Windows Server 8 beta - A closer look

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The Metro overlay

Here's my hands-on look at build 8250 of Windows Server 8. It's important to note, though, that the company hasn't yet committed to this being the final beta - it's not yet feature-complete, in other words.Once you boot the beta with the GUI, you'll notice that the server OS shares the new Metro UI with its client brother, Windows 8. Most notably, this means the Start button has been replaced with the Metro Start layer, accessible by hovering your mouse in the bottom left corner of the screen and clicking on the resulting bubble. Then the Metro overlay comes into play and gives you the standard options for installed programs, Internet Explorer and the link to lock and sign out, among other things.

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Getting servers into production

The Server Manager app continues to be enhanced as a one-stop shop for managing administrative tasks on Windows Server 8. Out of the box, it's simple to see what tasks need to be done to get a server into production.

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Adding servers

One of the benefits of the new Server Manager interface is the ability to create server groups, or collections of servers that already exist on your network that can be managed through the new user experience. I can also find such machines through DNS or I can import a list of servers to bring into the group manually.

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Managing servers

Creating new server groups allows you to manage tasks among each server with common attributes. For example, you can create a server group containing all machines running Internet Information Services (IIS), or all database servers, and so on, And you can request specific information on any of them as you wish.

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New encryption support

Windows Server 8 includes new support for the encryption of Server Message Block (SMB) data on untrusted networks. This end-to-end encryption of data from SMB shares, as it crosses the wire, guards against eavesdropping attacks when that data travels across a network not known to be friendly.

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Synchronisation

The operating system also will include the ability for Offline Files synchronisation to understand the type of connection being used; if it's able to detect that expensive 3G and 4G cellular connections are active, it will cease the synchronisation process until a cheaper connection is available. (I wasn't able to test this feature.) This setting is available through Group Policy.

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Mixing Windows generations

To my mind, it doesn't add value. In many places, the OS feels like a mixture of Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2 and some Windows 8 Metro preview bits. It doesn't feel cohesive, and on quite a few screens in particular, it's just plain ugly.

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Latest UK Updated 5:47pm

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