Terminal services get makeover

* Improved terminal services in Windows Server 2003

Terminal services were first introduced with Windows NT 4, using technology developed by Citrix for earlier versions of Windows. Windows 2000 continued with those terminal services, and improved on the design somewhat. The upcoming release of Windows Server 2003 builds on the foundation provided by the Application Server mode in Windows 2000 Terminal Services. It incorporates the new client and protocol capabilities in Windows XP and lets you deliver Windows-based applications - or the Windows desktop itself - to virtually any computing device, including those that cannot run Windows.

New and improved features of Terminal Services split evenly into server and client functions:

* Client Features:

- Improved Client Interface.

- Client Resource Redirection.

- Client Deployment Options.

* Server Features:

- Improved Server Management.

- Security Enhancements.

- Session Directory.

The client is now called the "Remote Desktop Connection" (RDC) and the interface has been redesigned (Windows XP users might see a great deal of familiarity, though). It's fully compatible with earlier terminal servers (both NT4 and Win 2000) but is more customizable and more usable than previous offerings. You can even remove elements (themes, bitmap caching, and others) to compensate for lower connection speeds.

Resources, such as printers and hardware ports, as well as file systems and other accessories, can be directed to either those on the host machine or the client machine. Fine grain control allows the administrator to determine on an item-by-item basis which things are redirected. Alarms can also be triggered by certain redirections (smart card readers, hardware ports, etc.,) which might be targets for intruders.

RDC is built into Windows XP, but can be deployed to other platforms in a number of different ways. You can:

* Use tools such as Microsoft Systems Management Server or Windows 2000 Group Policy to publish/assign the Windows Installer-based RDC.http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/remotedesktop/

* Create a client install share on Windows Server 2003, or a Win 2000 server, and install from there.

* Install directly from the Windows XP or Windows Server 2003 CD, using the 'Perform Additional Tasks' selection from the CD's autoplay menu, which does not require installing the operating system.

* In a pinch, you could download the RDC from

For the administrator, new features of the Terminal Server make management much easier. For example, while you could open two remote virtual sessions with a Windows 2000 terminal server, some activities couldn't be performed because all output was redirected to the first session. With Win 2K3 you can actually remotely connect to the real console of a server.

Security has been greatly enhanced in this new release, primarily through the use of stronger encryption but also through better user and application administration that makes it easier to see who has access to what.

Finally, a new feature called Session Directory allows servers to be clustered into remote access "farms" for load balancing and fault tolerance. Users see only a single server. As an added benefit, though, disconnected users can be re-connected to the actual session they were using rather than having to start over with a different server in the cluster.

Download http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2003/docs/TerminalServerOverview.doc to read all of the Terminal Services improvements. Like much of Windows Server 2003, there are no "break out hits" in this lineup but there is a lot of good, solid improvement to one of the best features of Windows servers.

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Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.