Terminal Server or Citrix

Someone asked recently whether it would be best to go with Citrix or Microsoft’s std Terminal Server product. IMO, especially for the small business marketplace, with Windows 2003 TS, Microsoft has given us a product that we can use instead of Citrix.

Vlad concurs, and wrote the following:

Microsoft didn’t want to develop multi-user functionality for NT 3.51 so they licensed kernel source to Citrix. With release of 2000, Microsoft licensed back the rdp code which now runs both Citrix and Terminal Services (actually Citrix uses a slightly enhanced protocol called ica).

The advantages of Citrix in mid-sized business are slim, in smallbiz there are none. Multi-server farms, web publishing, etc are not targeted at smallbusiness budget. If all your clients are on Windows and you can get by with a single server/cluster you don’t need to look at more than Terminal Services.

And Gavin has indicated that there are some new generic drivers available (’cause as well know, the biggest gotcha with TS is printer compatibility!):

As an FYI – W2K3 SP2 adds a new GENERIC laser and GENERIC DeskJet print drivers which will be used by default for any incompatible printer the TS box encounters! This is supposed to solve a lot of compatibility problems. It can be turned ON in Group Policy once SP2 is applied.

Finally, remember that W2K3 TS CALs are NOT covered by SBS CALs!

2 thoughts on “Terminal Server or Citrix

  1. This is a consulting call. It all simply depends on the clients requirements. If there is no need for true load balancing, publishing of applications instead of the entire desktop, support for anything other then Win32 clients – like linux, mac, etc, faster end user experience (sorry but the ICA protocol is much more streamlined then RDP (12 – 25KB per session), universal color printer driver at 600×600 dpi, scanning support, among many other advantages, then Citrix may not be for you. I have been consulting in this area since the WinView/OS2 days and have found it a rare occasion where Citrix was not cost or feature justified.

    Today, there is a packaged product called Access Essentials targeted for those small businesses that includes all the enterprise features (less Load Balancing – single server only) and it even includes your 2003 TSCALs for a very reasonable price. Further, it includes SSL/VPN technology that enables secure remote access from anywhere to all your line-of-business applications. Licensing runs around $250 per seat with a max at 75 users.

    Yes, RDP has come a long way and they continue to add features to it. But Citrix will always be a couple paces ahead of the game. Note that Citrix and Microsoft are extremely strong partners with Citrix winning MS’s Global ISV award just last year.

    Just thought I would share an alternate point of view.

  2. In regards to the following statement, I disagree.

    “The advantages of Citrix in mid-sized business are slim, in smallbiz there are none.”

    2003 Server still lacks many features that can make server based computing viable in the medium sized business:

    1. No RDP over HTTPS (not yet at least)
    2. No RDP Load Balancing (NLBS is NOT RDP Load Balancing)
    3. No web client for non-Win32 clients.
    4. No Web Interface for non-IE Browsers, i.e. activeX only.
    5. Screen resolution limited to 1600×1200
    6. No 32 bit color depth
    7. No bandwidth control (this is huge for companies connecting remote users over DSL or leased lines)
    8. No EMF based printing solution. The TS Fallback driver works no better than driver mapping. It’s better than nothing, but doesn’t support printers that aren’t compatible with the specified fallback driver, i.e. HP DeskJet & OfficeJet printers using LIDIL.
    9. No unified management console.
    10. No content redirection
    11. No application publishing (you get the full desktop, or one application, or RDP Files that all spawn a new session)
    12. No bidirectional audio
    13. No support for TWAIN Redirection
    14. RDP has horrible local drive redirection browsing speed, compared to ICA. (this is being addressed by MSFT, but no date for the fix as of yet)

    Longhorn Server addresses a few of these, but many small or medum sized business need a few of these features. Not many companies use all of the listed features, but most need at least one, if not 3-5 of these features.

    There are plenty of alternatives to Citrix, i.e. Hoblink, Provision Networks Management Suite, Centrom Panther Server, wbisoft XPTS, Jetro CockpIT, 2X ApplicationServer & LoadBalancer… and many that address individual items.


    P.S. I’d never recommend Citrix Presentation Server w/o knowing the actual requirements of the client, as the base Terminal Server product may fit the bill just fine. There are however more times than not where a 3rd party add-on is “required”. Unfortunately many consultants install terminal server for small & medium business w/o discussing TS’ native limitations, which leaves a sour taste in the client’s mouth when they’re asked to spend a thousand bucks to add a feature they need.

    Patrick Rouse
    Microsoft MVP – Terminal Server
    President – Session Computing Solutions, LLC

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