Provide Remote Applications and Desktops with Microsoft RDS

Have you ever wanted to allow users to access their work desktop from their home, or allow your sales team to access their line of business (LOB) applications on the go? So many components make up Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Services (RDS) that it can be overwhelming. In this article, we’re going to step through each component of RDS.

What is Remote Desktop Services?

Formerly known as Terminal Services, Remote Desktop Services is a set of components which allow remote access to data and applications. Applications or even entire desktop environments running on the corporate network can be streamed through the Internet to remote users.

For those who are familiar with Terminal Services, Table 1 shows how component names have changed in the transition to RDS.

Old Name

New Name

Terminal Services

Remote Desktop Services

TS Licensing

RDS Licensing

TS Gateway

RD Gateway Manager

TS Configuration

RD Session Host Configuration

TS Manager

RDS Manager

RemoteApp Manager

Remote Desktop Connection Manager

Let’s break down that list and see what they can do for your organization.

RDS in Detail

Remote Desktop Services (RDS)

RDS is the main component. It allows a user to access applications and data on a remote computer over a network. The remote computer might stream just an application to the user, which could be running a thin-client, or could also stream the entire desktop to the user, thus reducing the hardware requirement on the user’s end.

RDS Licensing

Just like Client Access License (CAL), accessing the server through RDS requires licensing. RDS Licensing helps keep track of client licensing status.

For example, if you want to have Microsoft Office 2007 deployed on the server, and have 10 users running Microsoft Office 2007 off the server, you will need to pay RDS Licensing for 10 users, on top of one license for Microsoft Office 2007. RDS Licensing will keep track of the license for these 10 users.

RD Gateway Manager

RD Gateway Manager enables authorized remote users to connect to resources on an internal corporate or private network from any Internet-connected device. Through the gateway’s policies, you will be able to specify who is allowed to access the network and what resources can the users’ access.

On top of managing policies, RD Gateway Manager is also used to monitor connections to the Remote Desktop Gateway.

RD Virtualization Host

With the introduction of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), some enterprises would prefer to have user desktops virtualized (Personal Virtual Desktop) and stored on a centralized server, allowing users to have access to their programs and files no matter where they are.

With RD Virtualization Host, there are two states:

  1. To remove the users ‘desktop state on log off: Changes to the desktop will not be saved. Users will receive a default profile on logging on.
  2. To retain the users’ desktop state on log off: Allowing the user to logon to receive their customized profile.

RD Session Host Configuration

RD Session Host Configuration is used to configure settings on remote desktop connections, both on a per-connection basis, or for the server as a whole.

The difference between RD Session Host Configuration and RD Gateway Manager’s connection is that the former deals with incoming connections to the server, while the latter deals with the connection that will be routed to other server/desktop on the network through this remote desktop server.

RDS Manager

Formerly known as Terminal Services Manager, RDS Manager allows us to monitor which users are connected, what sessions are still alive/idle and what processes are running in each session. RDS Manager is extremely useful, especially when troubleshooting session issues and planning resources.

Administrators can inform logged on users of scheduled maintenance through this console.

RemoteApp Manager

RemoteApp allows remote users to access programs through remote desktops. As RemoteApp relies on the remote desktop or Web browser, it has an extra option to configure RD Web Access, which relies on Internet Information Services (IIS).

Programs to be allowed access through remote desktop will be added through this console. Programs here could be anything, ranging from simple applications like Notepad, to processing heavy applications like AutoCAD.

Note that for graphics-intensive applications, it is not recommended to share through RemoteApp.

Remote Desktop Connection Manager

Remote desktop connection manager allows you to manage resources used by users through RemoteApp and Desktop Connection, which includes Personal Virtual Desktop. Personal Virtual Desktop allows each user to have their own virtual desktop, which can have their LOB applications, allowing these users to log on from different terminals while being able to connect to their personalized desktops.


As more and more users go mobile, having remote access to their files and programs is crucial. With Remote Desktop Services, a simplified way of managing applications and remote connections is now possible. Administrators gain better manageability for remote desktop services; users gain access to their applications anywhere, anytime.

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