Upgrading to Server 2016

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The last time Microsoft rolled out an upgrade to their popular Windows Server operating system was 2012, so it’s time for an upgrade again. Microsoft is set to release Windows Server 2016 later this month, which has several improvements in regards to virtualization, security and networking.

Every network administrator fears the day of a main server operating system upgrade because it means several changes to the environment, which could potentially cause downtime. Before you decide to upgrade your Windows server, here are a few things you need to know.

  1. Microsoft Introduced Nano Server

Virtualization has evolved, and Microsoft has decided to keep up with the trends in virtualization by introducing containers. Containers aren’t new technology, but it’s trending in popularity for cloud computing.

Nano server is a new service introduced in Windows Server 2016. It allows you to use VMs and ASP.NET for applications. Microsoft has its own API to allow you to handle your containers in Azure. These containers use smaller resources and allow service compartmentalization. Each container can be managed in its own server utility as well.

  1. Better Security Using Active Directory

Microsoft introduced new security features with Active Directory. The most notable change is Active Directory Certificate Services. This lets administrators incorporate security certificates directly with Active Directory trees.

You can also migrate older Windows 2008 services to the new Active Directory services in Windows 2016. With the new services, you can encrypt and protect applications such as email, VPN, file storage and digital signatures. Overall, your network environment has improved defenses against several newer attacks on corporate networks.

Active Directory isn’t the only place you gain security improvements. Virtual machines in Hpyer-V also get an improvement in security. You can convert older virtual machines to the new shielded virtual machines, which include encryption support.

  1. Windows Defender is Enabled by Default

In most server environments, an administrator can enable and disable support for security features during installation. Windows 2016 enables Windows Defender by default. This is a benefit, although administrators should be aware that it’s turned on by default in case any customized environment variables lose support during the migration.

One thing to note is that although Windows Defender is turned on by default, the interface is not turned on by default. This could potentially confuse administrators who are used to an interface for support during installation. Windows will still automatically update the anti-malware components without any support from the administrators. You may want to install the Defender interface to better control the way Defender operates. You can do this after you install the operating system using the Add Roles and Features Wizard.

  1. Soft Reboot Options

Every administrator knows the hassles involved with upgrading components on a Windows server, only to have it notify you that you must reboot. It interrupts performance and productivity on the network, and there is always the fear of boot issues. Later Windows Server operating system versions reduced the number of reboots needed, but they are still necessary during some upgrades.

Windows 2016 has an option to use a soft reboot. This reboot option skips hardware initialization during a standard hard reboot, and it resets the software only. This means your software updates take effect without initializing components of your hardware, which can cause some booting issues that render the server unusable until a root cause and fix are found.

These are key points to know when you decide to upgrade to Windows 2016. You also have more PowerShell support, IIS 10 with HTTP/2 support, RDP services with OpenGL, and Telnet is no longer included. Most older technology is deprecated, so get ready to work with the latest in networking and cloud computing when you upgrade to Windows 2016.

Happy upgrading!

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