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Remote Desktop license question

Posted on 2010-09-15
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Last Modified: 2012-06-21
I'm trying to spec out a server & am having trouble determining exactly what I need in regards to licenses.

I've got about 30 users in a locked down environment with no internet access.  I need to build a server that can handle up to 10 concurrent remote desktop connections.  Each connection will have access only to Internet Explorer so they can access some specific web-sites; no other desktop icons, approved applications, etc.  The network is on a Windows domain.

I'm currently looking at a Dell R410 with dual quad-core processors, 8 GB, RAID 5 running Windows Server 2008 R2.  I assume that will be way to much machine, but I'd rather have too much than not enough.  

The part I can't figure out is licensing. Here are my questions:

1. What exactly is the minimum licenses I need to have in order to allow any 10 users to connect at one time?

2. Do I need both User CALS and RDS CALS? (& how many of each)

3. I've read that User CALS are based on the honor system.  Is that the same for RDS CALS?  Or am I misunderstanding that?

4. With this setup would each user that logs in still be able to maintain their own favorites, cookies, etc?

5. Could Microsoft make this any more complicated?

Thanks
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Question by:tcrtech
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Lee W, MVP earned 2000 total points
ID: 33687018

> 1. What exactly is the minimum licenses I need to have in order to allow any 10 users to connect at one time?
Terminal Servers and Windows Servers in general are NOT licensed by concurrent connections.  They are licensed per USER or per DEVICE.  If all 30 users have their own computers, then you need 30 CALs even if only 10 will be connecting at any one time.  If you only have 10 computers that the 30 users will use, then you can get 10 DEVICE CALs.  

> 2. Do I need both User CALS and RDS CALS? (& how many of each)
Yes, the same number.

> 3. I've read that User CALS are based on the honor system.  Is that the same for RDS CALS?  Or am I misunderstanding that?
Why does this matter?  Would you actually violate licensing if you could?  10,000 fines are more economical to you than $30 or so for a user CAL?  Terminal Services/Remote Desktop Services is a strictly enforced licensing mechanism with its own license server.

> 4. With this setup would each user that logs in still be able to maintain their own favorites, cookies, etc?
Yes, they each get their own profile, assuming you create separate accounts for each user.

DISCLAIMER: All licensing questions should be double checked with the license granting authority, in this case, Microsoft.  My understanding of the current licensing rules could be in error, be a misunderstanding, or simply not applicable to you because of local, state, or national laws that apply to you and not to me or vice versa.  "They told me on experts-exchange" will not be a valid defense in a software audit.

5. Could Microsoft make this any more complicated?
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Author Comment

by:tcrtech
ID: 33695584
"Why does this matter?  Would you actually violate licensing if you could? "

Not at all, I'm just trying to understand the situation so that I can answer the questions that I know will come up.  If I'm put in the position of defending what I recommend I don't want to be ignorant of the details.  I do understand your assumption though.  In this case it's not my money or my project, I'm just having to determine the requirements to make it happen.

So as I understand it, I need 30 User CALS and 30 RDS CALS.  The User CALS aren't actually enforced, but are required by the licensing.  The RDS CALS are enforced by the RDS Licensing Server.  

Is that correct?
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 33695637
Yes, though the disclaimer still applies.
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Expert Comment

by:fyfeb
ID: 34833632
I think that the issue about how TS licensing work versus what is required by MS licensing is important here.  While leew is correct in that RDS (formerly TS) connections require a RDS CAL to be in compliance with your licensing it does not mean that RDS will not work without the CAL.  First off if you do not have CALs the licensing server will issue a temporary 30 day CAL.  After that you will be out of compliance if you do not purchase and activate your RDS CALs from MS.
However, RDS will continue to work.  This is where the "honor system" portion comes into play.  And in my opinion where the problem from and administrator's point of view can arise.  Because your RDS licensing server will allow new and existing connections to continue you can become out of compliance.  You cannot rely on the RDS server to enforce licensing because it won't do that.  That is to say, if you have 30 RDS CALs and user/device 31 tries to connect, they will succeed even if you don't own the CAL.
So I think answering the question by saying that you are trying to avoid the license fee is a bit short sighted.   The bottom line is that we need to understand our licensing and how it is monitored and audited as well as implemented.
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