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Hello I run a network of about 25 computers all connected to a SBS 2003 server

I want to start using thin clients as building a computer for all the new employees we are getting is time consuming, plus all the other benefits of it.

I quickly looked it over and it seems my 2003 server can do it, but I should, and would prefer to have a separate server dedicated to it.

So what I would like to know, is what server do I need to buy? Can I get the 2008 version and have it work with my 2003 server? Or should I stick with another 2003 server, and what version do I need to get?

Also can I use my existing CAL's, or can I move them over, buy new ones, etc.?

And does anyone have a recommendation for a thin client to buy, I get all my stuff from newegg, so if you have a specific one that you suggest from them, that would be great.

Thanks for any help !!

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closed as not constructive by Michael Hampton, Magellan, voretaq7 Mar 25 '13 at 20:58

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Product and service recommendations are explicitly off topic on Server Fault (see our FAQ). Similarly we can't help you with licensing questions as they are a legal minefield - you need to work that out with your vendor (Microsoft) to make sure you are within the scope of your licensing agreement. Sorry we can't be more helpful, but these sorts of questions don't do well on Q&A sites like Server Fault – voretaq7 Mar 25 '13 at 20:58
up vote 5 down vote accepted

If "thin clients" is using RDP to connect to virtual desktops within a Remote Desktop Server, then no, your SBS could not do it - there is a licensing and and a technical limitation which would prevent you from configuring it in this way. KB828056 says:

To deploy Terminal Server on your Windows Small Business Server 2003-based network, you must install an additional Windows Server 2003-based computer.

Other than that, yes, you could install an additional Windows Server instance and configure it to run as a Remote Desktop / Terminal Server Session Host. Note that Terminal / Remote Desktop Services need additional licensing (i.e. they have own CALs). Sizing can be tricky but there is a capacity planning guide available from the Microsoft web site which provides some rough guidance.

Note that even "thin" clients expose a vast variety of features which might or might not be supported, depending on the manufacturer, product line or software version running, so giving straight product recommendations is virtually impossible. You should go through a list of features you know your users would need and check with the manufacturer or the product data sheet if your use case would work out with a specific model. Typical problematic points with thin clients will mainly involve hardware which has been traditionally connected to a local PC but needs drivers, hardware or protocol support on a thin client like:

  • multiple monitors (or monitors with exotic resolutions)
  • local printers
  • smart card readers
  • web cams
  • storage cards or portable storage devices
  • software dongles
  • touch screens and graphics tablets
  • audio recording and playback hardware
  • Bluetooth devices
  • virtually anything that connects to a local USB, serial or parallel port except for a generic (QWERTY) keyboard and a 2-button mouse

Also, certain functionality might be unavailable or seriously under-performing:

  • video playback
  • graphically intensive applications
  • Windows Aero UI / designs
  • DirectX / Direct3D applications

So make sure you have tested your use cases thoroughly before proceeding. The most feature-complete (compared to a local installation of a current version of Windows connecting to a Terminal / Remote Desktop Server) and likely also the most expensive (due to the increased hardware requirements) clients are the ones running Windows Embedded Standard / Enterprise. Clients running Windows CE / Embedded Compact or Linux flavors would be significantly more affordable at the cost of a reduced feature set.

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I think this helps me make my decision the best, having to buy all the licenses again is a large cost add-on on top of an already expensive server, and the info on thin clients is very helpful. Might be a thought again in the future when our current licenses needs increased – thegaffney Mar 25 '13 at 19:53
@thegaffney Taking a look at your sample calculation in one of the comments I cannot but add that the purchase price for a thin client workplace is likely to at least meet the one of a full-blown office workplace PC since you have to factor in the price of the RD CAL and the server hardware. If you are looking at Windows Embedded TCs, you pretty much would even exceed that price mark as the TCs alone indeed do cost as much as entry-level PCs with a Windows Professional license. – the-wabbit Mar 25 '13 at 19:58
You might have efficiency gains managing a RD/Thin Client environment, although this does not necessarily have to be the case - if you already have an automated and well-managed environment, administration efficiency is not likely to increase all that much. Finally, if energy conservation is a relevant topic, Thin Clients can (but not necessarily will, depending on the setup of your servers and the usage pattern) reduce your infrastructure's consumption of electrical energy – the-wabbit Mar 25 '13 at 20:02

If these are going to be critical tools for your users, then you need to build something resilient.

