Good ideas about MS's Terminal Services

A recent column of mine explained several tricks about Terminal Services (TS), a remote-access application that's native to Windows 2000 but that also works with Windows NT and 9x clients. My readers sent me a boatload of useful TS tips. Here are some of the best ones.

A recent column of mine explained several tricks about Terminal Services (TS), a remote-access application that’s native to Windows 2000 but that also works with Windows NT and 9x clients (see Save time, money with remote system connections).

To run applications remotely, you can install TS on Windows 2000 Professional PCs without paying licence fees, but on Windows NT and 9x clients, you pay about $US130 per PC (see Microsoft).

My readers sent me a boatload of useful TS tips. Here are some of the best ones.

Michael Smith and other readers emphasised the value they’ve found in a free Microsoft add-on called Terminal Services Advanced Client (TSAC).

This program, which wasn’t included in Windows 2000 Server, enables you to access your server console from anywhere on the internet, using Internet Explorer 4 or higher running on Windows 9x, Me, NT or 2000.

You also can run a Windows 2000 application inside an IE browser window.

Smith says of TSAC, “Microsoft’s documentation states that it contains the ‘full functionality’ of the standard installed client, but my experience proves that it doesn’t in several areas. However, for 99.5% of clients, it’ll do the trick.” As an ActiveX control, TSAC automatically downloads into IE the first time it’s used, like any browser add-on.

When using TSAC, make sure your security is up to snuff so you don’t have web kiddies all over the world playing around in your server. But if you’re prepared, TSAC may be just what you need. The applet is available at Microsoft.

Jeff Strickland likes to exploit some of the new features Terminal Services gained in the Windows 2000 version that are not present on the NT version.

“The shared clipboard allows you to cut and paste between your local and remote session,” he writes. “I’ve even used it to transfer a Word document to my home to work on it. Just press Ctrl+A [select all], Ctrl+C [select copy] on the terminal Word, and then Ctrl+V [paste] on the local Word.”

Other readers say that instead of using TS, they do similar things with Net Meeting, Microsoft’s free remote-desktop and conferencing application.

“We used to use Terminal Services on NT 4.0 but have found Net Meeting to have a quicker refresh,” Michael Berry says.

“One disadvantage is the inability of Net Meeting to allow more than one connection at a time to any particular server, either by the client or the host.”

That limitation of Net Meeting doesn’t apply to TS, but both programs are used by Harry Brelsford, the author of Windows 2000 Server Secrets and MCSE Consulting Bible.

“If you had six workers calling in at night, you’d need six PCs set up with Net Meeting to take those calls,” Brelsford says.

“But Net Meeting still has a role because it supports one-on-one videoconf-erencing.” For information, see Microsoft.

Several readers cited Citrix Systems, which originally developed much of the Terminal Services code and still markets a superior version called MetaFrame.

“Terminal services run much better using the ICA [Independent Computing Architecture] protocol by Citrix as opposed to the RDP [Remote Desktop Protocol] by Microsoft,” Hassan Karhiy writes.

A system administrator named Alavan says MetaFrame is more reliable than TS. “As soon as we get more than five or so users running [TS] sessions concurrently, they begin getting disconnected at random times,” he writes. “We’ve never experienced this with the Citrix box.”

The downside is that MetaFrame has a significant cost. Street prices run about $US1400 for a five-user licence, $US3400 for 15 users, and so on.

I plan to write more about TS bundling and licensing issues soon. Send me your tips for a follow-up column.

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

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