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Windows Server 2012: Server Roles and Features

Updated on October 1, 2013

Server Roles and Features

Windows Server 2012: Server Roles and Features

The newest version of Windows Server has new and enhanced features that greatly simplify a server administrator’s job making it easier and more efficient. Planning is the most logical step in the process of installing and configuring your network for Windows Server 2012.

Any administrator realizes the value in knowing the capabilities, server roles, features, versions, and licensing information of the server. So that the server can be put to the best possible use to allow for making the network to be more efficient and allow users to be more productive within the organization.

The role that a server performs is a primary duty, service, or technology that the server provides for an organization. Windows Server 2012 provides several primary sever roles.


Windows Server 2012 Server Roles


Active Directory Certificate Services (ADCS) – enables Windows Server 2012 to provide certificates to clients and servers.

Active Directory Domain Services (ADDS) – configures server to host Active Directory database, and to use this database to authenticate users to logon to the network and authorize their use of resources.

Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) – enables a Windows Server 2012 sever to use login information for a variety of severs and services so that a single login provides users with access to all resources.

Active Directory Lightweight Directory Services (ADLDS) – used to setup a small version of Active Directory database for the purpose of Active Directory – integrated applications.

Active Directory Rights Management Services (ADRMS) – enables Active Directory to exchange information with AD RMS- compatible software. Enabling an additional layer of security that content owners can use to protect their documents. Content owners can specifically set permissions that controls who can open, modify, forward or print each document.

Application Server – a server on which you have installed a server application such as Microsoft SQL Server or Microsoft Exchange Server.

DHCP Server – enables a Windows server to automatically lease IP addresses to different clients such as computers and printers instead of requiring you to manually configure each devices IP address settings.

DNS Server – configures a Windows server to provide name resolution services the process by which a computer finds a computer’s IP address based on a provide computer name.

FAX Server – a fax server sends and receives faxes for multiple users. When it receives faxes, a fax server forwards those faxes to the relevant users mailbox.

File and Storage Services – a server service, used to manage access to files on the server. Also used to implement Distributed File Services (DFS) and access to network storage.

Hyper-V – Hyper –V service is installed and configured to support the implementation of virtual machines.

Print and Document Services – enables you to centrally manage printers and scanners, as well as their queues on the network.

Network Policy and Access Services – enables you to secure remote access to the network, meeting requirements that all remote users authenticate to the server running Network Policy and Access Services before gaining access to the corporate network.

Remote Access - enables users to connect to the network remotely without requiring virtual private network (VPN) connections.

Remote Desktop Services – enables a Windows server to provide access to virtual desktops, session-based desktops, and applications that encompass Remote App.

Volume Activation Services – configures a Windows server to automate the process of tracking volume license keys and their activation. The service can also be used to implement Key Management Services (KMS) host or Active Directory-based license activation for domain members.

Web Server (IIS) – enables the setup of a Windows server as a web server.

Windows Deployment Services (WDS) – a service used to install and configure Windows operating systems across the network.

Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) – enables automated deployment of updates for Microsoft products such as Windows and Microsoft Office.


Windows Server 2012 Features


Windows BitLocker® Drive Encryption – enable or disable encryption at the disk or volume level. Enables encryption at the Windows startup environment.

Failover Clustering – used to set up server clusters, increasing the reliability of you your servers by providing back up servers.

Group Policy Management – an administrative console used to implement Group Policy on an organizations network.

Ink and Handwriting Services – enables the network to support input via pens, and recognition of handwriting and math equations.

Internet Printing Client – configure support for user to connect and print to local printers or Internet printers using the Internet Printing Protocol (IPP).

Network Load Balancing (NLB) – used to balance the user workload across multiple servers running a stateless application. Stateless applications respond independently to each client request, making it possible for multiple servers to balance the client requests.

Remote Assistance – enables support to clients that send invitations, by providing remote assistance you can access the client desktop as if you were sitting at the actual computer.

Remote Server Administration Tools – enables remote management of servers running Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2012. It is also possible to manage Windows Server 2003 servers as long as you connect to them through a server running either Windows Server 2008 R2 or Windows Server 2012.

Simple Mail Transfer Protocol – use to configure a server to send email messages.

Telnet Client, Telnet Server – enables setup of server to support uses connecting and accessing files using the Telnet Protocol. The Telnet Client is used to connect to Telnet servers.

Windows PowerShellä- provides a command-line interface for running commands or scripts to perform administrative tasks.

Windows Server Backup – use to backup a Windows server and if necessary to restore a backup after a server failure.

Windows System Resource Managerä(WSRM) - enables the configuration of the allocation of both a server’s CPU and RAM resources.

Wireless Local Area Network Service (LAN) – configure the wireless LAN service to enable a server to communicate using a wireless network adapter.

Windows on Windows (WoW) 64 Support – Windows Server 2012 64-Bit servers use this feature to allow 32-Bit applications to run.


New Features Added to Windows Server 2012


Command auto-completion – a feature that displays clickable lists of cmdlets as you type in Windows PowerShell. Lists include matching cmdlets, parameters, parameter values, files, folders.

Enhanced storage – Windows Server 2012 includes features that enable the operating system to support large disk workloads on virtual machines. Also included is a new virtual hard disk format (VHDX) which improves performance, support for Virtual Fibre Channel enabling virtual machines to communicate with Fibre Channel Storage Area Networks (SANs); The ability to implement 4-KB disk sectors on Hyper-V virtual disk for improved capacity and reliability; and support for Offloaded Data Transfer (ODX), enabling the virtual machine host to focus CPU time on the application and rely on the SAN to manage reading and writing to disk.

Features on Demand – Choosing this feature during installation prevents Setup from copying all operating system source files to the server’s disk. The advantage is it eliminates the use of disk space for storage of resource files. To install a feature or role you use Features on Demand to install features and roles by obtaining source files and resources stored in a remote location, Windows update, or the installation media. The disadvantage of implementation is that you must provide the source files whenever you want to install a feature or sever role.

IP Address Management (IPAM) Server – enables central management of both DHCP and DNS servers. Can also be used to discover, monitor, and audit DHCP and DNS servers.

New Cmdlets – new cmdlets for configuring and managing Active Directory replication and replication topology.

Resilient File System (ReFS) – included in Windows Server 2012 is this new file system provides enhanced reliability, better data integrity, and compatibility with existing API’s and file system filters.

Revised Task Manager – The new Task Manager includes a new Processes Tab, enabling you to identify the processes that are consuming server resources.

User interface – you are prompted during installation whether you want to install a Server Core installation, a Minimal Server Interface, a server with a graphical user interface (GUI), or full desktop experience interface. After installing a server different options can be chosen by using PowerShell cmdlets.

Windows BrancheCache® - a bandwidth optimization technology designed to optimize the traffic on a wide area network (WAN). BranchCache optimizes performance by caching content from a headquarters office and storing it locally on the BranchCache Server.


What is the difference between Server Roles and Features?

A server, consist of one or more programs that enable a server to perform a specific function for users and/or computers on a network.

In contrast, features are applications that can increase the functions the server can perform. Features can add support or add functions, to server roles. In many cases, a single role contains a number of features.

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