The Microsoft Press team have just released another free ebook, with downloadable versions of Introducing Windows Server 2012 ebook. This is a technical ebook – it’s not for the average user, but if you want to understand what’s new in Windows Server 2012, it’s a good way of getting up to speed.
It’s available in a variety of formats:
This is a full Microsoft Press book, not just a summary (at 235 pages, it’s a serious read), and includes an overview of the changing business needs that Windows Server 2012 is responding to (such as the widespread use of private and public cloud services), and sections on building a foundation for private cloud, high-availability services, deploying web applications and enabling a modern workstyle.
I think one of the key sections that will really interest educational readers is Chapter 5, which dives into the ‘modern workstyle’, which directly addresses some of the key trends in education - such as access to corporate systems from virtually anywhere as well as the trend to allowing BYOD in education (whether that’s students or staff bringing their own devices).
On page 188 onwards, there’s a lot of detail on Direct Access, which has many applications within education, such as the ability to allow access to your network whilst users are away from campus, without adding expensive or intrusive VPN systems. And some education users have used it to reroute students’ Internet traffic through their school’s filtered internet connection even when they are off campus (again, without adding expensive third party systems). Here’s some info on what it can do, taken straight from the book:
Simplified DirectAccess If remote client devices can be always connected, users can work more productively. Devices that are always connected are also more easily managed, which helps improve compliance and reduce support costs. DirectAccess, first introduced in Windows Server 2008 R2 and supported by client devices running Windows 7, helps address these needs by giving users the experience of being seamlessly connected to their corporate network whenever they have Internet access. DirectAccess does this by allowing users to access corpnet resources such as shared folders, websites, and applications remotely, in a secure manner, without the need of first establishing a VPN connection. DirectAccess does this by automatically establishing bidirectional connectivity between the user’s device and the corporate network every time the user’s device connects to the Internet.
DirectAccess alleviates the frustration that remote users often experience when using traditional VPNs. For example, connecting to a VPN usually takes several steps, during which the user needs to wait for authentication to occur. And if the corporate network has Network Access Protection (NAP) implemented for checking the health of computers before allowing them to connect to the corporate network, establishing a VPN connection could sometimes take several minutes or longer depending on the remediation require, or the length of time of the user’s last established the VPN connection. VPN connections can also be problematic for environments that filter out VPN traffic, and Internet performance can be slow for the user if both intranet and Internet traffic route through the VPN connection. Finally, any time users lose their Internet connection, they have to re-establish the connection from scratch.
DirectAccess solves all these problems. For example, unlike a traditional VPN connection, DirectAccess connectivity is established even before users log on so that they never have to think about connecting resources on the corporate network or waiting for a health check to complete. DirectAccess can also separate intranet traffic from Internet traffic to reduce unnecessary traffic on the corporate network. Because communications to the Internet do not have to travel to the corporate network and back to the Internet, as they typically do when using a traditional VPN connection, DirectAccess does not slow down Internet access for users.
Finally, DirectAccess allows administrators to manage remote computers outside the office even when the computers are not connected via a VPN. This also means that remote computers are always fully managed by Group Policy, which helps ensure that they are secure at all times.
The chapter goes on to describe the enhancements to DirectAccess in Windows Server 2012, such as the ability to have DirectAccess servers and clients on different domains, which will be useful for many education users (especially universities with peripatetic staff) and the enhanced support for two-factor authentication when you’re using third-party security vendors.
Find out about other free technical ebooks from Microsoft Press
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