Category Archives: Server 2012

How to set up Hyper-V Replica for Small Businesses

One of the best features (IMHO) of Hyper-V in Windows Server 2012 is Hyper-V Replica. This feature allows you to replicate a running virtual machine on a Hyper-V server to another Hyper-V server, where it can be ready to be fired up in case of a failure at the primary server. The replication can happen as often as 5 minutes, thus providing an almost real time disaster recovery solution. The best part of this is that it is included out of the box in the Hyper-V role of WS2012.

There is an excellent reference called Poster Companion Reference – Hyper-V Replica available for download from Microsoft here – The diagram says it all.

So, from a small business perspective, how is this useful, cost effective, and can it be implemented with the limited resource constraints of the SMB budget?

For this to work, you need at least the following items.

  1. Two servers running Hyper-V as hosts in non-similar domains, or in workgroups. One of these would be the main server for the business. The second could be another server in the business OR it could be a server provided by your IT service organisation, who is offering a Disaster Recovery service for your business.
  2. A SSL Certificate for each Hyper-V server – both the primary and the replica servers. We will not be using Kerberos authorisation, because this only works in an Active Directory environment, where both servers are part of the domain. For our purposes, we are assuming a small business where we are happy to have one, let alone two servers running Hyper-V. In this case, there will most certainly not be a domain for the hosts. A domain controller in the virtual machines will not be helpful, since the hosts will not be able to authenticate with these DCs if they are not yet started.

How do we set this up? A summary of the steps taken are as follows:

  1. Configure the Hyper-V primary server and replica server names.
  2. Purchase the SSL Certificates. Install them on each of the servers.
  3. Enable Replication on the replica server.
  4. Select a VM to replicate and configure replication.
  5. Begin initial replication.
  6. Configure replication settings.
  7. Test failover.

Configure the server names

We need to configure the server names so that they are fully qualified domain names. This is needed in order to obtain a proper SSL certificate. Since these servers are not in a domain, any domain suffix which is accessible would be sufficient. Normally, you would use or similar. In order to quickly add a suffix to the domain name, you can take the following steps.

  1. Open up Server Manager
  2. Go to Local Server and click on the computer name

  3. Click Change

  4. Click More

  5. Put in the Primary DNS suffix and click OK several times for the changes to take place

  6. You will need to reboot the server. After that, the server name will include the full FQDN.

Changing the DNS suffix does not affect local access to the server. It merely allows the server to see itself with a fully qualified domain name, which should match the SSL certificate that is installed in the next step.

Purchase and Install the SSL Certificates

At this stage, you can obtain a SSL certificate from your favourite vendor. I use Trustico. After generating the certificate, you need to convert this into a PFX certificate and import this into the server.

If you have a certificate in a different format, there are tools that you can use to convert them. See my blog here for more information on this –

Once you have the certificate, follow the instructions here to import the certificate into the server –

Enable Replication on the Replica Server

Once these initial set up steps have been completed, the servers can be configured for replication following the standard guides to setting up Hyper-V Replica. A few good resources can be found here:

The first step is to enable replication on the Replica Server.

  1. Open Hyper-V Manager on the Replica Server
  2. Click on Hyper-V Settings


  3. Select Replication Configuration, and tick Enable this computer as a Replica server.
    1. Select Use certificate-based Authentication (HTTPS). You change the SSL port if you want, but you will also need to change this setting on your firewall as well
    2. Select the Certificate
    3. Allow replication from any authenticated server. You can specify the server if you want more security.
    4. Click OK to complete the page.

    5. Click OK to acknowledge that you need to configure the firewall.

  4. Start the Windows Firewall with Advanced Security console
    1. Click on Inbound Rules
    2. Scroll down and select the entry Hyper-V Replica HTTPS Listener (TCP-In)
    3. Click Enable Rule

Replication is now enabled on the Replica Server.


Enable Replication for each Virtual Machine on the Main Server

The final step is to enable replication for each virtual machine that needs to be replicated.


