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Deploying Remote Desktop Services (RDS) is a lot easier than you think. Compared to other desktop and application virtualization solutions, like VMware Horizon or Citrix XenDesktop, configuring Windows Server 2012 R2 for RDS is a breeze. What takes more time is evaluating your needs and capacity. These steps are critical for the success of your implementation. Fortunately, we’ve gone through that in our deployment guide, so you can rely on our recommendations.

Keep in mind that compared to an on-premises deployment, Remote Desktop Services will cost you less in the cloud.  And we won’t stop reminding you of all the advantages you’ll get:

  • More flexibility. You pay only for what you use, when you use it.
  • You can run on minimal requirements until you need to scale up.
  • You don’t have to spend double the amount to get better availability.
  • No upfront investment. All the infrastructure is ready so you can set up your servers in just a few minutes.

At Sherweb, you pay for resources, not the number of virtual machines you set. This means you can create as many servers as you want, from the pool of resources you add to your subscription. Since our scenario is based on desktop sessions, there’s no need for extra expenses due to client OS licenses. You only buy RDS user licenses if you’re going to use the environment for more than 120 days. Sherweb can sell you licenses, so don’t hesitate to contact us. If you have an active Software Assurance contract with Microsoft and you’ve already paid for RDS user licenses, you can use them in the Performance Cloud platform! See how easy it is!

Now let’s have a closer look at the deployment…

The Server Roles

With session-based desktops, there’s is no need to create desktop images that run a client’s OS, because you’re actually accessing a server. The Desktop Experience feature is installed on the server so your end-users can have the same experience they’re used to on a Windows client operating system. Remember also that Remote Desktop and RemoteApps can be used from any type of device running iOS, Android, Mac OS, or Windows operating systems. Only a web browser or the client application is needed to access the services!

The deployment for session-based desktops and RemoteApps relies on the following server roles:

  • RD Session Host: hosts the desktops and applications. This is where you install the Desktop Experience feature.
  • RD Connection Broker: reconnects users to their sessions and balances the load among multiple Session Host servers
  • RD Web Access: manages the access to desktops and applications through a web browser from any device and the Start Menu from Windows computers
  • RD Licensing: manages the Session Host connection licenses. Using RDS is free for 120 days. To use the services for a longer period, you have to purchase more licenses from Sherweb. Licenses are the only extra cost to run RDS on Performance Cloud.
  • RD Gateway: manages client connectivity from Internet.

All these are Windows components that you install from the Windows Server Manager. There is no additional tool to download from Microsoft to set your Remote Desktop Services. It’s all built-in. Just enable it!

Best practices and recommendations

While all roles may run on one single server, it is recommended to run them on separate machines. This is not a constraint. As we already mentioned, with Sherweb you don’t pay per virtual machine.

In our lab, a total of 4 servers were created to host the roles. We used Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter Edition pre-built images for each server. The RD Gateway and RD Web Access roles are co-hosted on one single server (RDS-WGW01). Same for the RD Connection Broker and RD Licensing roles (RDS-AD01). The two other are RD Session Host servers (RDS-RDSH01 and RDS-RDSH02).

  1. Consider the following as a rule of thumb for RD Session Host servers:

RAM = 4GB for the OS + [(64MB per user per session + 256MB if Office Apps are used + 25% overhead) = 400 MB per user]

CPU = 1 core for every 15 users

Here’s the configuration required for for a maximum of 15 users accessing the infrastructure concurrently:

Server Operating System vCPU (cores) RAM (memory) Storage
RDP-WGW01 2 4GB 50GB
RDP-AD01 2 4GB 50GB
RDP-RDSH01 2 10GB 50GB


  1. Our RD Connection Broker and RD Licensing server were also set to host Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS). If you already have a corporate domain configured with AD DS, you can synchronize our environment with your own through a VPN tunnel to your AD DS server (domain controller) in Performance Cloud.
  2. One RD Session Host server should be used for a set of 50-60 users maximum. Add a new server when your reach that limit. With a bigger RDS environment, managing servers individually can become a heavy task for your administrators. Use Group Policy Objects (GPO) as a solution, so you can set policies to multiple servers at the same time and tweak your environment.Moreover, for RD Session Host servers, if you want to publish Remote Desktop sessions and RemoteApps, it is recommended you create a dedicated collection for each. Profile settings differ whether you publish desktop sessions or applications. If you don’t want to separate the collections, you will have to change a registry setting in the RD Connection Broker server.
  1. Because your users won’t have a dedicated virtual desktop, their personal data will have to be accessible, whenever they connect or reconnect to a session. While classic Windows roaming profiles remain a good option, Windows Server 2012 has introduced user profile disks for a better user experience. These are virtual hard drives that are attached to your users’ profile at logon. Each user gets a dedicated hard drive that automatically stores personal application data. Documents and other data can be saved here by the user. The user profile disks can be stored in a shared folder on any of the RDS servers. You may also create a dedicated file server for that if you want.
  2. Concerning applications, you have to make proper tests prior to building your definitive environment. If your application needs to use a special USB key for cryptography, for example, it might not be able to work as RemoteApp. The same holds true for applications requiring heavy resource usage, like HD video.
  3. Network bandwidth usage for RDS is very low, so upgrading your Internet connection is not necessary. If you want to use a VPN tunnel from your office to Sherweb, do not set the same IP range into the Performance Cloud environment, otherwise the two networks will conflict and no traffic will flow between them.

Remote Desktop Services in Performance Cloud help you create a flexible and scalable work environment for your employees and contractors. They can bring in their own devices and securely access desktop sessions and applications in the cloud, where all data are kept. You can reach your business continuity objectives with the RDS technology. Stop expenditures caused by renewing or upgrading your existing desktop computers at the office. Tap into the cloud now to save money! Ready for Remote Desktop Services? Download the detailed step-by-step configuration guide now!
Top 6 reasons to use Remote Desktop and RemoteApps

Written by Guillaume Boisvert Director, Product Innovation @ Sherweb

Guillaume identifies and evaluates new solutions and product features that help Sherweb and its partners grow and compete. He’s also in charge of Office Protect, and led the team responsible for building and commercializing Sherweb’s in-house security service. He has almost two decades of experience developing software-as-a-service (SaaS), both as a technical lead and as a product manager.