Posted on 2013-05-23
Last Modified: 2014-01-27
Hi there, this is a general question about what virtualization.

I  support a small company of about 20 people. Few employees are exclusively remotely and they come to the office maybe once a week to do paper work, they need access to a desktop environment so i have provided with vpn access to their office computers and when they are in the office they use their own computers, so far so good. The problem is that the company will be adding more remote users, the problem i'll be facing if i continue the current approach is that i'll have a many computers in the office taking up space for waiting for remote users to connect to it.

I'm  not that familiar with virtual environment solution and/or its cost benefit. I have used vmware and openbox at a personal level but when i ran it as test for the production environment i found out that it wasn't feasable because it was just too slow.

What kind of solution can i look at to address this issue? the goal is to have remote users connect to a virtual desktop enviroments with all apps, printers, and shared drive while keeping it cost effective.

Question by:kjzd28b
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Expert Comment

ID: 39191310
I think you are mixing up virtualization with remote access.  While you could have many virtual computers running on a server and allow remote users to access a specific one, Terminal Services/Remote Desktop may be a much better solution.  It would allow you to have multiple users connect to a single box running a single copy of Windows Server, each user getting their own session.
LVL 118
ID: 39191356
Have a look at these papers:-

These discuss, traditional Thin Client Server Based Computing, e.g. Terminal Services or Citrix, and VDI (virtual computer) solutions.
LVL 28

Accepted Solution

asavener earned 450 total points
ID: 39191471
For a 20-person shop, I doubt you need a full-blown virtual desktop infrastructure solution.

If you're looking for inexpensive, reliable, and scalable, then just use ESXi free version and run it on decently powerful hardware.  If you continue growing, then buy a vSphere essentials license when you're ready to expand your virtual infrastructure.

Then just create virtual machines running Windows 7 (or your preferred desktop system), and treat them like regular desktops for backup, patching, administration, etc.

All you have to do is buy the license for the desktop OS.

(Remote desktop computing/terminal services used to be a lot more cost effective, because you would get a client access license with every Windows desktop OS license.  It's less attractive, now.)

(On the other hand, buying a Windows 2012 license grants you the right to run TWO virtualized instances of the OS; it's intended to get people to adopt Hyper-V, but it works under VMware, too.)

(Another option is to go with Hyper-V as your virtualization platform, but I'm not really a fan at this point.   I don't like having to install Windows patches on my host system.)
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Expert Comment

ID: 39191640
Just to add to what the others have already said... you are right, having physical desktops sitting there waiting for someone to log in is not very effective. It would work better to either do multiple Windows desktops running in an ESXi environment, have a really beefy server running RDP, or look at virtual desktops - VDI. Another solution would be to equip all of your users with a laptop and have them VPN into the network when they need to connect. This may be the most costly, depending on which other solution you may think is a good idea, but it would also give them something to bring into the office with them when they are there and may need to hook up and, if the need is there, would provide a way to connect while on the road.

The upside to the beefy server with RDP connections is probably licensing costs for multiple copies of Windows, but if you don't give the hardware enough umph as the user count grows so does the stress on the system and you potentially have a single point of failure.  As the one expert points out, running the free ESXi and multiple copies of Windows is not a bad solution. VDI with something like VMware View or View in combination with Unidesk probably provides reasonable use with reasonable costs. You could have them install the client on their home computers or outfit them with a zero client box.
LVL 28

Expert Comment

ID: 39191671
Laptops present a number of problems including WAN performance and security management.  

It's tough to keep laptops patched, antivirus running and updated, etc. when they're rarely in the office.

And VPN connections are horribly slow for file transfers.  (CIFS is latency bound, so any kind of latency just kills performance, unless both client and server are running Windows 7/2008 or above.)
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Author Comment

ID: 39191781
thanks asavener, i tried the giving them access to their files but as you described it extremely slow. I'll  look into the solution  jhyiesla suggested with ESXi. I have 4 remote users and i'm estimating we might have 10 by the end of the year. Is the RDP solution a separate license from Windows server or it's just an add-on component?
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Expert Comment

ID: 39191819
Remote Desktop Services (RDS, formerly terminal services) is a normal feature of Windows Server, but it requires additional client access licensing on top of the CALs for file and print sharing.

Furthermore, administering RDS effectively requires some familiarity with RDS.  There are special procedures for installing software in a shared environment, managing user profiles, etc.

For a small shop, I think virtualized desktops are probably the way to go.
LVL 118
ID: 39192012
what is slow? screen-updates and mouse movements?

Expert Comment

ID: 39192542
For such a small shop, look into using RDS and Wyse clients.  You can setup a small RDS farm with a terminal services session broker.  This solution will allow for huge expansion over time but will remain cheap and cost effective while delivering the best solution for both ease of management and ease of use.

I implemented this for an 800+ user environment for both LAN and remote access clients and it works great.

Author Closing Comment

ID: 39235757
ESXi worked like magic.

Expert Comment

ID: 39813491

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