Several months ago I had a client who wanted to move to Office 365 and asked if we could sync SharePoint Online with their on-premise Windows Server 2012 Essentials server. Unfortunately we were unable to do so, then. This has changed in Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials, and I will also assume when using the Essentials Role on Standard and Datacenter editions. (I’ll do a post on the this great option for business with less than a 100 seats in the near future).
One question you may have is why would I want to have my files in two different locations? You may wish to have certain files on SharePoint and easily accessible by others from anywhere and you may want to keep your private files private, securely on the server in your office, such is the company financials. In the past we had to keep the files in two spots and manage each repository separately, now we can keep the files in one location and “sync” the files from the server to SharePoint or from SharePoint to the server. And the best part, it’s really easy to setup. In a previous post I step you through how to “connect” Office 365 with your Essentials server. The procedure is basically the same. Here’s the quick overview for R2:
Select Services from the Dashboard, then click on the Integrate with Office 365 link to the right.
Follow the prompts and your done. For more information on how to “connect” the two services see article.
That’s it! How easy was that???
When you reopen the Dashboard you will have a new Office 365 tab, which connects your server to your Office 365 subscription.
The rest is pretty straight forward. In the Storage section of the Dashboard, you will have a tab for SharePoint Libraries.
So at this point we think, great I can just dump files into either the SharePoint OnLine repository or the local folder and poof…they will be synced. This would be awesome but in reality, we still have one more step. Microsoft has released the SkyDrive Pro (download here) which allows us to sync folders on our server with folders on SharePoint Online. I installed the application on my server.
All you need to do now is setup the folders to be synced. To do this, right click on the SkyDrive Pro icon in the taskbar and select, sync a new library. Then add the appropriate path.
Personally, I prefer to set this up from within Office 365. I select the library I would like to sync with the server then click the Sync button at the top. This method automatically creates the matching folders on the server for you.
As you can see my files on the server match the files on Office 365.
I’m so happy to see this feature has been added to the overall offering. I had several requests for this type of functionality with several of my Office 365 and Server Essentials clients.
The only downfall is this is a manual processes. Meaning you have to push the sync when you need it. I wonder if a schedule could be setup using Powershell commands.
Think back, way back, to high school. For me, it was all about big hair, parachute pants, and blue mascara. Now that you’re sitting there feeling the teenage angst and acne, think back to when you had partner or group projects. You had to figure out who’s house you were going to and how you were going to get there. Just getting the group together to work on the project was a project in itself. Well that is quickly changing.
As some of you know, I have a daughter in Grade 9. She’s been on computers since she was in diapers. or her, the computer is just a tool. We’ve been lucky in elementary school that her teachers have always encouraged the use of computers (not so much for my son who’s still in elementary school). I have been pleasantly surprised on how much she has been able to do online in high school. She accesses her textbooks online, submits her papers, and even music compositions, via the school private cloud. Her teachers upload her marks to a secure website which the parents have access to. But last was the first time I had noticed her collaborating on a paper online. Yes, she chats with her classmates and they have emailed papers back and forth, but tonight I noticed she was editing a document real time using the school board’s Google Drive cloud. Her classmate was on the phone and they were discussing the changes and editing on the fly together, and they could see each others edits. For my daughter this not new, she is my editor (you read her work whenever you read one of my blog posts), and we co-edit pieces all the time, but this was the first time I had seen her do it with a classmate. She and my son are usually way ahead of their peers when it comes to technology, and they are usually helping their classmates, and sometimes teachers, with technology in the classroom.
The one thing that puzzles me about last week was why on earth were they using the phone? Talk about old-fashioned.
Please forgive my lack of updates lately, it’s been a crazy few weeks. As most of you know, I am working with Microsoft Canada and it’s been a great ride. I have the opportunity to learn about new server technologies at a relaxed pace, instead of the “a client needs this done right now” scenario.
I love meeting new people and basically being able to “geek out” all day. Okay, I don’t get to geek out too much at the office, but I do when I’m working with partners and distributors. I’m still trying to find my way, both in the position and around the building. I have only gotten lost once, but I do tend to end up in a cubby I didn’t expect to be in. I only realized my manager in on a different floor than me last week when I went looking for someone else.
I do miss my jammies and my mid-afternoon nap, but it’s so worth it.
Thanks for forgiving my delay, and now that I have gotten back into the swing of full-time employment, I will get back into posting on a more regular basis.
I’m continuing on my Windows Server 2012 Essentials kick this week. I know R2 was released last week, but the procedure is basically the same. I’ll update this post with the R2 instructions in the coming weeks.