A single SBS 2003 Server isn't going to be either resilient or powerful enough, so you are looking at something that clusters. You have a lot of choice.

But before you start down this route, with only 25 clients and running SBS you seem like a fairly small shop. Think long and hard about whether you should go down this route. What is really wrong with what you are already doing? Have you got any budget? Because while maybe getting cheaper hardware for user, you will have additional server costs, licensing issues and a learning curve to breach.

Is this of value to your employers, yourself and your users?

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Yeah that's a good way to look at it, the main reason why I was thinking thin clients is because about half the computers we have are old old dell machines, and we are going to replace them with faster ones, and instead of buying a dozen new computers at $200-$300 each plus the XP Pro license cost, I saw that some thin clients are around $150, and the $1800 we can save on the computers, we can buy a new server to host them, and save costs of additional workstations in the future, and also when we need to replace the other half of our workstations in a few years – thegaffney Mar 25 '13 at 16:41
If you are only looking at fixed workstations (no laptops) then you could go this way, but you need a minimum of two servers to have any redundancy. If you only have one server and it fails for any reason, there will be 25 angry users bothering you while you are trying to fix it. – dunxd Mar 25 '13 at 16:47
Yeah that is a good point – thegaffney Mar 25 '13 at 19:54

Your current CALs cover your clients for connecting to your SBS for file, print, AD, Exchange etc. You'll need seperate CALs for the TS (and the TS will need web access so it can phone home and verify them - TS licensing is not just a paper exercise, it is enforced). There are both device and user CALs, but you can't mix and match both. I personally feel user CALs are more flexible (one user can have any & many devices, but you always know how many staff you have). Note: I am not a licensing expert though, I deliberately avoid getting involved w/ licensing where I work and stick to the technical side!

You will definitely need a dedicated TS server - think about the workload of your staff on those 25 desktop computers & the apps they are wanting to run. You'll probably need to do some sums in terms of sizing the hardware - and allow room for potential growth, or just new apps, updates and changing requirements. It probably won't be a terribly cheap server. But it is important and definitely not something you want an SBS doing (it's already doing a lot of tasks!)

Another approach regarding your problem (which sounds like mostly trying to save time) of building PCs would be to partially or fully automating this. Check out Windows answer files, Windows 7 has something called WAIK and server side, check out RIS (maybe a deprecated name nowadays - I think it still exists) or SCCM. Also Altiris (aka HP Rapid Deployment Pack) is extremely powerful - we build 2 very complex Citrix (effectively TS underneath..) environments with it (2 different O/S & 100s of apps. It works very well but I don't know how much it costs and is probably overkill for a simpler environment).

My personal answer though, would be to standardise PC builds rather than go down the TS route at this point in time. Automated builds can be very easy to manage with something like Symantec Ghost or some of the Microsoft tools, as long as you are buying a standard set of hardware models (driver management becomes easier this way - and MS SCCM makes this easier, it can add only the necessary drivers for each HW model - no need to make an image for each one). As PCs age, you can simply replace them with more powerful models. PCs can be replaced in batches too depending on their age (i.e. as they get to 5 years old for example) - makes budget planning simpler too, as you can predict what is going to be replaced.

You've asked a fairly broad question so my answer won't have covered all of it, and in fact I've covered managing PCs as well, but perhaps it has helped anyway; it sounds like you've got some build issues (i.e. no automation)

I suspect others may weigh in to help with some extra TS specifics.

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