Microsoft Hyper-V have received a lot of attention, but there are several other new features coming to the fray with this release.

Let's take a brief look at 10 of them you might not have heard much about:

  1. Out of the box, Windows Server 2008 R2 uses less power on the same hardware than Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008 – with no additional configuration. This isn't a gimmick, but a proven 10-15% reduction on identical boxes, just with a different operating system.
  2. Internet Information Services (IIS) 7.5, included with Windows Server 2008 R2, supports .NET on Server Core installations. The big shortcoming in the original Server 2008 edition was the lack of support for running managed code on Server Core-based Web servers. This is now resolved.
  3. Microsoft's new BranchCache feature can speed up perceived access to files for users at branch offices while allowing you to save on data line and bandwidth costs. In this environment, your users might be clamoring for increased speeds on your data lines that you can't afford. Caching in their branch will help increase productivity and remove user frustrations without bailing out a telco.
  4. The Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) has been enhanced in Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7, allowing for far smoother media playback, multi-monitor support and more. It makes remoting into virtual machines a lot more palatable as the experience is barely distinguishable from using a real machine at your current location.
  5. The Agile VPN feature in Windows Server 2008 R2 allows a virtual private network connection to generate multiple paths between discrete points in the VPN tunnel. If a problem occurs, the Agile VPN feature uses other network paths to maintain the tunnel without interruption.
  6. You can use BitLocker on removable drives to eliminate easy information leakage. This isn't just a Windows 7/Windows Server 2008 R2 feature either. if you protect a removable drive with BitLocker, the BitLocker to Go reader is also copied to the drive. This provides backward compatibility so that machines running Windows XP Service Pack 2 and higher can read the encrypted contents if the user enters the correct password.
  7. Offline Files, a feature that helps mobile users maintain access to their network share files when disconnected, is now enabled on slow network connections. This reduces network traffic while not degrading the user experience too much.
  8. IIS 7.5 now has a Best Practices Analyzer (BPA). Microsoft Exchange Server, Windows Small Business Serve, and other server products have had these BPAs for a while now. The BPA itself scans your environment and compares a number of different elements against known best-practice states, delivering the results in a very consumable format—an instant quick-check for your configuration.
  9. Windows Server 2008 R2 also contains enhancements to PowerShell. Windows PowerShell 2.0, includes more than 240 new pre-built cmdlets along with a new graphical user interface (GUI) with colored syntaxing, new production script debugging capabilities, and testing tools.
  10. You don't need new client access licenses, or CALs, specifically for Windows Server 2008 R2. Your old -- well, relatively speaking -- Windows Server 2008 CALs are still valid.

Jonathan Hassell
is an author, consultant and speaker residing in Charlotte, N.C. Jonathan's books include RADIUS, Learning Windows Server 2003, Hardening Windows and most recently Windows Vista: Beyond the Manual.

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