  1. Open the Hyper-V Manager
  2. Select a virtual machine, and click Enable Replication to begin the Replication Wizard

  3. Click Next. Type in the Replica server name (including the FQDN). If you have used a non DNS hosted FQDN, you will need to manually add in the entry into the HOSTS file.

  4. Select the Certificate for the main server. If the DNS entries are not correct, and the replica server cannot be located by the wizard, you may get the warning listed below.

  5. Select the drives that need to be replicated. It is possible to create a replica without replicating all the drives. Read the information panel for more information.

  6. At this point, you can choose to select more than one recovery point, and customise the VSS schedule.

  7. You can now select the initial replication method. The choices are self-explanatory. You can also schedule the initial replication so as not to cause bandwidth congestion.

  8. Review the settings, then click Finish to complete the wizard. If there are no errors, replication will begin immediately unless scheduled for later.


  9. On the Replica server, the virtual machine will be created in an Off state.

  10. Once replication has completed, you can monitor the status of replication and perform other tasks from the Replication menu

  11. Repeat this for all the virtual machines

There are many factors and considerations when working with Hyper-V Replica, such as bandwidth utilisation, processor utilisation, and memory requirements. These will be investigated in another blog posting. Also, we will examine the management of the replicas and look at how to run failover testing.




Importing a PFX Certificate into Windows Server 2012

In Windows Server 2012, you need to perform the following steps to import a PFX certificate into the Certificate store.

  1. Start a MMC session. From a command prompt, type MMC.
  2. Add/Remove Snap-in

  3. Add Certificates

  4. Use the Computer Account

  5. Manage the Local Computer

  6. Expand to the Personal Certificate store

  7. Right-click, All Tasks, Import. Then browse to the location of the PFX file to import the certificate. The Certificate Import Wizard will begin.

  8. Browse to the PFX file.

  9. Type in the password for the certificate, and mark the key as exportable, in case you need to re-export the key elsewhere in the future.

  10. Place the certificate in the Personal store.

  11. Click Finish to complete the wizard.

  12. When the import is successfully completed, the certificate and intermediate certificate will be displayed in the Certificates folder.

Data Deduplication in Windows Server 2012

There is a new and really handy feature in Windows Server 2012 called Data Deduplication. The feature is discussed in detail on the Technet page here –

Basically, Data Deduplication will find and remove duplication on the server without compromising data fidelity or integrity. This feature was used in the Essentials line of SBS 2011, Windows Home Server 2011, and Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials, within the Client Backup feature. This feature allowed multiple backups of similar client PCs to be stored on the server with minimal disk storage footprint. Now, this feature is available for WS2012, and will provide a lot of benefits, particularly in optimising disk storage space and improving bandwidth across networks.

This feature is associated with the File and Storage Services Role, which is installed on all standard installs. Interestingly, this feature is not installed by default with the role, and must be enabled manually by running the Add Roles and Features wizard.

  1. From the Server Manager Dashboard, run the Add Roles and Features wizard.

  2. Click Next on the next 3 screens.

  3. Expand File and Storage Services and tick Data Deduplication, then click Next.

  4. Click Next on the next screen, then click Install on the confirmation screen. Note that you will not need to restart the server to install this feature.

  5. Close the wizard when the installation is complete.

How to Install Windows Server 2012 on a HP Proliant Server

With the release of Windows Server 2012, I was looking to roll out several new HP Proliant servers running WS2012 Datacentre edition as HyperV hosts. Alas, the existing version of HP SmartSuite does not support WS2012. The methodology for installing WS2012 on HP servers is documented by HP here –

However, this methodology is quite manual, and seems to omit the installation of the HP Management and System Tools. Also, the website, and HP documentation appear to lead to two different versions of the WS2012 Supplement for Service Pack for Proliant (See here – and here –

Using the new in-place upgrade feature in WS2012, these issues were overcome by installing Windows Server 2008R2 first, and then upgrading the fresh installation to WS2012. BTW, this process should work for most other server hardware platforms. Do check the Compatibility Report to verify that the drivers and vendor applications will work.

