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Terminal Services - worth the hassle?

Discussion in 'Servers and Enterprise Solutions' started by Curio, Mar 29, 2013.

  1. Curio


    Joined: Mar 14, 2004

    Posts: 8,000

    Location: Brit in the USA

    The company I work for moved to a predominantly TS environment around 18 months ago, before I joined. We only have around 15 employees and don't do anything too intensive - Sage BusinessWorks, Sage ACT and MS Office. TS has been nothing but a PITA - it's slow, unreliable and is causing much frustration because of the money we threw at it.

    We recently switched IT support companies and the new lot immediately told us that this was setup badly, that was done wrong, etc, etc. I know enough to realize what they were saying was correct. So, we threw some money at them to get it sorted. They fixed everything up and now it's even worse! It makes no sense. We've had issues that have gone from 1st line, to 2nd and all the way up from there....nothing seems to be fixable, despite their best efforts. The techs I'm dealing with are great, and they're as frustrated as we are.

    Are expecting too much from TS? I'm starting to think we should ditch it and do things the "regular" way instead, but the bosses are livid because of the all wasted time and money trying to get it working in the first place.

    Any of you guys support TS? Opinions REALLY appreciated!
  2. blueboy2001


    Joined: Oct 18, 2002

    Posts: 4,881

    We have about 150 users on TS (600 ish in total). We found things got better with Server 2008 R2 which we moved to from 2003. We're going to start looking at Server 2012 shortly.

    We do have some issues around printers and a few poorly implemented applications do strange things in a TS environment, but by and large I find it OK.

    We started using it because we we're having issues with logon times over some of our slower WAN links due to roaming profiles being downloaded/synced and it's solved that one. Users with older PC's find it much faster on TS than running stuff locally.

    If you're finding things slow then that can only be down to your server or network. We have run 2 trunked gigabit connections to each of our TS boxes because with 30 users on a box that can start to run a lot of traffic to our storage. We could stick 10GbE cards in them and put them directly into the SAN, but we've found we don't need to. Our servers are nothing special - they're just cheap AMD servers from Dell, CPU power is not an issue but the more RAM you can find the better.

    Our solution was cobbled together on a small budget with only one of us working on it in repsonse to the logon times issue, deferring the need to replace desktops and to enable remote access for homeworkers. I'd say it's served us well for a few years, but we'll be looking to roll it out wider with the 2012 upgrade.
  3. Xez

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Jun 24, 2005

    Posts: 2,024

    Location: Lincolnshire

    Terminal servers if setup correctly are great. For a small company however the licensing can be very costly. For one of our clients who use SageAct we have a virtual 2008 and 2008r2 servers running from one physical server with two different raid sets (2 x 300& 2 x 76GB 15k SAS drives both raid one). Total number of users is about 60 between the two with no performance issues.

    The 32 bit 2008 standard server quite happily dealt with 30 users with 4GB of ram and quad core CPU. At 35 users it did start to slow down quite noticeably.

    What kind of hard disks are you running as this is a major part as to the speed of the terminal server I feel.
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2013
  4. Hellsmk2


    Joined: Oct 18, 2002

    Posts: 4,367

    The techies you mention sound like numpties tbh. Nothing difficult about TS.
  5. soisix


    Joined: Mar 3, 2007

    Posts: 21

    Where I work, we run a number of different Terminal Server farms for different child companies / departments.

    One thing with TS is RAM, it eats it up - because every user who opens Outlook for example needs a chunk of RAM assigned to it. Each of our farms handles roughly 60-70 concurrent users at a time without issue. Each farm consists of 2 Virtual TS servers on different hosts.

    TS runs much better under 2008R2. The trick to keep the TS servers lean and mean is to get permissions correct, folder redirection and user profile visualization. Once all that is done you can create multiple TS servers and load balance them quite easily.

    I have found though that rather than trying to fix an existing TS server - it is often easier and faster to just rebuild from scratch - as all TS servers are really is application servers and should NOT hold any data.

  6. Sone


    Joined: Oct 18, 2002

    Posts: 7,645

    Used to admin some TS servers 4-10 years ago. (NT4 TSE to Win2k3)

    TS requires a bit of extra thinking over regular boxes but with a little research not hard to get a nice stable quick environment.
  7. smargh


    Joined: Dec 29, 2010

    Posts: 74

    TS can work very well.
    TS can work very badly, particularly if set up poorly.

