Microsoft Windows Terminal Services

Microsoft Windows NT Server, Terminal Server is an extension of the Windows NT product line that provides support for remote access by using thin client software that runs on a new class of Windows-based terminals and on desktop systems running under 16-bit and 32-bit Windows. Terminal Server allows users to run both the Windows desktop operating system and Windows-based applications directly off the server, extending the scalable Windows family and providing users of low-cost terminal devices and legacy hardware with access to the latest Windows NT–based technology and the latest Windows-based applications.

Terminal Server has three parts. The server itself is a new edition of Microsoft Windows NT  with the ability to host multiple, simultaneous client sessions. Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) is the protocol that allows a super-thin client to communicate with Terminal Server over a network. Terminal Server Client is a super-thin client application that connects to Terminal Server from a Windows-based terminal, Microsoft Windows for Workgroups 3.11, Microsoft Windows 95 or Windows 98, or Windows NT.

Terminal Server includes Microsoft® Internet Explorer for Web and file system browsing. Active Desktop is not supported in the current release of Terminal Server.

 Network Usage

Terminal Server can improve and simplify administration while also optimizing performance over the network.

·         Terminal Server centralizes administration of network resources by putting all applications on servers rather than distributing them to individual desktop computers. This is particularly useful with bandwidth-intensive applications like flat-file systems (for example, Microsoft® FoxPro®). Terminal Server clients can efficiently gain access to an application running on Terminal Server and a fast network segment because of the architecture’s efficient use of bandwidth. All application processing takes place on the server, with only video, mouse, and keyboard traffic passing between the client and Terminal Server.

·         Deploying applications centrally on Terminal Server allows users simultaneous access to upgraded applications. Administrators can deploy custom applications that require frequent incremental upgrades on servers running Terminal Server, significantly reducing time and labor to update the applications for all users.

·         Users can store sensitive data in a central data facility (glass house) rather than on their individual personal computers, substantially decreasing the risk of data loss from theft, natural disasters, and other causes.

·         Remote users can gain access to the same data and applications as local users over dial‑up or permanent Internet connections and benefit from how Terminal Server efficiently uses bandwidth.


Terminal Server system diagram

Legacy Client Device Replacement

Terminal Server simplifies the process of replacing legacy hardware and software. If the organization currently uses text-based terminals, it can deploy Terminal Server with a new low-cost, thin client device known as a Windows-based terminal to provide an upgrade path to Windows-based applications.

An organization can also easily install Terminal Server client software on older personal computers used for task-based applications such as terminal emulation or fixed function applications. In this way, end users can obtain access to the 32-bit Windows-based user interface found on Windows 95 and 98 or Windows NT 4.0 and to the latest Windows-based applications before they receive new computers.

·         Companies with high employee turnover or seasonal or temporary workers can decrease training costs with Terminal Server because they can replace legacy text-based applications using unfamiliar and non-intuitive user interfaces with newer applications using the familiar Window-based user interface.

·         Many older business applications and development tools are no longer supported by the companies that released them, cannot be upgraded easily, and are often unfamiliar to today’s technical support staff. Terminal Server provides an efficient way to replace these obsolete programs and tools with off-the-shelf Windows-based applications and tools.

·         Terminal Server provides a smooth migration path because users with legacy software or hardware can gain access to new applications through the Terminal Server interface. For example, as an organization upgrades from Office version 4.3 to Office 97, users can run older versions of Windows while taking advantage of the latest version of the application prior to a system refresh.


Cross-Platform Compatibility

Users of non-Windows–based computing platforms such as Apple® Macintosh®, UNIX, and Microsoft® MS‑DOS® can gain access to Terminal Server by using vendor add-on client/server software such as MetaFrame from Citrix Systems. By doing so, an organization can deploy one set of applications and one user interface across all client devices.

·         Organizations can lower training and administrative costs by training users on applications and interfaces together, regardless of platform. In addition, administrators can use Terminal Server to centrally manage applications and system configurations for users of all platforms.

·         By using Terminal Server, a company with mixed desktop environments can deploy common e‑mail clients, productivity suites, or other applications to every user while users continue to operate under their individual platforms for job-specific tasks. Thus, the company benefits from the wide range of Windows-based applications without having to replace all desktops.


See Planning Client Deployment in the “Project Plan Approved Milestone” section for more information on using vendor client software with Terminal Server.

Using Examples

Many of the principles and processes in this guide will be illustrated with examples from a fictitious car rental company called Rent-a-Car, Inc. Most of the sample documents in the Resources section are based on this fictitious company.

Examples are presented in italics.

Rent-a-Car, Inc. (RACI), was founded in 1985 to service the needs of the vacation renter. Although demonstrating lackluster performance for its shareholders throughout the 1980s, RACI experienced explosive growth during the 1990s by following a growth-through-acquisition policy and by continuing to target the cost-sensitive leisure renter. By the end of 1997, RACI not only had offices nationwide but had opened or acquired reservation and rental stations throughout Europe and South America.

Unfortunately for RACI’s shareholders, several issues loomed on the horizon that threatened to impact the company’s increasing profits. RACI’s chief information officer was particularly concerned about the following issues related to information technology that threatened the mission-critical reservations department:

·         Green screen” replacement. By investing all available capital in new acquisitions, RACI had neglected its information systems for several years. Employees at RACI’s reservations center in Atlanta still used general-purpose, text-based “green screen” terminals to gain access to the corporate mainframe. The cost of maintaining and supporting this system was increasing at an accelerating rate.

·         Non-Windows-based hardware and operating systems. Multiple acquisitions had left RACI with hardware from many different vendors and eras. Several managers at the reservation center were using Apple Macintosh computers. This situation threatened the planned rollout of a personal computer–based Microsoft® Visual Basic® application for human resource scheduling.

·         Vendor and remote access. Large travel agencies, both in North America and abroad, expressed an interest in obtaining low-cost, secure, and direct access to the RACI Rent-a-Car reservations system. Several managers also requested remote access so that they could check on such things as reservation center call volume and call wait time during off-hours.

·         Year 2000 problems. RACI had approximately 1,000 users throughout the company using legacy hardware running Microsoft Windows for Workgroups. Information Systems (IS) determined that the system BIOS on many of these machines were non-Y2K compliant. Because of a shortage of IS personnel and the urgency of several mission-critical issues, RACI was concerned that they would not be able to replace hardware for all of these users by January 2000.


At the direction of the CEO, Rent-a-Car’s chief information officer funded an Infrastructure Renewal Project to determine how these issues could be resolved with minimal impact to RACI’s operations or bottom line. The company approached a consulting organization to assist with this project.