Terminal Services in Windows Server 2003 – Client Connections

Introduction to Terminal Services – Client Connections

If you have already used Vista or XP’s Remote Desktop then you will have an appreciation of the style and power of the Terminal Services interface.  Windows Server 2003 has a service called Terminal Services, which provides the XP experience to Windows 95 and even web clients.  Just to be clear on Microsoft’s terminology, the Terminal Services Client is called Remote Desktop Connection (RDC). Furthermore, under the covers, the RDC client connects to its server using RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol).

Topics for Terminal Services Client Connections

Remote Desktop Connection Options

To configure the terminal services session on the local machine, you need to launch the Remote Desktop client.  On an XP machine click Start, All Programs, Accessories, and Communications.Terminal Services Remote Desktop Connection RDP Options

Note 1: If you want to be flashy, click Start then Run, type mstsc.

Note 2: I also recommend you try Remote Desktop Web Connection

For other host operating systems, locate the folder where the administrator installed the RDC client.  If you are that administrator, then you can install the client from Microsoft’s XP CD.  Note you don’t need to install the whole XP operating system, just seek out the ‘Additional Tasks’ menu.  Still stuck for a client?  Go to Microsoft’s site and search for ‘download remote desktop’.

You will enjoy configuring the client by pressing the aptly named Options button, which you find on the Remote Desktop Connection logon interface.  (See blue ring on diagram above.)

If you are going to connect to the Terminal Server regularly, click on the General Tab and type in the username and password.  I love the box which enables Windows to remember my password.  The only slight difficulty is the ‘Browse for server button’, however if you remember to type the name of the computer in the first dialog box, there is no problem finding the Windows 2003 or 2008 Server.

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Terminal Services Remote Desktop Connection RDP True ColorColor Display

Microsoft has corrected the biggest problem in previous editions of terminal services, namely improved Color resolution.  The Colors menu (opposite) shows how easy it is to choose the highest resolution that your client’s monitor supports.  The range now goes from 256 right up to True Color (24 bit).

Microsoft provide a slider to adjust the remote desktop size, however I find it just as easy to use the normal windows controls once I have connected to the server.

Programs Tab

Remote Desktop connection also has a Programs tab.  While I have not found a ‘killer’ use for this button, if you can think of an application that would help users, then Microsoft has provided the interface for you to launch it on the Vista or XP client.

In some ways this Programs tab is a substitute to the Startup menu found on normal XP clients.

Local ResourcesTips for Remote Desktop Connection

On the Remote Desktop Options, the Local Resources tab reveals many of the most useful new features.  In previous generations of Terminal Services it frustrated me that I could not Alt + Tab, well now I can execute this trusty keyboard combination.

Local Devices give users a choice of server or local machine for disk drives, printers and COM ports. However, there will always be an element of confusion as to whether a disk, COM port or printer is on the server or on the client.  Users need no invitation to ‘lose data’.  The danger is that they may think they are saving files locally, whereas the files are actually saved on the server.  To conclude, you may wish to control local devices via Terminal Services Group Policies.

There are enough Terminal Services options to warrant producing a short training document / web page or even a short course.  If you decide to go down this user training route then looking after files would be a central element in your best practice documents.

There is one more decision with local resources, and that concerns sound.  If it were me, then I would want to control the audio setting, ‘Bring to this computer’ setting.  However, if you were setting up a Terminal server kiosk, then the option to ‘Leave sound on the server’ would be preferable. 

See Windows 8 Remote Desktop Connection.

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Customizing the Remote Desktop Experience.

The Experience tab is gives you a sense of power and control.Terminal Services Remote Desktop Connection RDP Experience  Your first decision is to select the most appropriate connection speed.  If you need low bandwidth connections, then you can remove the ticks next to Bitmap caching and Themes.

Try experimenting with ticking, ‘Show contents of window while dragging’ and ‘Menu and window animation’.  If you are going to spend time with the a Terminal Server connection, then its worth spending a few minutes investigating the variety of setting available.

Security Tab

Here is a surprise.  For once Microsoft’s Security tab is not about permissions, but about authenticating the Server to the client.  The idea is twofold.  Firstly, to ensure that the users on the client  are connecting to a know server and not a phishing or fake server.  Secondly, to ensure that the connection, once established is secure.

Technically, security relies on Transport Layer Security (TLS) 1.0; therefore, to provide this level of authentication you must apply SP1 to the Windows 2003 Server.  High security companies rave about the new security, whereas the rest say, ‘One more setting to go wrong, we will leave this tab alone’.  Guy says, ‘The more security you have the more work for you the administrator.

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Summary of Remote Desktop Client

The Remote Desktop Options button opens the door to 6 more tabs where you can control every aspect of the client’s Terminal Services (XP) experience.  If I could single out two settings to check, make sure you get high 24 bit color, and decide when you save files, if its to the local machine or the server.

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