Remote Desktop setup on Server 2012 R2 Standard



  • Dear community!

    I have the following scenario; We are supplying to one of our customers our own software installed on a HP server running Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard. This machine will be in a industrial (clean) production environment without a domain controller, and only have local users.

    Now, several customer employees need to access this server via Remote Desktop, and they can have two roles; operator (read/write) and observer (read only). We as supplier will use the administrator account and also have the role as engineer.

    I created three user groups; engineer, operator and observer. Then, it is the idea that for each person/user an account is created in one or more of the appropriate groups. I guess we need a total of 3 different users from our company and maybe 4 from the Customer. And each person will have from one to three users each. Our personnel will have one user in each user group, whereas the Customer users will have either two (observer and operator) or just one (observer). We also purchased a 5 CAL license.

    Now, what do I need to set up in order for this to work? I assume that without doing anything a total of two concurrent RDP sessions is supported/allowed, and for more users or sessions I will have to perform additional setup. Are the 5 CAL licenses sufficient?

    I have seen somewhere that I need to set up Remote Desktop Services, but then I also read that in order for that to be possible the server had to be on a domain. And that is not the case. And there were so many different services that could be installed; Gateway, Connection Broker, Session Host, etc -- which ones do I need?

    I have very little knowledge on this topic, and would be very grateful for a quick and easy guide to what we need and how to set it up.



  • I found a guide that, from what I can tell should work. I haven't actually tried this myself, so YMMV...

    http://ryanmangansitblog.com/2013/10/30/deploying-a-rdsh-server-in-a-workgroup-rds-2012-r2/

    Give it a whirl and let us know how it goes! Backups before starting this procedure are highly advisable, lol.



  • You will also need Remote Desktop Server Licenses if you are using RDS for anything but Admin on the server.



  • @dafyre Thanks, I will read it and give it a try!



  • @brianlittlejohn So, I can't use the 5 CALs for this?



  • Unless MS changed something a domain should not be needed.

    The two RDS sessions that are included are only allowed to be used to manage the server, not run apps remotely on the server. You will have to purchase an RDS license per person who will access the server.

    You only need a connection broker if you are publishing the server to the internet, and often not even then.



  • @flomer said:

    @brianlittlejohn So, I can't use the 5 CALs for this?

    You need the CALs as well.



  • @Dashrender Hm. I am confused now. We have several servers i n our lab, and both the administrator and at least one other user is able to use RDP, but I (think) only two sessions at any one time.



  • @flomer said:

    @brianlittlejohn So, I can't use the 5 CALs for this?

    Those are good only one of the licenses you need. You will need a user windows server cal and RDS cal for every user who will connect.



  • @flomer said:

    @Dashrender Hm. I am confused now. We have several servers i n our lab, and both the administrator and at least one other user is able to use RDP, but I (think) only two sessions at any one time.

    The two included are for Server Management only. If you run apps on it for users you have to buy RDS Licenses as well.



  • @flomer said:

    @Dashrender Hm. I am confused now. We have several servers i n our lab, and both the administrator and at least one other user is able to use RDP, but I (think) only two sessions at any one time.

    Sure, Microsoft doesn't stop you, you can do whatever you want with those two sessions, but not legally.

    License wise you have to buy RDS for everyone running an app on the server.


  • Service Provider

    @flomer said:

    @brianlittlejohn So, I can't use the 5 CALs for this?

    You can't use them ALONE for this.

    • You can't use the "two" included access licenses for users, those can only be used for administration.
    • You must have a Server CAL for every user that will access the system. (This is the 5 CALs you bought.)
    • You must have an RDS CAL additionally for every user. (For at least 5 more of a different type.)

    So you have useful CALs, you didn't waste that money. You just don't have everything that you need yet.


  • Service Provider

    @flomer said:

    @Dashrender Hm. I am confused now. We have several servers i n our lab, and both the administrator and at least one other user is able to use RDP, but I (think) only two sessions at any one time.

    If that other user is not an admin, technically it is a license violation. If you are both admins and all you are doing is admining the system, the two are okay.



  • @scottalanmiller OK, I am beginning to understand now. But, what can one use the 5 CALs for if you in addition need the 5 RDS licenses? What is their intended use?



  • @flomer You need a CAL for every user (or device) accessing anything from a Windows Server in your organization. Remote Desktop Services is a specialty licensed service ontop of Windows Server.


  • Service Provider

    @flomer said:

    @scottalanmiller OK, I am beginning to understand now. But, what can one use the 5 CALs for if you in addition need the 5 RDS licenses? What is their intended use?

