Enabling multiple instances of Windows Server Essentials Experience in your environment

Enabling multiple instances of Windows Server Essentials Experience in your environment

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Hi, this is Mike, program manager from the Windows Server Essentials team. In this blog, I’m going to talk about why and how to enable multiple instances of the new Windows Server Essentials Experience server role in Windows Server 2012 R2 in your environment.

As you may know, Windows Server Essentials Experience provides a set of features, such as simplified share folder management, Remote Web Access, PC backup, and simplified cloud integration that allows you to make the best use of your server. There are some situations in which you may want to deploy multiple instances of Windows Server Essentials Experience in your environment. Note that this only applies when using the Standard or Datacenter editions of Windows Server 2012 R2, since you can only have one instance of the Essentials edition running in an environment.

Branch offices

Many businesses have branch offices in different locations. Staff need local IT resources such as file storage, remote access, or PC backup, whether they’re a large enterprise or a small business. By deploying Windows Server Essentials Experience in each of the branch offices, you can get a consistent set of functionality across your sites that is easier to manage for less experienced or non-dedicated IT administrators. For example, you should deploy a local server running Windows Server Essentials Experience to each branch office where you want to use the PC backup feature, since transferring large amounts of data to a headquarters office would degrade the backup performance and have a significant impact on your Internet or WAN link.

Separating workloads

You may already be using Windows Server Essentials Experience as your domain controller to manage user accounts or provide integration with Office 365, and for other basic infrastructure needs such as file and print services. Since the domain controller is crucial for controlling access to all your resources and applications, you may want to separate some of your other workloads onto their own dedicated server instances. For example, you can set up one server instance running Windows Server Essentials Experience to be your domain controller, and have a separate instance that is also running Windows Server Essentials Experience that is dedicated to running the PC backup feature.

Deployment considerations

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, you can now set up Windows Server Essentials Experience as either a domain controller or a member server when using the Standard or Datacenter editions of Windows Server 2012 R2. If you want to deploy multiple instances of Windows Server Essentials Experience, you can deploy them on multiple member servers. When you do this, note the following:

  • You can use the Dashboard to manage users in the entire domain. The Dashboard will load all your users in the domain, and normal user and group maintenance tasks will take effect on the domain objects.    
  • Features in Windows Server Essentials Experience don’t interact across multiple instances. For example, if you set up two instances of Remote Web Access, they won’t work with each other to provide load balancing. Instead, they’re going to be two separate websites and you may need separate public IP addresses if you want to host two sites—as may be the case for branch offices. Another example is PC management. Each PC is managed by only one instance of Windows Server Essentials Experience. When a PC to be managed runs the Client Connector Wizard from a specific server, the PC is associated with, and can only be managed from, that server.   
  • The online service integration features only work when the server is a domain controller. Also, integration cannot be initiated if there are multiple domain controllers in the environment. The product team is investigating possible solutions.   
  • If you deploy Windows Server Essentials Experience in branch offices, make sure your sites are connected by using either site-to-site VPN connections, or other channels such as dedicated WAN links.    
  • Do not enable Windows Server Essentials Experience on one server and then run the Client Connector Wizard to try and manage it from another server.

If you have any additional questions or comments about Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials or the Windows Server Essentials Experience role, please join us in our support forum.

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  • Hi there,

    We are running into the issue at the moment where we are not able to integrate with online services due to our environment having more than one DC. You made the comment that your product team will be looking into possible solutions. Where will the results be communicated to when a solution is found? Shall we keep checking this post for progress?

  • Samme issue here, and we can't demote the currently running sbs server...

  • Email me at susan-at-msmvps.com (change the -at- to @) I'll set up a support case so you can track the issue.

  • Migrating from SBS2003 to Server 2012 essentials is a joke. Can't DirSync passwords on 2003, can't run integration with Azure if multiple DC's. Need to off-email accounts before installing 2012 server, so can't do dirsync of passwords anyway. Can't demote the domain controller until you've off-boarded the emails due to Exchange 2003 limitations and the 2003 license causing the server to reboot. You want people of 2003 by April, but it's easier to do a swing migration to SBS2011 than it is to move to 2012. Come on!! I know you've put hard work into this and 2012 is a sweet product, but surely getting an easy migration to O365 and onto 2012 would make like easier from previous versions would be a good thing, no? Oh, it also turns out that the essentials role on a Windows Standard 2012 r2 can't run in a multiple DC environment. How many people who have 2012 standard only have one DC? Even with SBS you could have two DC's running for redundancy, just not swing the FSMO's from the SBS and you're good to go.

  • Check out third party tools like migrationwiz.com to get that email onto Office 365

  • Hi there,

    I am running into a number of cases with clients now where I would like to add a second DC in an Office 365 integrated environment, is there an update on the possible solutions from your product team? I have emailed the address given below but haven't had a response.