Review: Windows Server 2008 R2
There are other parts of Windows Server 2008 R2 that we've covered before that also generate positive marks for the overall product.
DirectAccess may be the sleeper feature of Windows Server 2008 R2. It's the technology that sets up a VPN-less connection directly into your on-premises network through the magic of IPv6. Your users, in terms of their experience on their corporate laptops, no longer have boundaries between where they can work -- all resources on a network appear the same to them, whether they're in a hotel room, a hot desk in your branch office or a corner office downtown. The benefit of DirectAccess for enterprise administrators: It provides a remarkably easier way to allow your users to touch all clients, even those previously considered unmanageable.
The benefits, however, may be masked by the initial complexity and technological requirements needed to fully deploy DirectAccess. From IPv6 to the transition technologies to the very requirement that Windows Server 2008 R2 be running within the enterprise -- forcing you to be an early adopter -- I don't think anyone is arguing this is easy. But it's worthwhile, and its presence in the box is an exciting omen of "what could be" when it comes to perimeter-less networking.
In terms of Active Directory (AD), there is a new AD DS management console that features tight PowerShell integration, as well as an AD Recycle Bin that allows recovery of previously deleted objects. You can now join machines to a Windows domain offline, which is useful for branch offices and other connectivity-challenged environments.
The Windows File Classification Infrastructure, which was new to the first release candidate of Windows Server 2008 R2, is a robust property identification system that allows you to set up rules that assign values to files based on their location or content and then take various actions based on those resulting values. In a nutshell, file classification allows the business to manage data based on its value and sensitivity. You can set up rules that apply and enforce classifications to data stored on the network -- whether it's by file type, name, location or other criteria -- and you can then instruct Windows to automatically apply policy according to those classifications. Think of Group Policy for files.
With all these new features, R2 is certainly the best Windows Server operating system to date.
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Jonathan Hassell is an author, consultant and speaker on a variety of IT topics. His published works include a variety of books on Windows client and server, including Learning Windows Server 2003. His work appears regularly in such periodicals as Windows IT Pro magazine, PC Pro and TechNet Magazine. He also speaks worldwide on topics ranging from networking and security to Windows administration. You can reach Jon at firstname.lastname@example.org.