Networking / Beginners

Terminal Services

One of the best features that has come from Microsoft servers during the past few years is Windows Terminal Services (WTS). Windows Terminal Services is a feature that allows clients to establish a remote session with the server and have the interface of the server appear on the client. The client can then run the software that is on the server and typically remotely administer the server this way.

Terminal Services uses the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) over a TCP/IP network to send screen refreshes from the server to the client. Its primary purpose is to allow fairly old computers to run up-to-date software by allowing the network administrator to install the software on the terminal server and have the clients create a session with the server. Within this session the clients would be able to run whatever software was installed on the server.

Organizations often use this feature for specialized software that needs to be deployed to a selected group of individuals. Instead of the software being installed for that selected group of individuals, those individuals would create a terminal session with the server to run the special software.

Advantages of Terminal Services

There are two major benefits to Terminal Services:

  1. The capability to install software on one server.
  2. The capability to have that software available to all of the terminal clients instantly. If this software needs to be upgraded, the upgrade needs to be done only on the server; the terminal clients will be aware of the new upgrade immediately.

The other benefit of Terminal Services, which is the reason most people are using it, is that the server supports a remote administration mode that licenses two network administrators to connect to the server at any point in time for remote administration. This feature allows network administrators to lock the servers in the server room and remotely connect to the terminal server over any TCP/IP network (including the Internet) to do their administration. This means that when there are server problems at 9 p.m., you can terminal into the server from your home to solve the problem instead of taking the one-hour drive to the office to fix a small configuration problem.

Another significant advantage to Terminal Services is that you can extend the lifetime of an old computer; older computers with limited RAM and processing power can be used to run new applications, because the software is actually run from the terminal server during a terminal session. You are not using memory or processing power on the client system to run the terminaled applications.

Disadvantages of Terminal Services

The big drawback to Terminal Services is the amount of RAM and processing power the server needs to handle all the remote sessions that are running in its memory. This is one of the key reasons why most terminal servers are probably being used for just the remote administration feature, and are not being used to run the Microsoft Office suite at the desktops through remote sessions.

If you intend to require selected clients to run an application from the terminal server, you will need to ensure that you have installed adequate amounts of memory and processing power on the server. It is recommended that you use multiple processors in the server to handle the processing requirements of a multisession environment.

Remote Desktop

Because most companies were using their Windows 2000 terminal servers for the purpose of remote administration, Microsoft decided to build the "terminal services remote administration" feature into Windows XP and Windows 2003; it was named Remote Desktop.

If you enable the Remote Desktop feature in Windows XP, any Remote Desktop client can connect to your system after being authenticated and then remotely manage the system. Because Windows XP is a desktop operating system, the person sitting at the console will be locked out while you do your remote administration.

In Windows 2003 Server you can have two users connected through Remote Desktop for the purpose of remote administration while the person sitting at the console is left logged in. This is great, because you can use Remote Desktop to access the server and not affect anyone doing administration at the console.

To enable the Remote Desktop feature in Windows Server 2003, click Start and right-click My Computer; then choose Properties. Once the properties have displayed, click the Remote tab and you will see the Remote Desktop feature. If you select the option "Allow users to connect remotely to this computer," you will enable the Remote Desktop feature.

Once you have enabled Remote Desktop, you can control who is allowed to use Remote Desktop to access your system by clicking the Select Remote Users button. By default, members of the administrators group are allowed to use Remote Desktop to access the server, but you can select additional user accounts in the dialog box.

Once you have enabled the Remote Desktop feature on the server, you can connect to it. You can download the Remote Desktop connection client software from Microsoft's web site (it is being shipped with Windows XP and Windows Server 2003).

To connect to a remote desktop server or terminal server, choose Start | All Programs | Accessories | Communications | Remote Desktop Connection.

Once you choose to start the Remote Desktop client, you can type the name of the server or its IP address to make the connection. There are a number of options that can be specified before making the connection. Some of the popular ones include specifying that you want to have your local drives and printers available in the Remote Desktop session, along with options to optimize the performance of the session. Most Linux distributions include a Remote Desktop client for connecting to Windows Terminal Services.

In this section you have been introduced to the Terminal Services/Remote Desktop features of the Microsoft Windows operating system. This feature has proven to be quite popular with network administrators to enable remote administration of the servers.

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