The pre-requisite: Install WS2008R2 using the HP SmartSuite and Server media. Once the server has been installed, insert the WS2012 media (DVD or USB) and run setup.exe.

Click Install now.

Wait a while, skip installing updates, and follow the “bouncing balls” – most of the steps are straightforward.

Install the GUI Version (unless you really want the Server Core version).

Accept the License.

At this step, select Upgrade: Install Windows and keep files, settings, and applications.

View the Compatibility report, in case there are some issues that need to be attended to. Otherwise, a generic notice is given.

Wait some more.

Reboot #1.

More waiting and a couple more reboots. (Be patient!)

Finally, the server is ready.


After logon, Server Manager will automatically start up.

Minimise Server Manager to return to the desktop. A Windows Compatibility Report icon is on the desktop and links to the report which was seen above.

The HP System Management Icon will work as it normally did previously.

From this point, WS2012 is installed and operational. The HyperV role and other roles and features can be installed normally.

In-place Upgrade from Windows Server 2008 R2 to Windows Server 2012

This afternoon, we began the process of upgrading our main internal server running Windows Server 2008 R2 as a HyperV host to Windows Server 2012.

Some pre-requisites.

  1. Burn the ISO on to a DVD or Bootable USB.
  2. Make sure you have your Product Key for WS2012 handy. This edition of windows server does not allow you to continue without a valid product key.
  3. Make sure your backups are up to date.
  4. For HyperV servers, delete all snapshots.
  5. Shut down all running Virtual machines.

The Process.

  1. Insert the media and run Setup.exe in the root of the installation media.
  2. Follow the prompts and select Upgrade existing Windows installation. The setup will check if your system is compatible and report on any issues if found.
  3. Upgrade.
    (At this stage, I went off for a run to the supermarket and returned an hour later)
  4. Log in, start up all VMs and upgrade the HyperV Integration Services for each VM.
  5. Restart the VMs after the upgrade.

No errors were encountered and All systems were operational within 2 hours. The process could not have been more painless.

Watch this space for more details on Windows Server 2012! We will be working with a fantastic new feature called HyperV Replica, which will be an important milestone in setting up simple, low cost Disaster Recovery solutions for small businesses.

Windows Server 2012 is released – Supports in place upgrade!

Don’t let the unassuming simple look and feel of the start up fool you. Windows Server 2012 is a robust, full featured server platform capable of powering the world’s largest datacentres and also small business single server organizations.

Read about the full specifications and the myriad of features from the Microsoft website here –

An interesting development in this version is the ability to perform an in place upgrade from a previous version. I tested this feature on my test server running Windows Server 2008 R2 with the HyperV role. The process took about half an hour with several server reboots. When it was done, I was presented with the server log in screen. I typed in the password, and was presented with the Windows Server 2012 version of my server. The management tool I had running on the server promptly checked in and announced that the server was online.

A minor detail was observed when all the virtual machines showed up on the system in a critical state and would not start up. This was easily remidied by removing the virtual machines from the HyperV Manager, and importing the virtual machines back. This is probably due to the fact that my virtual machine home folder was not as expected, and was relocated to a different area previously.

All up, it was a relatively painless process and it was a plesant surprise and bonus to see the in place upgrade feature available.

Using DISKPART to create a Bootable USB of Windows 8

Windows 8 was released today on MSDN and Technet. It will soon be released publically. With that comes the many GBs of downloads for the ISOs. Many may have newer Ultrabooks, which do not feature DVD drives anymore. Rather than burning the ISO to a DVD disc, why not put it on a bootable USB stick? There are many ways to do this, and I have found that the best way to do this is to use a command tool called DISKPART. The commands are fairly easy.

