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My situation is as follows: I'm in a company with 12~15 employees. All of them are currently using a separate pc with a Windows XP installation. Managing these systems is very time consuming and inefficient, and keeping these systems up to date is virtually impossible. I have been looking at desktop virtualization options by microsoft, but this seems to focus on portability and mobility. I am looking for a way that would allow me to have one server run all Windows (7) installations, while the users get basically a monitor, mouse and keyboard.

Does such a solution exist?

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5 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

while the users get basicly a monitor, mouse and keyboard.

This is called a "zero client" nowadays, the commonly used VMWare term for this kind of infrastructure is VDI. PCoIP is the protocol of the day, there are plenty of clients for it already.

But you should take into account that virtualizing your desktops by no means would relieve you of all management burdens. They still would need patching, software installations, software maintenance - just as regular physical systems.

So if the management burden is your primary concern, you should take a look at various management solutions for Windows Clients offered by Microsoft or third parties such as LANDesk.

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Yes it is called desktop virtualization and although you are correct about the portability and mobility, this doesn't mean you can not use it in the office. There are many other options from other vendors available as well (Citrix and Vmware).

I do not know about the other 2, but there are thin clients available for VMware VDI. So users would just get an image presented that is running on the server.

On a side note : I believe your problem at the moment is that you are not using the right tools. Normally you can easily keep 12 - 15 pc's up to date with a single server. I believe you should take a look at this MS article. It describes how you could manage this in different network environments.

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I am looking for a way that would allow me to have one server run all Windows (7) installations, while the users get basically a monitor, mouse and keyboard.

Does such a solution exist?

Yes, such a solution exists, but you won't want it. It will be enormously expensive and introduce a single point of failure for a small office. Your scenario is nowhere near the use case scenario for VDI and barely that of Terminal Services. VDI by itself won't solve the whole issue of managing different systems either. In essence, you'd spend a ton of money to have one choke point and only about a quarter of your problem solved.

My situation is as follows: I'm in a company with 12~15 employees. All of them are currently using a separate pc with a Windows XP installation. Managing these systems is very time consuming and inefficient, and keeping these systems up to date is virtually impossible.

There are places that concentrate 200+ users per administrator. If you are having so much trouble, you either aren't using Active Directory correctly or at all. A single SBS instance will handle this situation with enough potential for automation and management of your scant few PCs such that you will hardly know what to do with your spare time.

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+1 for "you don't want it". At my old place I managed about 200 desktops, laptops and servers with only the free tools from Microsoft and a bit of scripty magic. –  Ben Pilbrow Jan 22 '12 at 16:35
    
@BenPilbrow Scripty magicks!! –  Wesley Jan 22 '12 at 20:31
    
This isnt necessarily true. There are other options out there which is deigned for small environments, they're just not marketed well. –  mrTomahawk Jan 24 '12 at 23:02
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Others have covered the VM side of things, but have you considered getting WSUS up and going? Or is this more than keeping the clients updates current?

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What you are talking about is known as Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). VDI can relieve you of some of the issues you are talking about on your question but not with VDI alone. As an example if you want to patch applications 1 time and have all users the the updated the version, the Microsoft solution is called App-v (similar solution from VMware is called thinapp). One of the reasons Microsoft (and VMware) desktop virtualization solutions focus on portability is that once you have virtualized your applications and desktops, the device used to access that application really doesn't matter. In your case id find it very challenging to build a cost effective in house VDI solution that would address your issues. Some ideas to consider:

Move to the cloud. Office 365 or Google docs offer clientless productivity.

homogenize your desktop environment on win7 (if possible) and centrally manages the updates using wsus.(if more management is required take a look at windows intune- cloud based PC management)

Examine terminal server (now called remote desktop services in Microsoft speak) for apps that are shared. Cost is the largest concern.

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