Terminal Server vs Citrix

Posted on 2008-10-23
Last Modified: 2010-05-18
We have a home office with ten work stations and another twelve employees who work in the field.  I would like to switch to thin clients for everyone, and stream all data and applications to everyone.  The field people will need MS Office (Outlook, excel, word, power point, maybe access) the office people will need the same and also Great Plains.

Can someone tell me whether I should be using just Terminal Server to accomplish this or should I be using Citrix as well.  

Also what can you give me any idea of the size and specifics of a server you would buy to accomplish this?
Question by:checht59

Accepted Solution

lostfocus earned 500 total points
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You mentioned terminal server and about streaming the applications to the thin clients.  

Lets start with a little bit of background.

Terminal Services is an addition license that you can purchase and add to windows server (2000 and higher) it allows multiple to login to a Windows server and have a desktop on the server.   The programs run on the server and the display is redirected to the remote desktop connection client that is running on the thin client (or PC).  Only the changes to the display are sent to the user no applications or data.   All of the compute power in in the server and all display (along with keyboard and mouse) interaction happens on the client.     This requires a full time connection from the client to the server.   It is great in that you can have all of your data and applications in one place and reduce your bandwidth requirements to the users.  

You can turn terminal services on in windows server for administration without paying for the additional licenses.   This will let you play with it to see most of the functionality.   If you decide to use it you will need to enable a license server (it can be the same server) and install the client access license keys to enable it for your user population.

Some applications really don't work well in terminal services mode as they expect to have one user per machine.   All of the current Office Products work just fine.   I have not used Great Plains but it should be fine as well.

Citrix is an additional application that sits on top of windows terminal services and adds more features.   This comes at an additional cost per concurrent user.   You still have to purchase the terminal service license and client access license from Microsoft.   It allows you to use the ICA protocol instead of the RDP protocol.  There are those that say that ICA is a better more efficient protocol.  In the old days that was definately true.  Today the difference is not so much.   Citrix brings a lot of nice management features on top of terminal services.  With only 10 users I am not sure you would get the full value for the added cost, but you will need to decide that for yourself.

You mentioned application streaming.   This is a seperate technology.   It is available from Citrix and other vendors (Microsoft also has a product here).   This allows the application and in some cases the data to be streamed to the user so that they can start using the application quickly even before the full application is loaded on the client.   This is typically not done with thin clients,  but with full pc or laptop clients.   The benifit is that you can change the application version on the server and the clients will pull down the new one when it is next run.   Some of the vendors also allow you to "reclaim" licenses and move them around to different desktops thus creating a concurrent user model even when the software is sold in a device or user license model.   With this technology you can also often work disconnected from the server farm.   Based on the rest of your question I don't think this is what you are looking for.

As to server sizing this will vary based on how active your users are.   Office in general is not too bad,  Outlook is a heaver application from a performance need.  I have not used Great Plains so I am not sure about it.   In general  more memory is better and gets you more performance than extra processors, especially at the scale you are looking at.    We have machines with 4 processors and 12G of memory and run with hundreds of users per processor.   In your case a dual processor machine with 4 or more Gig of memory would be likely be sufficient for you.   Again it will depend on how memory hungry your applicaions are.   To use the large memory you have to step up to the Advanced Server verision of Windows.

One thing that terminal services does not do well is video.    It is a lot better than it was and Citrix has some interesting solutions but video is still a problem.

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by:Malli Boppe
Comment Utility
I would say TS would be fine in your case citrix would a overkill.
Have a dedicated TS server with all the applications installed on should be fine unless you are using vidoe streaming or some other applications which are high CPU and Memory.

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