A small but clever "better-together" story can be found in the My Server 2012 R2 app for Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 and 8.1. Features that light up only when you have an all-Microsoft stack incent you to depend even more on Microsoft solutions. Specifically, there are a number of better-together features with Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 R2, such as Work Folders and Workplace Join.
One recently released app for Windows mobile devices is quite appealing for networks that employ Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials. The My Server 2012 R2 app allows for easy shared file access and the ability to perform simple network administration tasks across mobile devices. For the Windows 8 client, there is a seamless Remote Desktop experience.
What you need
The modest set of features in My Server 2012 R2 may not appeal to everyone, but there may be a just-right fit for the lean, modern styling of the app and its consistent look and feel across mobile devices. However, not every Windows admin can fire up the app and expect to connect to anything. You need a preexisting Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials server installation that is properly published to the Internet for Remote Access, to start with.
Windows Server Essentials 2012 R2 has two markets: the small organization of fewer than 25 users and 50 devices and an organization of any size that deploys the Essentials role on an otherwise-licensed edition of Windows Server 2012 R2. The smaller org would always have a single Essentials 2012 R2 computer to connect to. When the Essentials role is deployed on Windows Server 2012 R2 in a larger domain environment, multiple instances of Essentials can exist, each servicing about 300 users.
When you activate the Remote Access features of Essentials Server 2012 R2, you enable things like SSL Client VPN and the Remote Web Access site. That same HTTPS URL, such as https://remote.mycompany.com, is used to access the remote features and is all My Server 2012 R2 needs to connect to your Essentials server. Both the Windows Phone and the Windows 8 My Server 2012 R2 apps just ask for that URL and a one-time entry of network credentials -- and then you have live tile access to My Server 2012 R2 features.
My Server 2012 R2 for Windows 8
My Server 2012 R2 for Windows 8 is designed to help you keep connected to network resources through devices running Windows 8. You can manage users, devices, and alerts and access shared files in Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials. Files you have recently accessed with My Server continue to be available even when you're offline. Figure A shows the My Server dashboard view on a Windows 8.1 device.
Figure A: My Server 2012 R2 for Windows 8 and 8.1
From left to right, you have convenient live tile access to server configuration and performance data, such as Status, Shared Folders, Users, and Devices. Features in the Shared Folders function include:
- Browse, edit, and search files stored on your server
- Share local resources to the server or save server resources locally
- Access files you opened recently even without an Internet connection; the changes made offline will be automatically synchronized to the server when online.
Figure B shows how Windows 8 presents the Remote Desktop of a device in a split screen view with the device's status page. Notice you can also launch a backup of the selected computer.
Figure B: From a device page, you have one-click access to a Remote Desktop on the same screen.
My Server 2012 R2 for Windows Phone
There is less functionality in the Windows Phone client compared to the Windows 8 app -- particularly no Remote Desktop access. My Server 2012 R2 for Windows Phone is designed to help keep you connected to your server resources through Windows smartphones. With My Server 2012 R2 for Windows Phone, you can manage users, devices, and alerts and access shared files in Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials.
Figure C shows
the My Server 2012 R2 for Windows Phone Devices page on the left and the Alerts
page on the right. From the Devices page, you can check some basic computer
health information and remotely launch an on-demand backup of a computer. From
the Alerts page, you can click through for details on the alert and in some
cases, push a Repair button to automatically fix some server problems, such as
starting a stopped service.
Figure C: The Devices and Alerts pages from My Server 2012 R2 for Windows Phone 8
Download the My Server 2012 R2 app
These links will help you learn more and download My Server 2012 R2:
John Joyner, MCSE, CMSP, MVP Cloud and Datacenter Management, is senior architect at ClearPointe, a cloud provider of systems management services. He is co-author of the "System Center Operations Manager: Unleashed" book series from Sams Publishing, and is developing cloud-based management solutions based on the Microsoft System Center 2012 suite. John is a retired U.S. Navy Lt. Commander 'Surface Warfare Officer', with the subspeciality 'Computer Scientist, Proven'. His tours of duty included Chief of Network Operations for NATO's southern region and network administrator aboard the aircraft carrier USS CARL VINSON (CVN-70).