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WServerNews Article

Since starting at Microsoft, via an agency, I’ve focused on larger SMB, so when Mitch Tulloch asked me to submit a piece to his site, WServerNews, I knew it was a great opportunity to spread my love of Server Essentials. I’m not going to repeat the article here, but check it out at WServerNews on May 26th. While you are there, Mitch has compiled a fantastic list of resources for the IT Pro. So grab a coffee and spend some time browsing the site. Also, check out his other site http://www.mtit.com/ for a list of ebooks. I highly recommend the Server 2012 R2 Technical Overview.

Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post!

SBS: We’ll Miss You, But it’s Time to Move on

SBS quietly left us on December 31st 2013. We will remember SBS as a hard-working, dedicated piece of technology in the small business environment.

As a Microsoft partner, I LOVED SBS. As with most partners, initially I wasn’t thrilled with losing SBS, but after working with the options offered with Windows Server 2012 R2, I have come to appreciate the opportunities that arose when the SBS “windows” closed.

As a recap, SBS provided Exchange for email, and SharePoint for document management. Typically everything was installed on one server. Now with Server 2012, Exchange and SharePoint are not included. Microsoft has provided other alternatives to the software, such as Office 365, Exchange On-Premise, or hosted Exchange.

All three are great solutions and it’s just a matter of finding the right solution for your small business or your small business client. Let’s look at each option here.

1. Office 365 – If you read my blog you know I am a big fan of Office 365. For a small business who is already using some type of hosted email, moving to Office 365 is a no-brainer. They get awesome email, plus Lync and SharePoint for a similar cost to what they are already paying. Essentials can be configured to connect to Office 365, and you can easily add both local and Office 365 email accounts, via a single pane of glass. To see how easy it is to connect the two services see article:

2. Exchange On-Premise – Some companies will insist on continuing to host email internally, and for these clients we can easily add an Exchange Server to the infrasture. Essentials will easily tie into this server and you will be able to manage both servers and accounts from a single pane of glass. I will do a post on how to connect these two options in the future. Personally, I’m not an Exchange expert and it would be a good experience for me to play with the new version of Exchange.

3. Hosted Exchange – If your client does not want to use Office 365, or manage an On-Premise Exchange server, a hosted Exchange service is also supported.

There is no stopping the steady progression to the cloud, and for the small business, Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials can provide all the big business tools at an affordable cost. While SBS focused on keeping everything on-site, Essentials seamlessly allows the small business to take advantage of cloud technologies; if an On-Premise Exchange server is required, we can easily manage this server just as easily.

As we start the New Year, let’s make a resolution to embrace Server Essentials and not grieve SBS. SBS would have wanted us to move on and continue to serve our small business clients with the best of the technologies.

SharePoint Online and On-Premise Syncing almost

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.

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Follow the prompts and your done. For more information on how to “connect” the two services see article.

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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.

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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.

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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.

SkyDrive Pro Sync Settings

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.  

Sync

That’s it.

As you can see my files on the server match the files on Office 365.

 Files on Server

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.

Office 365 to Server Essentials How-To

I was at the Microsoft Partner Summit in Mississauga last week and ended up in a discussion with a gentleman about Windows 2012 Server Essentials and Office 365. Windows Server 2012 Essentials replaces the SBS and does not include SharePoint or Exchange, but you can connect to an existing Exchange server, hosted Exchange service, or Office 365, as I outline below.

SBS 2011 Essentials and Windows Server 2012 Essentials are my go-to server installations for small companies (less than 25 accounts). They’re great operating systems for smaller companies that needs a server for LOB applications, file shares, and backups. Plus, you can easily access your server files and desktop using the Anywhere Access feature. In this post I’ll outline how to integrate Office 365 with Windows Server 2012 Essentials. I used an existing Office 365 account that I currently have access to, and it could not have been easier.

First from the Dashboard, select the Email option.

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In my case I wanted to integrate with Microsoft Office 365 and not an Exchange Server, but if you have an Exchange server, either hosted or on premise, you could integrate with it.

You will be presented with the Getting Started window. Again, because I already have an existing subscription, I selected this option. If you do not have a subscription, uncheck the box that indicates you do, and the wizard will help you set one up.

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I then provided my Office 365 account information.

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Next, agree to the password policy. We should all be using strong passwords anyway!

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Then wait until the configuration is complete. I didn’t even have time to get a coffee.

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And we’re done! How painless was that?

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The next time you open the Dashboard, you will notice the check mark beside the Office 365 integration and a new tab labelled Office 365.

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Selecting the Office 365 tab will display your account information.

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Now that the two products are connected we can easily manage both accounts.

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We can either Add or Assign Office 365 accounts from the Users tab in the Dashboard.

To add or connect existing Office 365 accounts, select the Add Office 365 Accounts link.

If the account names are the same, the application will automatically match the accounts for you. Brilliant! 10

Click Next.

A report stating success and/or failure is now presented. If the installation was a success, you now have the associated server accounts.

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If you already have the Office 365 accounts created, you can easily add them to the Windows 2012 Essentials server.

Select Import Accounts from Office 365 from the Users tab in the Dashboard. Again, the application will create server accounts based on the Office 365 account name.

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A status report is once again presented after the accounts are created.

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You can also add users using the Office 365 web portal. Create the account as you normally would in Office 365.

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Once the account has been created, access the Add a User Account from the Windows 2012 Essentials Dashboard. 16

In the above example I assigned the previously created Office 365 account to the user account (option 2). You can also create an Office 365 account and assign it to a user account (option 1). You can also leave the account alone and not assign it to a matching user account (option 3). The account will then be added to the server users.

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This is a great solution for the small business (less than 25 users). Users can easily be managed by the company, saving them time and money. The one thing I would love to see added is easy integration from SharePoint component to Office 365 to internal folders on the server. I thought this was possible but I haven’t been able to determine how to connect the two. If you know how to do this, please add the solution to the comments. Thanks!

P.S. I’m hoping to turn this into a series of Essential How-To’s.

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