All things R2 Essentials, all in one place. If you’re looking to avoid domain joins, I've written up the exact client connector installation steps. My Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials system is handling daily backups of 12 PCs in my extended family, since January 2014. It's humming along as a VM actually, under ESXi 5.5. If you'd like to peruse everything I've published about Windows Server 2012 Essentials and Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials, see: TinkerTry.com/?s=%22Windows+Server+2012%22+Essentials Many folks will obtain their copy for non-production use in MSDN or TechNet, but if you're curious about the full retail and academic pricing, see links at the end. Enjoy/try/buy/comment. (comments really help improve the information collected here, and you don't even need to login)
If you're looking to avoid domain joins, I have a write-up on the connector installation, to proactively avoid DNS issues, permanently (persists through R2 updates), How to make Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials client connector install behave just like Windows Home Serverfollowed by this fix, only needed if the DNS issue from domain joins already bit you, and you need to clean-up, Windows Server 2012 Essentials remote client loses its Internet connection, here’s your DNS-related fix and optionally, the icing on the cake if you so desire, How to install Microsoft Forefront Client Security Antivirus on Windows Server 2012 Essentials. Note that I haven't revisited antivirus under R2. Please drop a comment below if you've had success with Forefront on R2.
WS2012R2E has built in ability to VPN back to your home's network. Microsoft calls it Anywhere Access. It's pretty awesome, but by default, it doesn't autostart with your remote PCs non-domain joined users. For the remote PCs that I admin & backup (for novices in my extended family), I still rely on their Hamachi VPN service that does autostart, see also: TinkerTry.com/hamachi
My Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials system is handling daily backups of 12 PCs in my extended family for many months already, and running quite well as a VM under ESXi, Microsoft Windows Server 2012 runs fine on VMware ESXi 5.1. I have numerous articles coming up that try to give a more comprehensive view of my time spent with the product, now that I've cut over to the R2 version in January 2014. See also: Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials complaining about one of your drives? How to queue up multiple chkdsk operations for the next reboot. by Paul Braren on Dec 03 2014 Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials says backup failed due to insufficient storage available, the fix may be chkdsk by Paul Braren on Nov 13 2014
Update for data deduplication to improve scalability in Windows Server 2012 R2 (June 10 2014) support.microsoft.com/kb/2959146 _Microsoft seems to have removed the article, here's a PDF copy I made of Google's Jun 10 2014 cache_ MS14-030: Vulnerability in Remote Desktop could allow tampering: June 10, 2014 support.microsoft.com/kb/2969259
At some point in 2014, Microsoft moved the uninstall from Programs and Features to Updates, described here:
Control Panel / Programs / Programs and Features / Installed Updates / Windows Server Essentials Connector
TechNet Evaluation Resources, technet.microsoft.com/en-US/evalcenter/dn205289 read DAndrew and Drashna's intriguing talk about R2 at Home Server Show Forums, Faq: Things About Server 2012 (R2) Essentials That You Should Know Before Setting It Up and have a listen to the podcast Drashna and I were on, together, What would you change in Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials? Home Server Show 249 and another I did at BYOB (Build Your Own Box) with Mike Faucher and John Zajdler here.
Here's many related articles I already published, ready to check out today, Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials.
If you are a student, or are a parent of a student, you are likely entitled to an Academic discount, at significantly reduced prices. The Amazon listing currently has the following warning:
Academic Edition. Meant for training/learning. It is a fully functional version, however you may not get automatic updates or be able to upgrade. Shouldn't be used for business or commercial purposes.