When Windows Server 2008 was released they added this great feature in Remote Desktop Services (formerly Terminal Services) that allows you to use Remote Desktop Services to run behind an application or via web access.  The idea is that the end user just launches the application, which is really a connection back to a Remote Desktop Server.

Here is what made us look into this in the first place:

A couple of years ago we were launching CheckPoint (ACS People Suite’s check-in application) to all of our children’s and students’ areas.  The challenge was that we needed to run ACS over our Wifi network because the machines had to be portable.  The challenge we have is that ACS runs as fast as its slowest computer, due to file locking in a flat database and Wifi isn’t that fast to begin with.  We needed to be able to check-in hundreds of people in in 15 minutes.  Around that time, I went to a class taught by Ken Hicks at the ACS Convention where he talked about using Terminal Services to run ACS when you have a slow network.  Right then I SMSed my key volunteers and one replied that he knew how this should be done, which we started working on that weekend.

We upgraded our database server to Server 2008 and published a RemoteApp installer package and installed on all of the check-in workstations and it works like a charm!  I won’t post the install details here, because Jason M. Lee and Cisco Ospina have done a great job of that in their blogs and are both much smarter than I am.  The sweet thing about installing a little MSI package on a user’s computer is that it looks exactly like the application, instead of a little RDC icon and they don’t have to worry about the extra window of a Remote Desktop session (which does get confusing to some end users)!

Recent Server Upgrade:

Recently, we’ve upgraded our ACS server and migrated it to a VM (Virtual Machine) and it runs even better. A new challenge hit me as I was thinking about deployment.  What do you do with the old install on a workstation when you have a new one to push?

  1. The RemoteApp install has to be done per User.  I had a workaround for XP and Vista, but it really needs to be done Per User for it to function properly.
  2. The package is the same name, so it would be hard for the user to know which icon is the old one.

We are currently in the process of pushing the new installer package through Group Policy.  I learned that I can rename the RemoteApp package installer and the Icon (once installed).  For clarification, I indicated the server hostname in the installer and icon name.  This will make it easier to tell which ACS People Suite icon is the one the user needs to use.

To make those changes,

  1. Go into the Server Manager>Roles>RemoteApp Manager.
  2. If you have already added the Application to the manager,
    right-click and select Properties.
  3. The top field is what the Icon will show on the User’s desktop.
  4. The Alias field shows what the name of the .msi file will be.
  5. You can also do this at the time you add the Application with
    the wizard.  There is a Properties button in there to look for.

Publishing Quickbooks

We are growing in such a way that we needed Quickbooks to be more accessible to our staff and volunteers.  Some of the financial team needed to be able to share the application as well as have multiple people work on the Fixed Assets which live on one user’s local machine.  To resolve this, I installed it on a Remote Desktop Server.  Now all Quickbooks users have access to the Fixed Assets.  There are still some quirks to work out because Quickbooks likes more security holes open that typically a Remote Desktop Server doesn’t like.  The downside is that Quickbooks doesn’t support this version using this method.  I think they support the latest version.