Chances are that if a big part of your organization’s environment involves Windows Server 2003, then you’ve probably not spent much time exploring PowerShell. And at this point, you’re probably tired of people talking about how you should get around to learning PowerShell.

So, can you manage Windows Server 2012 R2 without PowerShell? Absolutely. Chances are, most of the skills you have from managing Server 2003 will translate across pretty well to Server 2012 R2. That is, of course, assuming that you only want to use Server 2012 R2 in the same manner that you used Server 2003.

And that’s fine for some people. All they want out of a Server 2012 R2 deployment is some basic networking services, file server functionality, and a domain controller or two to authenticate Active Directory logons. You can even remotely manage Windows Server 2012 R2 in the Server Core configuration without PowerShell as long as you have the Remote Server Administration tools installed.

However, to get the most out of Server 2012 R2, you’ll need to learn PowerShell. If you’ve had a look at many of the consoles in Windows Server 2012 R2, you’ll notice that they are very similar, if not identical, to the consoles in Windows Server 2003. It’s not that the functionality hasn’t evolved, it’s just that to get to some of those new configuration settings, you’ll have to dive into PowerShell.

I suspect that the trick to learning PowerShell is to start with a specific task in mind that you want to accomplish, and then figure out how to perform that task using PowerShell. I’ve talked to a number of server administrators who have tried to pick up PowerShell just by reading a book or watching a video. They lose interest because they are task based learners and introductory PowerShell courses often focus on the basics rather than getting right into performing interesting tasks that server admins use every day.

When I find admins that are pretty new to PowerShell, I ask them to play with the following commands:

Get-NetIPConfiguration

New-NetIPAddress

Test-NetConnection

Restart-Computer

These are solid commands used for everyday tasks that they will be familiar with.

So once you’ve performed your migration to Windows Server 2012 R2, start spending some time figuring out how to do stuff with PowerShell that you already do with the GUI. In the long run, you’ll get far more out of Windows Server 2012 R2 than if you only use the techniques you learned managing Windows Server 2003.