There are a few features that Microsoft includes for free in Windows Server that are often overlooked, unfortunately, and these include Deduplication, Storage Spaces, Hyper-V, DFS, WSUS and IPAM. There’s nothing worse than not taking advantage of features or benefits in a product that you may be paying for, or that otherwise may be included in a bundle, so we’re going to take a closer look at the aforementioned Windows Server features and even compare some competitors’ products, should your needs have suddenly changed.
If you are already familiar with Windows Server, you know that it’s a brand name for a group of server operating systems released by Microsoft – a group that encompasses all Windows operating systems that are branded “Windows Server,” but not any other Microsoft product. As a bit of a background, the first Windows server edition to be released under that brand was Windows Server 2003, however, the first server edition of Windows was Windows NT 3.1 Advanced Server, followed by Windows NT 3.5 Server, Windows NT 4.0 Server and Windows 2000 Server (the latter was the first server edition to include Active Directory, DNS Server, DHCP Server, Group Policy and many other popular features used to this day).
Okay, we have probably confused you enough with all that Windows jargon, no matter how much you may enjoy using Microsoft’s products, so let’s move on to the topic at hand: Putting the overlooked features of Windows Server under the microscope to see what you may be missing.
Data Deduplication – often referred to as Dedupe for short – is a feature of Windows Server (2012 and beyond) that can help reduce the impact of redundant data on storage costs. When enabled, Data Deduplication optimizes free space for you on a volume by examining the data on the volume to find duplicated portions that may exist; duplicated portions of the volume’s dataset are stored once and are (optionally) compressed for additional savings.
Alternatively, the following can be considered the top competitors for Data Deduplication if you’re looking for a different approach (inevitably, what it takes to replace your on-premises server depends on what essential functions you’re using your existing Windows Server(s) for; there may be a plethora of reasons your organization may be looking to replace Windows Servers roles, from going all cloud and eliminating an underutilized server to a preference for Linux), and this is just a sample of what’s available:
- Demand Tools
- Melissa Clean Suite
- Melissa Data Quality Suite
- WinPure Clean and Match
Windows Storage Spaces
Windows Storage Spaces (WSS) is a feature in Microsoft Windows Server that is used to virtualize and provision storage. What does this mean for you? Data storage administrators can use Windows Storage Spaces to create storage pools and provision virtual disks from the usable capacity of those pools. Simply put, because it abstracts storage from the physical storage devices in a Windows Server environment, Storage Spaces provides resiliency and redundancy…in other words, you can recover quickly while maintaining a backup.
Direct competitors and alternatives include:
- VMWare vSAN
- Red Hat Ceph Storage
- StarWind Vitrual SAN
- DataCore SANsymphony SDS
Hyper-V is Microsoft’s hardware visualization product that lets you create and run a software version of a computer, called a “virtual machine.” Each virtual machine acts like a complete computer, running an operating system and programs, and you can run more than one virtual machine on the same hardware at the same time. This may be a good idea for avoiding problems such as a crash affecting other workloads or to give different people, groups or services access to different systems.
Additionally, Hyper-V can help you:
- Establish or expand a private cloud environment
- Use your hardware more effectively
- Improve business continuity
- Establish or expand a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI)
- Make the development and test stages more efficient
Alternatives and competitors include:
- Proxmox VE
- Oracle VM VirtualBox
- VMWare Workstation
- Citrix Hypervisor
Distributed File System (DFS)
Distributed File System (DFS) is a set of client and server services that allow an organization using Microsoft Windows servers to organize many distributed SMB file shares into a distributed file system. Together, the two DFS components – location transparency and redundancy – improve your data availability in the case of failure or heavy load by allowing shares in multiple different locations to be logically grouped under one folder, the “DFS root.”
DFS’ primary competitor is SureSync.
Windows Server Update Services (WSUS)
Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) enables administrators to deploy the latest Microsoft product updates. As a Windows Server role, WSUS can help you efficiently manage and deploy updates when installed – indeed, without WSUS, it would be very hard to manage the updates deployment and, as we all know, one of the most important tasks of system administrators is to keep client and server computers updated with the latest software patches and security protocols.
Through WSUS, you can save your internet bandwidth and also speed up the Windows updating process.
The top Microsoft WSUS alternative patch management tools include:
- SolarWinds Patch Manager
- ManageEngine Patch Connect Plus
- Kaseya VSA
- ODQ Deploy
- Ivanti PatchLink
IP Address Management (IPAM)
IP Address Management (IPAM) is an integrated suite of tools to enable end-to-end planning, deploying, managing and monitoring of your IP address infrastructure, boasting a rich user experience. IPAM automatically discovers IP address infrastructure servers and Domain Name System (DNS) servers on your network and enables you to manage them from a central interface.
The primary IPAM competitors include:
- SolarWinds N-Central
- CloudFabrix Software
DMS iTech Can Make it all Clear
If getting into the nitty gritty of Windows Server seems like a daunting task, or if you have been looking for an alternative for your ever-growing business, reach out to DMS iTech. Our experts boast the knowledge and knowhow to help you navigate these sometimes-confusing seas.