Top 10 features for IT pros
in Windows Server 2012 (R2)
that seem to be unknown or unloved
by Mike Resseler
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Feature 1: Server manager

Chapter 1

When I discuss Server Manager with IT professionals I normally get three different reactions:

  1. “No way, you can’t work with that thing” (from those who tried the 2008 R2 version)
  2. “Ah no, that tile system is terrible. I gave up after five minutes” (from those who tried anyway)
  3. “Love it, I can’t work without it anymore” (from those who kept working with it although there was confusion in the beginning)

In all honesty, my reaction used to be the same as the second one, shown above. But one of the Microsoft evangelists persuaded me to continue working with Server Manager and now my reaction is similar to the third one.

With Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2, Microsoft has redesigned Server Manager and it is now much more role-centric and it supports multiple server management.

The whole idea behind this change is to do remote management as much as possible and avoid RDP sessions to your servers. Not only will this enable you to work faster, but it will also save on resources on your servers.

By installing Server Manager (through the RSAT tools) you can manage your servers remotely from your workstation or from a management server.

Remote management should be enabled by default on the servers that you want to manage. If for some reason it is disabled, you can enable it through the Server Manager GUI running locally on that server or by using a PowerShell prompt or a command-prompt (Configure-SMRemoting.exe –Enable)

Here is list of some of the things you can do with Server Manager
(copied from

  • Add remote servers to a pool of servers that Server Manager can manage.
  • Create and edit custom groups of servers, such as servers that are in a specific geographic location or serve a specific purpose.
  • Install or uninstall roles, role services and features on the local or on remote servers that are running Windows Server 2012 R2 or Windows Server 2012.
  • View and make changes to server roles and features that are installed on either local or remote servers.
  • Start management tools such as Windows PowerShell or MMC snap-ins. You can start a Windows PowerShell session targeted at a remote server by right-clicking the server in the Servers tile, and then clicking Windows PowerShell. You can start MMC snap-ins from the Tools menu of the Server Manager console and then point the MMC toward a remote computer after the snap-in is open. You also can add your own MMC tools (if installed locally) to the Tools section in Server Manager.
  • Manage remote servers with different credentials by right-clicking a server in the Servers tile, and then clicking Manage As. You can use Manage As for general server and File and Storage Services management tasks.
  • Perform management tasks associated with the operational lifecycle of servers―such as starting or stopping services―and start other tools that allow you to configure a server’s network settings, users and groups, and Remote Desktop connections.
  • Perform management tasks associated with the operational lifecycle of roles that are installed on servers, including scanning roles for compliance with best practices.
  • Determine server status, identify critical events, and analyze and troubleshoot configuration issues or failures.
  • Customize the events, performance data, services and Best Practices Analyzer results about which you want to be alerted on the Server Manager dashboard.
  • Restart servers.
  • Refresh data about managed servers that is displayed in the Server Manager console.

Server Manager detects what roles are installed on the specific server so that the menus on that server are context-sensitive. In Figure 1, a domain controller is selected to show that you can run specific domain controller tasks.

Specific tools in Server Manager

Figure 1: Specific tools in Server Manager

Another benefit is that you can run the latest Best Practice Analyzers to view the compliance of your servers against the best practices or see some basic performance counters (if enabled) of that server (see Figure 2).

Best Practices Analyzer for a DC

Figure 2: Best Practices Analyzer for a DC

Also, the server or the specific service (workload) running on that server can perform a quick overview of the server’s services or events (see Figure 3).

Events and Services for my DCs

Figure 3: Events and Services for my DCs

For more information:

Mike Resseler
About the author
Mike Resseler is a Product Strategy Specialist for Veeam. Mike is focused on technologies around Hyper-V and System Center. With years of experience in the field, he presents on many occasions at large events such as MMS, TechEd and TechDays. Mike has been awarded the MVP for System Center Cloud and Datacenter Management since 2010. His major hobby is discussing and developing solid disaster recovery scenarios. Additionally, he has enterprise-class experience in private cloud architecture and deployment, with marked focus on protection from the bottom to the top. He holds certifications in many Microsoft Technologies such as MCITP.