How to get more out of your old PCs

Don't want to invest in expensive new hardware? Here's a guide on how to carry on using your old PCs but continue to enjoy the latest software.

Are you spending too much time installing and updating your applications? Do you need a simple mechanism that allows users to run network applications from home? Are you struggling to find the money to replace your old workstations? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then Remote Desktop Services (RDS) may be the solution.

In this article I'll show how installing RDS can save money, reduce the time taken to install and maintain applications, and increase the functionality of your system.

An overview of RDS

RDS, previously called Terminal Services, allow you to run server-based applications over your network or across the internet. The fundamentals of the technology are simple. When a user connects to a server, the Remote Desktop Session Host service presents either a full desktop or the individual applications.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

The processing is done on the server: any key presses or mouse movements are sent from the workstation to the server, and any changes to the screen are sent back to the workstation.

Many users can connect simultaneously to an RD Session Host server, and each will have their own session. Providing there's a network connection to a server with an appropriate specification, most people won't notice the difference between running an application on their workstation and running it remotely.

Disk drives on the workstations can also be redirected to the RD Session Host server (see step 1 in the walkthrough), so users can access all their normal resources. All printers available on the workstation should appear on the server (see step 2) without any complicated configuration, thanks to Easy Print, which was introduced in Windows Server 2008.

Software made easy

On most networks, each application is installed on every workstation. For small networks this is often a time-consuming manual task. Distributing applications through Active Directory Group Policies or using a mechanism such as System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) can help, but the process of creating packages for these systems isn't always straightforward. Plus, updates to the software must also be installed or packaged manually.

With an RD Session Host server, applications need be installed, configured and tested only once. Most well-behaved applications run on an RD Session Host server with little or no extra configuration.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Any updates or configuration changes need only be applied once, and when you add new machines, you don't need to install any applications on them, so they're up and running in no time.

Users can either run a full desktop UI, which in effect sits in front of the normal desktop, or use RemoteApp (introduced in Windows Server 2008). This allows applications to run from the server, but they appear as if they're running on the workstation. RemoteApps can be launched from shortcuts or from a web page if the Remote Desktop Web Access role service is added to the server (see step 3).

From a support point of view, there's the added benefit that you can take over a session with Remote Desktop Services Manager (see step 4). Users working on the Session Host server are less likely to save files to their own PCs, reducing the chance of data being taken outside the office and simplifying backups.

Featured Resources

What you need to know about migrating to SAP S/4HANA

Factors to assess how and when to begin migration

Download now

Your enterprise cloud solutions guide

Infrastructure designed to meet your company's IT needs for next-generation cloud applications

Download now

Testing for compliance just became easier

How you can use technology to ensure compliance in your organisation

Download now

Best practices for implementing security awareness training

How to develop a security awareness programme that will actually change behaviour

Download now

Most Popular

data governance

Brexit security talks under threat after UK accused of illegally copying Schengen data

10 Jan 2020
cyber security

If not passwords then what?

8 Jan 2020
web browser

What is HTTP error 503 and how do you fix it?

7 Jan 2020
Policy & legislation

GDPR and Brexit: How will one affect the other?

9 Jan 2020