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How to configure Remote Desktop Services solutions

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With more higher education organizations utilising remote learning technology than ever before, Remote Desktop Services (RDS) or Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) deployment has quickly become a popular option to allow students access to the resources and knowledge they need. Through Remote Desktop Services (RDS), online learning can be carried out through a single server, utilising a session host to ensure constant delivery.

When implementing an RD web access server, putting time into the setup and configuration is essential for getting the best results from an RD gateway. In this guide, we’ve covered some of the factors to consider during RDS deployment as well as why it’s so important to invest time in configuration in the first place.

Why is it important to configure an RDS solution properly?

RDS solutions have facilitated a way for many universities to offer remote learning opportunities to students throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns. Among many other advantages, students are able to access a remote desktop which provides them with remote access to university software and apps.

Many higher education organizations make the mistake of thinking that a default Remote Desktop Service will provide a perfectly functional Windows server that’s ready to go. However, whilst some servers advertise themselves as ‘out of the box’ services, this doesn’t mean that time shouldn’t be taken to make tweaks and configurations to make the server fit for purpose. As such a broad field, a solution that works for one organization may be entirely different from what is necessary elsewhere.

The reasons for configuring an RDS solution properly include:

Cost effectiveness

Without using a tailored server manager, costs could be much higher and being spend on redundant features or an excess of users. By taking the time to configure and customise an RDP solution to meet the individual needs of an organization, IT departments can save money while still providing the best possible standard of service. Using a domain controller, for example, can save huge amounts on both security breaches and user management when configured into your current setup.

Accessibility

College Student Watching Webinar

If students cannot consistently access an RDS server or a remote app, they’re not going to get the most out of your remote desktop solution. Whether it’s due to IP address problems, device compatibility or capacity problems, lack of access makes a remote connection unusable. Correct configuration can ensure everyone can access the server at all times, presenting more learning opportunities and ensuring students get the accessibility they need.

Consistency

Interruption of a remote desktop session can be a severe problem for RDS servers and the students who are looking to access a remote desktop. Whether it’s due to the system or session host not being adequately optimised or your choice of Windows server is more suited to a smaller number of users. Configuration helps with consistency and ensures continued access to the RDS solution. Ensuring that the session host you have is able to host the applications and the right number of remote sessions will be essential for allowing your students to use what they need, when they need it.

Factors to consider when configuring RDS

When looking to get the most out of an RDS server, there are a few different factors to consider when it comes to configuration and optimisation. These include:

Number of users

Particularly within higher education, the number of users required each year or each term can vary. By configuring the session host to be functional for the total capacity of the organization, consistent access to the server, regardless of any new users added later in the term or for changes in enrolment in future years can be ensured. The configuration should always suit the reality and needs of the student body.

Number of licenses required

Depending on specific usage for software, apps, and the server itself, any RDS server will need to be configured to meet those licensing requirements to ensure that the remote desktop connection runs smoothly. In some cases, educational software and functionalities can be per-user while, in other cases, you may be able to invest in larger-scale licenses. Either way, it’s well worth getting this straight ahead of RDS deployment to ensure that students can easily access the remote desktop session.

Find out more about remote desktop licensing in our guide.

Types of licence required

In addition to general licenses, you will also need to know which type of RDS license is required. In most cases, this is the RDS CAL – or Client Access License – model of RDS license. Depending on the exact choice of model, the CAL may be on a per-device or per-user basis. By taking a look at your student population and number of users, you’ll be able to adapt your server to meet that demand. This is especially true when students have access through multiple devices.

Software required

Depending on your choice of RDS server, and the needs of your students, you’ll need to account for the kinds of remote app and software you need to run. Configuration up-front can help to prevent conflicts with software and ensure your server software can keep up with ongoing demand after RDS deployment.

Security

Security is a vitally important concern in higher education, and even more so when it comes to supplying students with a remote desktop connection. Configuration for firewalls, two-factor security and other safety methods can ensure no unauthorised access to an RDS solution or remote app. In addition, using a domain controller can help to ensure that all users are legitimate and remove idle users, which can be an excellent way to enhance security before launching the solution.

Server size

There’s no one size fits all when it comes to an RDP solution within higher education. Depending on the level of student and teacher usage, the intensity of that usage and the variability of apps and software, you’ll need to configure your server size to meet these needs and demands. The larger and more diverse your student population, the more space you’ll need to ensure consistent, high-quality access to a remote desktop connection.

Device compatibility

Student Watching Remote Webinar

It’s likely that your students will be using a range of different operating systems and devices to access your RD gateway. If support isn’t already built-in, you may need to carry out extra configuration to ensure the highest level of compatibility for all users. You may also need to offer additional devices on a BYOD policy to provide easy access for every student.

Anti-virus protection

Finally, appropriate antivirus protection is a crucial requirement for any server with relatively public access. Having a proper firewall and antivirus system in place is a must to protect students and to protect the server itself. By catching malware before it becomes an issue, you can further prevent any server downtime that will affect your students.

While RDS deployment and getting the right RDS servers in place may take configuration and work to get up and running properly, they are a solid choice for many higher education organizations looking to offer remote learning opportunities.

If you’re looking to modernize or try more flexible solutions for your higher education organization, Software2 offers robust solutions that do not require a large up-front investment. Get in touch with our team today to find out more about what we do, or take a look at our AppsAnywhere solution.