Every so often we run up against a situation where users in a client’s branch office are hampered by very slow connections to the database application in the main office. Usually they have already done the hard part – connecting the office through a site-to-site VPN. But when the application is loaded on the remote end it tries to bring big chunks of data across a relatively skinny pipe. Result: hourglass from hell.

This is a perfect scenario for bringing in Microsoft Terminal Server. The steps are simple

1. Buy a dedicated server to run terminal services. We usually spec out a low-end server like a Dell PowerEdge 840 with 2 modest drives mirrored running Windows 2003 Server. It’s important to max out the RAM at 4GB. You also need terminal server licenses at about $80 per user or device.
2. Set up the server, add terminal services and terminal server licensing as Windows components
3. Now that is TS running you install any applications that users will need. This is done by kicking the server into “install mode” via command line.
4. Use another command line to put it into share mode and you’re all set

Now users use Remote Desktop Connection to connect to the TS, then they run the same application that was giving them nightmares. The difference in performance is often dramatic. We recently installed this solution at a client with remote locations in Atlanta and Salt Lake. It was a pleasure to walk the remote user through the new procedure. We would get to the critical point of launching the application on the terminal and, without exception, we would hear “Wow!”