We all know we should be doing off-site backups as part of our backup routine; see 3-2-1 Now Backup for more details about a backup strategy for your small business. And as I write this, I’m thinking, when was the last time I performed an offsite backup? Yep, it’s been awhile, because it’s a manual process and I will “get around to it”. Unfortunately, I see this too often at my clients as well, and for the same reason. It’s a manual process and it get puts on the back burner. Luckily, Microsoft made this an automated process in Windows Server 2012 Essentials, so we don’t have to think about it and if the unthinkable did happen, the data is safe on the Azure servers. Azure is Microsoft’s hosting platform. For more details about the features of Azure, see http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/.
Now on to the how-to. Please note this is long, and contains screen shots to help you step through this process.
I started by creating an account on Azure. Go to http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/ and sign up for an account. Once your account has been created you will need to enter the Portal and create a recovery vault in the Recovery Services module.
Launch the Dashboard from your server.
Click Add Ins and then Integrate with Windows Azure Online.
You will be taken to the Azure website.
Follow the instructions to create an account.
Once your account has been created, click on the Portal link then create a Backup Vault in Recovery Services.
Once the vault has been created, your account will look similar to this:
Double clicking the name of your vault (you assigned this name when you created the vault) will display the details about your vault, including the server it’s connected to.
At this point you can now start connecting your Windows 2012 Server Essentials to Azure.
Click on Step 2 Download agent. This will install the connector. Add the Online Backup tab on your server Dashboard. Follow the prompts to install the add in.
You will also have to copy your server certificate to Azure backup. To do this, access the Azure Online backup from the new Online Backup tab on the Dashboard. Click the copy button beside the certificate path.
Switch back to your Online vault and select Manage at the bottom of the window.
Click the Browse for file link and then “paste” the data from the previous copy. The certificate will be added to the vault. Your server is now registered with the Azure online backup.
If you have made it this far, hang in there a few more steps and we can setup the backup.
You can now register the server with the online backup from the Online Backup tab.
Fill in the dialog boxes if necessary.
You are now required to come up a long passphrase. It took me 3 tries to come up with one long enough. You can reset your passphrase if you forget it, like I have.
After a few more dialog boxes your server will be registered.
We can now finally start backing up our server to Azure! Yes, it’s been a long procedure to this point. I promise it gets easier now.
To configure our Online Backup either click the icon in the completed registration window (above) or select the Online Backup tab from the server Dashboard.
Select the appropriate files/folders for your backup.
Then, how often you want the server to be backed up.
Next, pick your retention policy.
You now have the option to configure how much bandwidth the backup can use.
Your server will now prepare your backup.
Finally…we have successfully configured the online backup!
Before we finally say it’s complete, I would suggest you start a backup and verify the server is backing up to Azure.
I have to admit this process took some time, but I think that was more my inexperience with Azure than with either product. The first time I setup Office 365 it took longer than I thought, now I can do it with my eyes closed.
Trust me, this will be worth the time and effort. If the unthinkable does happen, the company data, the heart and soul of the organization, is kept safely off-site and can be easily retrievable.
As I sit here putting together a presentation for this week on Office 365 (another great product), I know I’m going to get some questions about cloud technologies and subscription-based services. I love cloud-based technologies, but I do understand the hesitation. Here’s a list of the most common concerns I hear and my responses:
1. What is cloud? Ok…now I think my industry has done the general public a huge disservice. We (not me in particular) have made the cloud into this magical fairy dust and rainbow place, that is just out there. NO! In basic terms, the cloud is just servers sitting at a datacenter. Nothing magical there. IT, as an industry, has stop turning technology into a magical thing. Yes, what we do with technology can seem like it’s magic, but it takes skill and hardware, not fairy dust.
2. Is cloud safe? Yes! As long as you choose a reputable provider. Personally, I wouldn’t purchase cloud services from a company I didn’t know. Stick to the big names and you should be fine.
3. Are they reading my data? I don’t know the answer to that. I like to think my data is more secure at Microsoft or Google then on a USB stick that I left in a clients system. This would be up to you to determine what you want to store at these sites.
4. Do I need an Internet connection? For the most part, yes, you do. But depending on your solutions provider, you may have offline access.
5. Why is it subscription-based? Overall, IT is moving to a subscription-based model. For a small business, this planned expenditure eases the burden of unforeseen expenses. Remember, you are not only getting the service, but also the infrastructure behind it. Your small business no longer has to worry about purchasing the hardware, hiring technical staff, updating the server, or dealing with hardware issues. This is all part of your subscription fee.
6. Does the cloud service cost less than the on-premise solution? Sometimes, but again it depends on the solution provider. In the example of Office 365, with the level of functionality that is available, the small business used to be only available to the business that could afford to have everything in house, including IT professionals. With the subscription-based model the “big business” tools are available to the small business at a fraction of the price.