    Server CALs (what you have now) give you the right to use server resources of any type. You need them for using the server, plain and simple. You need them for authenticating, looking at web pages, anything. They do not grant access to the desktop of the server, only to generic server resources.

    RDS CALs are remote access licenses. They are needed if you want users to not just access server resources but to access the server desktop through RDP, VNC or similar protocols.



  • @brianlittlejohn said:

    @flomer You need a CAL for every user (or device) accessing anything from a Windows Server in your organization. Remote Desktop Services is a specialty licensed service ontop of Windows Server.

    Specifically they allow you yo use DNS, file sharing, authentication, etc. As Scott said.


  • Service Provider

    @Dashrender said:

    @brianlittlejohn said:

    @flomer You need a CAL for every user (or device) accessing anything from a Windows Server in your organization. Remote Desktop Services is a specialty licensed service ontop of Windows Server.

    Specifically they allow you yo use DNS, file sharing, authentication, etc. As Scott said.

    Exactly. Plus Active Directory, applications running on top of Windows, etc.



  • @scottalanmiller So, what exactly can one use Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard for right after installing it and just applying the license that comes along with it? I'm trying to understand what is possible without additional licenses, as I'm unsure right now...


  • Service Provider

    @flomer said:

    @scottalanmiller So, what exactly can one use Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard for right after installing it and just applying the license that comes along with it? I'm trying to understand what is possible without additional licenses, as I'm unsure right now...

    You cannot use it for anything that concerns a user connecting to it for a service. AD, DNS, DHCP, File shares, etc.

    You can use it all you want to run a program that does its own thing without letting a user connect in form another device.



  • @flomer Without CALs, very little legally. WIth CALs, anything the server can provide WEB, DHCP, DNS, FILESERVER, AD, etc. except Desktop Services, which are specially licensed.


  • Service Provider

    @flomer said:

    @scottalanmiller So, what exactly can one use Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard for right after installing it and just applying the license that comes along with it? I'm trying to understand what is possible without additional licenses, as I'm unsure right now...

    Nothing except for anonymous Internet services - like it could be a public web server. You need CALs for any normal usage. The Server licence is just the first piece of the puzzle.


  • Service Provider

    @brianlittlejohn said:

    @flomer Without CALs, very little legally. WIth CALs, anything the server can provide WEB, DHCP, DNS, FILESERVER, AD, etc. except Desktop Services, which are specially licensed.

    You CAN use it for a single user as a desktop. But you might as well just buy Windows 10 in that case :)


  • Service Provider

    @flomer said:

    I'm trying to understand what is possible without additional licenses, as I'm unsure right now...

    For all intents and purposes... nothing.


  • Service Provider

    Once you decide to go Windows, you more or less are committed to the licensing that that entails. As a starting point, without only the rarest exceptions, you will always need:

    • One Server license per server
    • One Server CAL per user

    While there are exceptions, there would be super rare and very special cases. Just assume that if you decide to use Windows servers, you have committed to the two things above. Every user in the company (meaning anyone that uses a computer) will need a CAL. Even if you only have one Windows server or a thousand of them, you need one CAL per user.



  • @scottalanmiller Hmm... I get a creeping feeling that there might be a server here and there that might be running without the striclty required number/type of licenses. My present project just got a bit more expensive ;-)


  • Service Provider

    @flomer said:

    @scottalanmiller Hmm... I get a creeping feeling that there might be a server here and there that might be running without the striclty required number/type of licenses. My present project just got a bit more expensive ;-)

    The need for RDS CALS is your expense here. Normal user CALS are not typically that much of a factor.


  • Service Provider

    @flomer said:

    @scottalanmiller Hmm... I get a creeping feeling that there might be a server here and there that might be running without the striclty required number/type of licenses. My present project just got a bit more expensive ;-)

    When you choose Windows, especially for software that is going to require remote desktops rather than running as modern software, you have decided on an extremely expensive solution. That's a ton of money that you need to spend before even getting started. If you choose SQL Server as part of the mix, that cost goes up dramatically again.

    Using Windows for custom software is something that you do either because you have already spent all of that money and don't care any more or you lack the skills to make things that are cheaper and are "buying" your way out of needing those skills. Choosing Windows as a requirement for a product incurs immense cost both in acquiring proper licensing as well as in license management. Not to mention a huge loss of flexibility in general and a loss of optional deployment scenarios.


  • Service Provider

    Since this is your own software, why not build it so that you don't have these costly requirements?


  • Service Provider

    @scottalanmiller said:

    If you choose SQL Server as part of the mix, that cost goes up dramatically again.

    SQL Server Express is perfectly designed for this scenario and is 100% free, so that statement is not true.

    That statement is true for many scenarios with custom software, but not his example.


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