Deploying Terminal Services Web Access

Need to facilitate a remote Terminal Services session? The easiest method to use -- and set up -- is Terminal Services Web Access, a feature of Windows Server 2008.

There are several ways to facilitate a remote Terminal Services session, but the easiest method is Terminal Services Web Access.

Contrary to its name, this Windows Server 2008 feature does not render the entire Terminal Services session in HTML and display it through a Web browser. Instead, Terminal Services Web Access makes use of the Remote Desktop Client, just as a normal Terminal Services session does.

However, users are able to establish the Terminal Services session through a dedicated website, which simplifies Terminal Services remote access for both users and administrators. This dedicated website also provides access to the RemoteApp feature, which I will discuss in a future article.

The installation process
Installing Terminal Services Web Access is fairly straightforward.

Assuming that Terminal Services has been installed, begin by opening the Server Manager and navigating through the console tree to Roles | Terminal Services.

Next, click on the Add Role Services link in the Role Services section. You should see a list of the available Terminal Services role services.

Select the check box that corresponds to the TS Web Access feature, and click Next.

Since the Terminal Services Web Access feature is intended to establish a Terminal Services session through a Web browser, it should come as no surprise that Internet Information Services (IIS) is required. That being the case, you should now see a message that says additional role services are required.

Click Add Required Role Services. Windows will add IIS to the list of roles that are being installed.

Click Next. You will be taken to a screen that serves as an introduction to IIS. Click Next again, and you will be taken to a screen that allows you to select or deselect various role services. Windows has already selected the role services that you are going to need, so click Next to accept the defaults.

Finally, a summary screen appears that confirms the role services that are about to be installed. If everything appears to be correct, click Installto begin the installation process.

When the process completes, click Close.

Using Terminal Services Web Access
Begin by opening Internet Explorer on a client machine and entering the Terminal Services Web Access site's URL. The default address is "http://<your server's fully qualified domain name>/ts."

The resulting webpage should display two tabs: RemoteApp Programs and Remote Desktop. Select the Remote Desktop tab.

Next, enter the name of your Terminal Server into the webpage's Connect To field. You can also set the remote desktop size on this page.

I recommend that you also click Options. Doing so reveals a webpage that allows you to specify a number of options similar to those available through the Remote Desktop Client. For example, you can specify your connectivity speed, which controls how efficiently the remote desktop session is rendered.

When you have finished setting any necessary options, click Connect. Depending on your Windows version, you may see a message warning that a website wants to launch a remote connection -- click Connect to ignore it.

At this point, you are prompted to enter your credentials. Enter your username in "domain\username" format, followed by your password. Windows should now establish a Remote Desktop session.

You may have noticed that session is not encrypted. This being the case, I highly recommend purchasing an SSL certificate from a commercial certificate authority and applying the certificate to your Web server. After doing so, I recommend making Secure Sockets Layer encryption a requirement rather than an option for users.

Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional for his work with Exchange Server and has previously received Microsoft's MVP award for Windows Server and Internet Information Server (IIS). He has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once responsible for the Department of Information Management at Fort Knox. As a freelance technical writer, Posey has written for Microsoft, TechTarget, CNET, ZDNet, MSD2D, Relevant Technologies and other technology companies. You can visit his personal website at www.brienposey.com.

Dig Deeper on Virtual desktop delivery tools

Enterprise Desktop
Cloud Computing