Remote Desktop Gets a Makeover in Windows Server 2008 R2

Application virtualization and sharing was given a facelift in Windows Server 2008 R2 to make remote application access and administration even easier to accomplish. Through a feature known as Remote Desktop Web Access (RDWA), users running Windows 7 are able to access remote applications through a folder in the Start menu, and users running other versions of Windows are able to access these applications via a secure webpage. Applications are installed and managed in one place, and access to these can be set granularly for different classes of users. Configuration on the client machine is a snap, or the simple matter of providing a SSL web URL . To the user, the application looks and feels as though it is installed locally, and can be run alongside local apps seamlessly.

The Remote App suite in 2008 R2 is an update of the Terminal Services Remote App suite in older versions of Windows Server. These updates have added more options for control over user access to the hosted applications. When users log in to Remote App via RDWA, they are either presented with a list of Apps specific to each class of user by account privileges, or with a virtual Windows desktop that looks and feels like they are sitting in front of a standard desktop. The virtual desktop can either be unique for each user, (and is completely customizable by each), or can be dynamically assigned from a pool of standard template desktops. Either way, all hosted applications can be administered on one server, while not necessitating that they be universally visible to all users.

Remote App can reduce costs and complexity in a number of different situations. In branch offices, where local IT support may be limited, accessing programs via RDWA reduces the time spent in deploying and maintaining software on client machines. Custom applications, or “Legacy Apps”, long the bane of support organizations due to their cantankerous nature are now installed and administered in a single location. Updates are pushed once and are immediately available for all users across the enterprise. In environments where “hot desk” or cubical “hotelling” are in play, configuring access to a unique virtual desktop provides the look and feel of the home office, regardless of the seat location. In a dynamic business environment, the ability for all users to access enterprise applications wherever they can access the web enables employee productivity. Document control is enhanced as all files reside in one location, rather than a constellation of laptops. Backups truly occur as policy, rather than as suggestion to the user base, reducing the risk of critical data loss.

Behind the scenes, the actual hosting of the Remote App services could occur anywhere. A number of providers are offering customizable solutions in the cloud that can offer significant usability and cost advantages over traditional per-seat software deployment. Software is provided as a managed service to the organization, vastly simplifying the traditional upgrade lifecycle and growth can be managed efficiently by simply increasing service levels with the vendor. By deploying applications in the cloud, the enterprise exists globally, and the IT service organization stands ready to answer business needs no matter where they occur.