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Identifying the Role of Terminal Server in Your Organization

Updated: March 28, 2003

Applies To: Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Server 2003 with SP1, Windows Server 2003 with SP2

The way in which you plan to use Terminal Server has an effect on how you deploy it. The following sections outline the various ways in which you might use Terminal Server in your organization. Use the information in these sections to clarify how you are going to use Terminal Server in your organization.

Hosting Line-of-Business Applications

If your organization or certain groups within your organization use specialized applications to do their work, it might be beneficial to host the applications with Terminal Server. For example, you might decide to use Terminal Server in the following situations:

  • Custom applications. If your line-of-business application is developed in-house or especially for your organization, and it tends to require frequent updating or repair, deploying the application once on a terminal server can simplify administration of the application. This is especially useful if your environment is geographically dispersed or if you are deploying Terminal Server to centrally serve your organization’s branch offices.

  • Large central data pool. Applications that rely on access to a single data source often run better on a terminal server because large amounts of data do not have to travel across the network to users. Instead, the data processing takes place on the server. Only the keystrokes and display information travel across the network, so you can use lower bandwidth connections. This is especially useful if the users of the data pool are located remotely, for example in a branch office with a slow connection to the database server.

  • Task workers. In environments where you want workers to access only the application that they need to perform their jobs, you can centralize the administration of these users by using Terminal Server.

  • IT Admin tools. System administrators can perform tasks that require Enterprise Admin or Domain Admin permissions on a terminal server that has the necessary tools installed on it. They can also run their desktop applications on their local computer without these permissions.

  • Upgrading operating systems. If your organization uses a line-of-business application that is not optimized for your desktop operating system, you can host the application with Terminal Server rather than change operating systems.

Hosting the Desktop

You can use Terminal Server to host users’ entire desktop environments, so that when users log on, they see their usual desktop environments or desktop environments especially designed for their remote use. In this situation, users can open and close the applications they choose in the same way that they access applications from the Windows desktop on the local computer. You can host the desktop in the situations discussed in the following sections.

Remote users

Hosting the desktop with Terminal Server can provide higher levels of consistency and performance for users in remote locations because large amounts of application data are not being transmitted over the connection. For example, you might use Terminal Server in the following situations:

  • Bandwidth-constrained locations. In areas where high bandwidth is not available or cost-effective, deploying applications on a terminal server can improve performance for users who are connecting to the network from a remote location over slow dial-up connections.

  • Mobile users . For users who are traveling and tend to access the corporate network over connections of varying bandwidth, Terminal Server can provide a more consistent experience.

Client heterogeneity

If your organization is in the process of converting all users to the same platform or upgrading desktop hardware, you can use Terminal Server to quickly deliver the most up-to-date version of the operating system and applications to the user while enabling you to spread the desktop platform or hardware conversion over a longer period of time. You can also deliver a highly controlled standard desktop to users by using Terminal Server, as illustrated in more detail in the following list:

  • Mixed-platform environment. If you have users who require applications based on operating systems other than Windows to perform their jobs, but your organization is transitioning to or requires a Windows-based desktop, you can host the desktop with Terminal Server. This requires the use of third-party software in conjunction with Terminal Server.

  • Upgrading hardware. If your organization is planning to upgrade to Windows XP on the desktop, but not all of the desktop hardware is compatible, you can use Terminal Server to host the desktops of users who have older hardware while you are in the process of upgrading the hardware. All users can have the same desktop environment and run the latest versions of the applications designed for Windows XP regardless of their desktop hardware.

  • Highly controlled environments. In situations where you want to deliver a standardized and controlled environment to users, you can host the desktop with Terminal Server to centralize management.

Hardware Considerations

You can reduce hardware costs by hosting applications with Terminal Server and using thin client devices or older hardware on your users’ desktops.

  • Use of thin clients. Windows Powered thin clients (sometimes called Windows-based terminals) offer an alternative to personal computers and traditional "green screen" terminals by enabling easy remote access to productivity and line-of-business applications that are hosted on Windows-based terminal servers.

  • Extending the life of older hardware. Rather than replacing older hardware that is no longer capable of running new Windows-based applications, you can use that older hardware much like a thin client to access the desktop and applications on the server rather than on the local computer.

Using the Remote Desktop Web Connection

The Remote Desktop Web Connection is an ActiveX control that provides virtually the same functionality as the executable version of Remote Desktop Connection, but it delivers this functionality over the Web even if the executable version is not installed on the client computer. When hosted in a Web page, the ActiveX Client Control allows a user to log on to a terminal server through a TCP/IP Internet or intranet connection and view a Windows desktop inside Internet Explorer.

The Remote Desktop Web Connection provides an easy way to offer Terminal Server through a URL. Consider using the Remote Desktop Web Connection in the following situations:

  • Roaming users. Users who are away from their computers can use Remote Desktop Web Connection to gain secure access to their primary workstations from any computer running Windows and Internet Explorer, provided they can reach the target computers.

  • Delivery of extranet applications. You can use Remote Desktop Web Connection to allow business partners or customers access to internal applications over the Internet. Users who gain access in this manner do not need to reconfigure their computers, and they do not gain access to your internal network.

  • Deployment transition. You can deploy the Remote Desktop Web Connection quickly and use it while you are deploying your full Remote Desktop Connection infrastructure.

For more information about the Remote Desktop Web Connection, see the Storage Technologies Collection of the Windows Server 2003 Technical Reference (or see the Storage Technologies Collection on the Web at

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