How many hours have you spent going from machine to machine installing space-hogging programs such as Microsoft Office and Corel WordPerfect Suite? Unless your company can afford software that will push applications across the network for you, this can be a never-ending task. If you’re looking for a better way to distribute applications to your users and still keep your network operating smoothly, consider Windows 2000 Terminal Server. Whether you’re dealing with a large network of 5,000 users or a small one consisting of only 10 workstations and a couple of printers, Terminal Server can make your job a lot easier.

Deploying applications
First of all, I like the way Terminal Server provides a centralized location for the company’s software. For example, let’s say you have a network environment with client workstations running Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, Act 2000, Microsoft Outlook, and some specialty software. You have a modest 250 nodes on the network all sharing five laser printers, five inkjet printers, and two multifunction output devices. In most cases (depending on the IT budget), the normal routine would be to run around loading all the software manually on each desktop.

Maybe you’ve been looking for an alternative to installing all that software—one that will allow you to keep your costs down at the same time. The boss is not about to approve the money for the Zero Administration Client/Server software you keep asking for. So you decide to take the network in a different direction. To do this, you set up a stand-alone Windows 2000 box on your network to act as an application server. Now granted, depending on the number of users and the size of the network, this particular machine will have to be a bit beefier than the others. For our hypothetical network, let’s make the server a dual 800-MHz Pentium processor machine, with 512 MB of RAM running Windows 2000 Server loaded with Terminal Server. Now you load all the company’s software on this server. Load the client end of Terminal Server on your workstations, and bingo: You have a centralized server to run all your applications.

This form of distributed computing is really a better way of using thin net client workstations. I know it seems like a step backward, but it really isn’t. The dumb terminals of yesterday never had the technology that’s available now. Today we can use thin net clients on our networks without sacrificing the bells and whistles of present-day networks.

Just like old times
How about running a complete thin net client network? With Terminal Server, this is possible. Think of the overhead of your network now and compare it to running all thin net machines operating off of one terminal server machine or a cluster of servers. Terminal Server allows you to open as many sessions as needed. This means all the nodes on the network can pull the operating system (OS) and the company’s software off the server. Outside of the physical hardware of the clients, this is all you need for your users to operate efficiently. No more users installing unwanted software. The reduction in costs of both hardware and software on the client side will be considerable. As a bonus, the Terminal Services Licensing Manager within Terminal Server will keep track of all the sessions and thus will keep your OS licensing in check.

Remote management
Many products allow remote management of network servers, and Terminal Server is no different. Terminal Server allows you to connect to your Windows 2000 server remotely from across the building or across the Internet. While PCAnywhere has been a big hit in this arena for quite some time, I feel Terminal Server is just as good. One reason I like it so much is that it comes with the purchase of Windows 2000 Advanced Server. This means no extra software to buy. Also, you can load the client on any machine. Another benefit of Terminal Server is that I can set it up to allow me to access it from outside the company network through the Internet. Terminal Server uses the Windows 2000 authentication process, and it allows a more secure encryption level going across the Internet. Now I wouldn’t recommend converting all the network platforms to Windows 2000 Server for this reason alone, but I would say it’s definitely worth some thought when deciding on what network OS to go with.

Terminal Server setup
Setting up Terminal Server is really quite simple. The most important thing to remember is to install Terminal Services along with Terminal Server during the install of Windows 2000 Server. From there, it’s a no-brainer. When you install Terminal Services, Terminal Services Configuration and Terminal Services Licensing Manager applets are also installed. The Terminal Services Client Creator makes the necessary install disks to load on your clients. You have two options here, and I will explain both. First, you can choose to create install disks. You have the choice of creating 16-bit, 32-bit, or Alpha install disks. In any event, the process will create three floppy disks.

The second option is to copy the client install folder over to a shared network folder that is accessible for all users on the network. You can find the client folder by using Windows Explorer at \WINNT\system32\clients\tsclient\net. You’ll want to copy the entire \net folder over to the share, as it contains clients for all 16-bit and 32-bit Windows OSs.

Staying legal
With the introduction of MSPs (manufacture service providers—basically ASPs but with a kick!) licensing problems may soon go away. However, for now, we have to keep an eye on licenses both from an ethical and administrative point of view. This is where the Licensing Manager comes into play. License Manager looks at the sessions that are open and makes sure that the company has purchased enough licenses to operate legally. This is a great benefit, and it comes built in to Windows 2000 Server. All you need on the client end is Windows 95, Windows 98, or even Windows 2000 Professional.

Any service that will eliminate the dreaded application rollout process is worth a look. Microsoft has developed a component that really makes the network administrator’s job easier. Give Redmond credit for the Terminal Service product. The amount you save in shoe leather alone will help the product pay for itself.

Matthew Mercurio is a system administrator in Louisville, KY.

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