  1. Open an elevated Command Prompt and type DISKPART. You will open up the Diskpart tool, as evidenced by the DISKPART> prompt.
  2. DISKPART>LIST DISK <- This will give you a listing of the disks on your system. It is very important to identify the USB disk, as you really do not want to format your system drive.
  3. DISKPART>SELECT DISK n <- this will make select the USB disk n, as identified in step 2
  4. DISKPART>CLEAN <- This effectively does a quick format/wipe of the USB disk
  5. DISKPART>CREATE PARTITION PRIMARY <- This will create a primary partition on the disk
  6. DISKPART>SELECT PARTITION 1 <- Since there is only one partition, this will select it.
  7. DISKPART>ACTIVE <- This makes the partition active
  8. DISKPART>FORMAT FS=FAT32 <- This formats the disk and sets it up as a FAT32 formatted drive. This will take a while to complete
  9. DISKPART>ASSIGN <- This assigns the next drive letter to the drive
  10. DISKPART>EXIT <- To exit the utility

Once the USB drive has been prepared, you can now use a utility like 7-Zip to extract the ISO directly to the drive.

BTW. This process will also work when creating bootable USB disks of other Windows ISOs – Windows Server 2012, Windows Small Business Server 2011, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows 7, and even Vista.



Growing beyond the 25 user limit in Server 2012 Essentials

Remember the word “Transmog“? Microsoft has release an official statement on how the process will work and the bits that are required for this to happen. The official title given to this transmogrification process is called “In-Place Transition from Windows Server 2012 Essentials to Windows Server 2012 Standard.”

In a nutshell:

  • Licensing. You need to purchase a copy of Server 2012 Standard AND the appropriate number of Client Access Licenses (CALs).
  • **After the process. there is NO 25 user limit NOR a 75 user limit.
  • There is a “supported” user and account limit of 75, which means that while the bits should work, Microsoft will not provide support for it if you exceed this limit.
  • You can turn off the Essentials bits, but it is a one-way ticket. You cannot turn the features back on.

The article can be read here –

**NOTE: Windows Server 2012 Essentials has a hard limit of of 25 users. After the in-place transition process, this limit is removed, because the server is transitioned to Windows Server 2012 Standard.

Goodbye SBS!

Microsoft announced today the next release of their Windows Server operating systems, and thus ended the branding and name Small Business Server. Read the announcement here – Also check out the new line up for Windows Server 2012 here –

Here is a brief history of SBS. Google “Small Business Server” for more information on this.

  • 22 Oct 1997. BackOffice Small Business Server 4.0 is introduced, based on Windows NT Server 4.0 SP3. Allowed 25 client licenses.
  • 24 May 1999. BackOffice Small Business Server 4.5 is released, based on Windows NT Server 4.0 SP4. Allowed 50 client licenses.
  • 21 Feb 2001. Microsoft Small Business Server 2000 is released, based on Windows 2000 Server. Allowed 50 client licenses.
  • 9 Oct 2003. Windows Small Business Server 2003 is released, based on Windows Server 2003. Allowed 75 client licenses.
  • 29 July 2006. Windows Small Business Server 2003 R2 is released, based on Windows Server 2003. The main updates here included the introduction of Windows Server Update Services and expansion of the 18GB Exchange database limit to 75GB.
  • 21 Aug 2008. Windows Small Business Server 2008 is released, based on Windows Server 2008. Allowed 75 client licenses, and introduced a new Console for administration and management.
  • 13 Dec 2010. Windows Small Business Server 2011 is released, based on Windows Server 2008 R2. The product was split into a Standard and Essentials version, where the standard version carried forward the 75 client license limit as seen in past releases. The new Essentials version was introduced from the Windows Home Server codebase and included 25 client licenses built in.
  • late 2012/early 2013 (estimate). Windows Server 2012 Essentials will be released, based on Windows Server 2012. Includes 25 client licenses.

With the introduction of Windows Server 2012 Essentials, the Small Business Server brand name will be lost. Here are some screenshots of the administration console as it developed in SBS2000, SBS2003, SBS2008, SBS2011 Standard and Essentials.

For more information on Small Business Server features, go to SBS2011 is available right now. This is your last chance to get a fully integrated server for small business which integrates on premise Email, collaboration, update services, remote web access gateway, and much more.