Terminal services tricks

Terminal services is a much-improved feature in Windows 2000. Despite its "dumb terminal" sound, TS is actually a great way to use a full-powered PC to run almost any Windows application on a server from a remote location.

Terminal services is a much-improved feature in Windows 2000. Despite its “dumb terminal” sound, TS is actually a great way to use a full-powered PC to run almost any Windows application on a server from a remote location.

The most important fact is that, although you must buy a client access licence (CAL) for every Windows 9x, Me or NT machine that runs TS, you needn’t buy licences for any Windows 2000 clients. Because each seat in a licence pack costs between $US60 and $US120, it’s almost cheaper to buy Windows 2000 upgrades than to pay for CALs.

When you set up TS, select remote administration mode, which allows an authorised person to remotely access a server for free, or choose application server mode, which requires licences. Many companies pick the latter so that executives can run important applications from home or on the road. The app is never installed on the remote PC itself.

Unfortunately, the bone-headed way Microsoft set up application server licensing makes it painful to manage. Fortunately, a fix is out.

Microsoft should have designed TS to use concurrent licensing. If you bought, say, a 20-CAL pack, then any 20 users could use TS at one time.

Instead, each Windows 9x, Windows Me or NT client that connects to a server via TS consumes one licence; the elimination of that licence is permanent. Windows 2000 clients, on the other hand, don’t consume licences because the licence is built in.

Peter Henley, IT director at Clark Nuber, an accounting firm in the US state of Washington, discovered that tracking the disappearance of licences was tedious.

For example, an accountant might use one licence to run an application using Windows 98 at home, but when visiting her grandmother in Montana, she’d consume another licence when logging onto the server using her grandmother’s PC. And she could consume a third dialling in from an airport kiosk. Henley had to probe a little (“Have you travelled lately?”) to discover why a single person could use up three valuable licences.

Microsoft provided a work-around, but it was an administrative nightmare. As licences disappeared, you would call a phone number and explain to a live person why you needed more CAL packs. Apparently, saying “the dog ate my licences” was enough to get you a magic code that would increment your server’s licence count.

But, as Gerry Schmidt in Minnesota puts it, “We retire 33% of our computers each year. We had to do the homework to figure out how many we’d lost, call Microsoft again, explain the situation, and receive 100 more licences from them.” Not very cool.

Now Microsoft has prepared a patch that makes TS administration much easier.

I’ll have more TS details next week. Meanwhile, tipsters Henley and Schmidt will receive free copies of Windows 2000 Secrets.

Brian Livingston’s latest book is Windows Me Secrets (IDG Books). Send tips to brian_livingston@infoworld.com.

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