7. Is cloud just a phase? Personally, I don’t think so. If we look at how much we do online compared to even 3 years ago, it’s staggering. Take a moment to think about how much you do online every day both at work and at home. Could you work if you didn’t have Internet?
Cloud solutions are great, but they may not be the right solution for your company. Talk to your IT professional and they will be able to help you determine if it’s time to move the cloud.
In a previous post (Windows 2012 Server Essentials Anywhere Access – Part 1) I outlined how to setup Anywhere Access to allow your users to securely access their files, and even desktops, from outside the office. In this post, I will step you through how to connect using the Anywhere Access feature included in Windows 2012 Server Essentials. The images in this post are from a clients system; Windows 2012 Server Essentials.
To use Remote Web Access, open Internet Explorer (using other browsers is not recommended).
Enter: https://yourdomainname.remotewebaccess.com into the address bar. This address was set up when Anywhere Access was configured on the server. See previous post for details how to do this.
After a few moments you will be presented with the following window:
Enter your office network username and password.
You will now be connected to Windows Server 2012 Essentials server in the office.
Users can easily see items they have access too, including their desktops if the functionality is provided.
Users have the same access to the same files and folders as they would in the office. They can download, modify and upload the files. (Watch for an upcoming post that takes this functionality to a new level in the new product release.)
When the user clicks on Shared Folders, a list of all folders is presented.
Expand the folders on the left to drill down into the file structure.
Here, users can easily upload and download files and create new folders.
The greatest advantage to Remote Web Access is the ability for your users to access their desktops as if they were sitting in front of it. The quality and response time is much faster than other remote control programs.
To access the systems in the office the users pick the system from the list on the right. Click the Connect button. Clicking the Computers link will present a list of all the computers the user can access.
Doing so will also give you access to all the systems you can remote into based on your credentials.
Once you have clicked the Connect button you will be presented with the following dialog box:
Click Connect again.
You will be required to enter your credentials again.
Click on the Use another account link if the incorrect username is already provided.
You will now be connected to your desktop.
To exit click the X on the menu bar at the top of the screen.
This will close the Remote Desktop Session and take you back to the Remote Web Access Screen.
Exiting Remote Web Access
Please be sure to exit out of Remote Web Access by clicking the Sign Out link to the top left of the window.
That’s it! You can now securely access your files and desktop from anywhere. Who needs an office?
This and the following post are going to be focused on the Anywhere Access feature included in Windows 2012 Server Essentials.
As most you know, I love this product. It’s my go-to solution for my clients who require a server that is easy to manage and is user-friendly. 2012 Essentials fits the bill perfectly. It’s designed for small businesses with up to 25 users. This post will focus on Anywhere Access, aka: working in your jammies. (I’m all about the jammies).
Anywhere Access allows users to connect to the server, and even to their desktop, from outside the office using a web-friendly interface. This how-to will step you through configuring Anywhere Access and how it looks to the users.
After Windows 2012 Server Essentials is installed, launch the Dashboard, if it isn’t already launched.
Click on Setup Anywhere Access then Click to configure Anywhere Access
You now have the option to have the program setup your router, or you can do it manually. Personally, I prefer the manual method, maybe I’m just old school.
You will now be presented with a Getting Started window. Click Next.
If you have a domain name, you can use it or you can create a new one. This name becomes the url for the users to access the server via a webpage.
For the purpose of this how to, I will create a new domain name.
Since I don’t want to pay for a name, I’ll get a personalized domain name from Microsoft.
Enter your credentials or create a new Microsoft account.
In my case I have already registered a name, but I want to create a new domain name for this post.
Enter in the domain name you wish and then check availability. Luckily, firstname.lastname@example.org is available (what are the oods?). Then click setup. Your domain name is now setup on your server. Please note, it could take a few minutes before you can access Anywhere Access.
We can now choose how we want our users to connect. We can enable VPN or Remote Web Access. We are going to select Remote Web Access. The next option allows us to turn on Anywhere Access for our current users and any newly created users.
The program will then setup the users, configure the firewall and any other settings that are required for Remote Web Access.
The next screen will come up green if Anywhere Access is able to connect to the Internet. In our case it cannot, since we chose to setup the router manually. I’ll skip the listed issues and configure my router manually, then test again.
To verify Anywhere Access has been configured, I view a user account and verify the account has Anywhere Access enabled.
You will also notice that I can uncheck the options I do not want the user to have access to.
And there you have it. In my experience, the biggest hiccup is setting up the router. Remember, your router is your first line of defence against intruders and it’s important that it is setup correctly. Please consult with your local IT pro if you are having any issues. Anywhere Access The Jammies Part 2 (Anywhere Access – The Jammie Part) outlines how to connect from outside the office.