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Run applications on Windows Server?

Posted on 2011-05-03
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Last Modified: 2012-05-11
I have a client who is telling me that another IT guy is telling him that he can install a server for him that he'd be able to remote into and use applications (ie: Outlook, Quickbooks, Word, etc.) on the server itself. I'm not a big Windows Server guy but as far as I know, servers aren't meant to act as workstations and have users working on them. I told him that I didn't think this was possible.

My only thought was that maybe this other IT guy was talking about a server that could have virtual desktops? I'd love for someone to school me in this so I can properly inform my client if this other guy is full of it or not.

I currently have him set up with a Windows Home Server box that he can use to remote in to any of his office computers. Any info on this would be appreciated.

Brian
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Question by:coptechs
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by:the_b1ackfox
ID: 35556279
I don't know about Quickbooks, but I have installed office on a server before (I didn't need the outlook either), but you can run somethings on a server.  It isn't meant to have a bunch of users remoting into them for usage though (as a matter of fact I remember there being some issues if there are multiple users)
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by:coptechs
ID: 35560141
After doing some research, I see that Windows Server 2008 has a newer version of Remote Desktop Services which seems like it may facilitate remote virtual desktops. It also appears that it is a part of the low cost Foundation edition of Windows Server 2008. I'm just not sure if this would do what he needs out of the box or would he need virtualization software/hardware as well?
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kevinhsieh earned 500 total points
ID: 35586281
What you are talking about has been around as part of Windows since Windows 2000 and was called terminal services, now called remote desktop services. Is was created on Windows by Citrix. Generally, you shouldn't use a machine as both a server and a workstation, because users can potentially mess up the server functionality. That said, a dedicated remote desktop session host (terminal server) can be a very good thing, and for smaller environments it can make sense to have users remote desktop into the server. Heck, at my church the administrator's "workstation" is a Windows 2008 domain controller, file/print server, and is setup so that users can remote desktop to it for use from outside the office.

If you are going to have multiple (more than 2) users using the server remotely, you will need to buy Remote Desktop Client Access Licenses. There can also be licensing and technical issues as well for your other applications. Office 2010 requires a volume license installation when running a full blown remote desktop server, and it requires an Office license for every user that connects.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remote_Desktop_Services
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by:Cliff Galiher
ID: 35593347
As Kevin says, terminal services (now remote desktop services) has been around a long time. However, to be legal, if you run ANY application on your server, you need an RDS CAL for each user, even if you only have one or two users.

While up to two users can remote into a server without CALs, these sessions are reserved for administering servers and using them to run end-user applications is illegal.

-Cliff
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by:ormerodrutter
ID: 35687981
You also need to check with application vendor that if their application is supported in RDS environment. Some standalone applications do not support in such environment. Of course there is the licensing issue to concern about.

TS CALs can be purchased individually, but Volume License (mentioned above for Office 2007/2010) comes in minimim of 5 (then you can add individual license with your agreement).
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by:coptechs
ID: 35689405
I knew about terminal services (just not much about it) but as I suspected there are a bunch of caveats. So as I understand what you are all saying, here are some of the issues involved:
Cost- The client would need to purchase a Windows Server box. What are the min system requirements to run it as a terminal server?
Not all applications may run properly in the TS environment
Potential to screw up the server exists since you are working directly on it
Only 2 remote users permitted by default and technically those are reserved for server administration, not RDS users so we'd have to purchase RDS CAL's

My point is that this is a small biz and we already have the Windows Home Server acting as a TS Gateway so he can RDP into any machine. It seems to me that the minimum cost to implement RDS in a Windows Server environment is going to be $3000 and probably more once you include the CAL's. Additionally we would introduce the potential for technical issues since he is running Quickbooks Enterprise in multi-user mode and MS Office.

Anyone disagree with me when I say I think we should stick with what we've got? Is there any real benefit to going to RDS at this point?
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by:ormerodrutter
ormerodrutter earned 500 total points
ID: 35689545
It is really difficult for any of us here to advice "what best for you" unless we know in full extent your requirement. You mentioned in your question that the user dials to any of computers in office - the concern here is that the computer has to be free when he dials in, you can't have another person sitting there and using the same computer. TS will take that issue away.

In a small business you may get away with what you are doing, so of course you can carry one doing such. There is always the cost element involved when implementing a server solution, and yes you are quite right it can be expensive (hardware + software + licenses).

To answer your "issues" :-

1. Yes a new server is required. Unless you are an experience system builder I would recommend you go for something "ready" in the market. MEMORY is the key in TS environment, but since you are talking about a small business you may getaway with a 32 bit system (4Gb RAM). If there are 10s of people connecting then you should consider a 64 bit system because such can handle more RAM.

2. True, but I believe 90% of apps would run on TS - you need to speak to vendor re this.

3. Not necessary but you wouldn't grant TS user the admin priviliages (unless he/she is already the domain admin). Remote Desktop User has limited privilages on the server as they won't be able to change any system file, thus all he/she can "break" is his/her own working environment (profile).

4. Yes but it is a grey area in such limitation.

Hope this helps.
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by:kevinhsieh
ID: 35691852
RDS CALs aren't too expensive, I believe slightly less than $100 ea. You can get Windows 2008 R2 Foundation on a Dell T110 Server with quad core processor, 8 GB RAM, 2x 146 GB 15K SAS RAID1 for $1700 before tax and shipping. The Foundation license is for up to 15 users as I understand it. You still need RDS CALs, but that's it. It's only $1100 with 250 GB SATA drives.

I advise trying to deploy on Windows 2008 R2 which is a 64 bit OS. Windows 2008 SP2 is issentially the Vista version of Windows Server and should be considered a legacy (though still very serviceable) operating system going forward.

If what you already have works, I say leave things alone unless there is a good reason for upgrading, and there's enough money to do it. As a consultant I figure that this is at least 20+ hour job when all is said and done.
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by:ormerodrutter
ID: 35696220
In UK RDS CALs (we still call them TS CALs) are £27 each, that works out approx $45 :)

Office licenses are more expensive though approx $480 (VL) each
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