    To give any further comments or suggestions, we would need significantly more info on your current setup, and what this company claims to have done to try to help. Bottlenecks can be anywhere. Sometimes it just needs 30 minutes of noseying around hunting with the event viewer, perfmon, procmon/exp, etc. Sometimes just noticing where & when things freeze can lead to obvious things, i.e. DNS.
  8. DJMK4


    Joined: Dec 1, 2004

    Posts: 21,935

    Location: S.Wales, Cardiff

    As above we host some customers on virtual servers, and they use a virtualised TS to connect to for their applications, works well so much easier than if they were working on their desktops, just make sure it's setup correctly!

    You may have a few issues with some printing and other things, printing can be a bit fickle, will be fine for a while then all of a sudden will throw up issues, never quite put my finger on it. Some printers don't support printing from TS (driver related) so watch out
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2013
  9. R.O.S.S.I


    Joined: Nov 16, 2002

    Posts: 10,386

    Location: The Moon

    I set it up at my place of work fairly easily. Have around 20 users who use it daily. Some of them connect via thin clients from our remote sites and some use Windows ThinPC setups to get access, all of which work fine, just make sure roaming profiles are set up correctly and that you have your GPO's sorted!
  10. mraerosmith1981

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Apr 10, 2011

    Posts: 1,670

    Location: Burnham On Sea

    As above really, I work for a health orginisation we have over 2000 users on TS , and originally it was a dog, but after lots of work, its very useable
  11. m4cc45


    Joined: Mar 10, 2003

    Posts: 6,498

    It depends on a lot of things. Predominently is going to be your network and hardware that you are running it on that would be the initial constraints followed by misconfigured software. If I was doing the support I would have arranged, over a weekend, to bin it and start again (obviously if it's feasible and you have all of the software to be reinstalled) whilst also moving from 2003 to 2008 or 2012 (again you don't specify so this is an assumption and again depends on if programs are compatible).

    There is nothing complicated about TS at all and it's very standard practice, when a company takes over the support contract, to bitch about the previous company. They may well be right but if they are not fixing it properly, especially after it sounds like money was thrown at the problem, then I'd be asking for a damn good reason why it's not resolved.

  12. DRZ


    Joined: Jun 2, 2003

    Posts: 6,827

    Location: In the top 1%

    Having been involved in managing a 10,000 user TS environment, there is nothing wrong with TS providing you understand what is going on.

    RAM/CPU (RAM is important...), EFFECTIVE group policy, good setup of software and printers, correct number of session hosts, load balancing/broker etc and you're set up for success.

    You need to have good insight into what is going on inside the session hosts - if you have a crashed program nuking the CPU or chewing up RAM it will cripple things for every user on that host so you need to know about it pronto.
  13. dlknight

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Jan 5, 2007

    Posts: 1,613

    Location: Smallbrook

    I'm a Citrix Consultant in my day job, Terminal Services in Windows Server 2003 is pretty awful really and shouldn't be used for much at all imho. However Remote Desktop Services (as it is now called) is much better in Windows Server 2008, mainly because of the optimisations Microsoft has done with the updated RDP protocol.

    When you say performance is awful - what in particular are the main issues you are seeing.

    As you can imagine I travel around to alot of customers and Citrix / Terminal Services gets a bad name / reputation in a lot of places this is almost 75%-99% of the time to do with environment configuration or the applications themselves.

    Citrix XenApp goes one step further and gives you Citrix's own protocol stack (ICA) which is much much better than RDP but I'd say Microsoft are catching up slowly with the RDP stack in Server 2012 improving again.

    Anyway jot down a quick few bullet points of your main issues and I may be able to provide you some pointers ;)

    Also let me know the specification of your servers and what your user load is like e.g. how many sessions/users per server.
  14. pjansell


    Joined: Sep 12, 2008

    Posts: 400

    Location: warwickshire

    We used RDS 2008 as the delivery mechanism for a dealer management system, 50 users across 6 sites depend on it daily. The software is published as a RemoteApp over a SSL TS Gateway through RD Web Access. Users login to the web portal and launch the application that way.

    Main issues we had were with older RDP clients (mainly XP) having quirky print issues, we also struggled a bit with some certificate/trust issues when trying to get the SSO to work properly.

    With a bit of fiddling (is was by no means easy) we managed to get it working, and so far it's behaved very well. Printing is slow to clients mind, but they make do.

    It's a single server with an intel i7 quad (2.6ghz) processor, 16GB ram, RAID10 (4 x SSD drives).