Terminal Server vs Remote Desktop – What’s the Difference

Terminal Server vs Remote Desktop – What’s the Difference (Pros and Cons). In this article we will learn what the difference between terminal server vs remote Desktop. With terminal server companies integrate a modern principle of electronic data processing. The terminal Services are known as Remote Desktop Services in Windows Server are one of the components of Microsoft Windows that allows a user to access applications and data on a remote computer over a network.

A remote desktop and terminal service both serve almost similar purposes for users. Both allow the user to communicate with the remote session through a Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) client.

But there are primary differences between the two that separate them. It is vital to understand the fundamentals of them both to be able to differentiate them. We have summarized both topics with each tool’s pros and cons to ensure that you understand the topic’s core.

Let’s understand the aspects of two major network ecosystem components and understand what separates the two from each other.

What is Terminal Server

A terminal server is also called a communication service that is a hardware server or device that provides PCs, printers, or other terminals a connection point to a wide or local area network.

These terminals can connect with the terminal server using the RS 423 or RS 232C serial port. Using the network interface card, the other side of the terminal server connects with the local or wide area network.

Using a terminal server means that every terminal doesn’t need a modem or network interface card. The connection resources inside the terminal server are shared dynamically by the attached terminals.

It is a Windows 2008 Server that allows users to log in remotely from multiple clients and workstations. Once the user logs in, it creates a client session on the server that allows them to use the application on the server.

Hundreds of terminals share terminal server, and others are shared by one or two. The terminals can be PCs, others that emulate 3270s, printers, or different devices with the RS 232/423 interface.

Terminals use TCP/IP protocols for a Telnet connection to a host, TN3270 for a Telnet connection to a host with 3270 application, or LAT to a digital equipment corporation host.

A given terminal user can connect with multiple host connections to multiple kinds of host operating systems like IBM, UNIX, and DEC in some terminal servers.

How does a Terminal Server work

The way a terminal server works can vary from one vendor to another. The Windows OS is configured to support different user sessions with the Windows terminal server.

It is different from other multi session ecosystems like Windows file servers because the OS renders a user interface for different sessions.

The end users can communicate with the terminal server using an RDP or Remote Desktop Protocol client like a mobile or desktop application that can connect to the terminal server.

It displays the session’s contents once the connection is established. The RDP client communicates with the terminal server using a connection port.

A session manager component keeps track of the user sessions separately and handles tasks like allowing a user to reconnect with the session after accidentally the RDP client closes. The sessions run as a part of a terminal server service and the session manager is responsible for managing the sessions.

When the user needs to interact with a session using a mouse, keyboard, or touch inputs, all the inputs are made using an RDP client. The client then transmits the input for processing to the terminal server.

The terminal server is responsible for performing the graphical rendering and the RDP client makes the session visible to the user.

Pros of Terminal Server

  • Flexibility – The terminal servers provide worldwide access to the organization’s specific IT infrastructures. There is a choice of terminal divide and OS with which users can access the server environment.
  • High performance – The users benefit from using the terminal server with higher performance than other standard desktop systems. Upgrading the server can imply that users can access the upgraded performance without upgrading their local thin client.
  • Reliable – The thin clients have no moving parts or hard drives. They require little configuration and have no operating systems. They are robust and reliable compared to a standard desktop and have minimal chances of hardware failure.
  • Cost efficiency – The remote concept deployment with licensing saves a company extra costs that can be utilized for other important work. The terminal server usage is highly cost effective and helps you maximize your savings. Thin clients draw 10 watts of power and ensure fair billing models that help cost-cutting.
  • IT security – You can integrate backup solutions and comprehensive security concepts in a terminal server environment because the processed data remains within the internal structures.

Cons of Terminal Server

  • Compatibility – Not all software programs are consistently supported by the terminal servers and can be ineffective for the company. The organization won’t be able to run the desired process using the terminal server, which can hinder the smooth operations and will make the organization look for other alternatives.
  • Uniformity – It’s difficult to integrate the requirement within a central instance if the clients use different software solutions. There can be multiple instances of uniform performance that can hinder the workflow.

Integrating a terminal server is beneficial if companies are operating in different locations.

What is Remote Desktop

Terminal Server vs Remote Desktop

RDC or Remote Desktop is a technology that allows the user on the computer to connect to a remote computer or the terminal server in a different location. Remote desktop protocol (RDP) is a proprietary protocol that helps a user connect to another computer over a secure network communication when they work remotely. However, Independent Computing Architecture (ICA) and virtual network computing (VNC) are a few more protocols used by Remote desktop software. But, RDP is one of the trusted and most commonly used protocols developed by Microsoft. It is compatible with most Windows operating systems, Mac operating systems, Linux, Unix, Android, and iOS. The main purpose of Remote desktop protocol (RDP) in RDS is to allow users to remotely access work desktop computers and diagnose if the users encounter any issue.

For example, you can connect to the Terminal Server from your office or home and access the files by sitting in front of the Terminal Server.

Pros of Remote Desktop

  • It’s free – Remote Desktop is a Windows service built to run on the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). It’s free, and you don’t need to spend additional money to use a third party tool if you need in office remote support or want to access your centralized file storage.

Using Remote Desktop can help you save your investment cost that can be utilized in different business investments that can help to scale your business. But if your demands go beyond using in office remote support or utilizing file storage on the go, then you need to invest in a third-party tool.

  • A remote desktop is easy to set up – Windows Remote Desktop is disabled in the OS by default. You need to ensure that you turn it on before exploring its usability and features. The process is simple; you just need to search for remote desktop options on the control panel or run the search command to find the options.

The Home editions of Windows don’t have Window Remote Desktop as a service. You need to explore different options to use the service on the specific Windows.

  • Provide Secure Connection – Remote Desktop allows users to access their files and documents securely. The connection between the server and client is encrypted which ensures that your data are safe and secure.
  • Work from Anywhere – Remote desktop gives you the freedom to work from everywhere. You need only a computer and a stable internet connection to work on the remote computer.
  • Cost Effective – With RDP, you don’t need to buy licenses for multiple computers. Multiple computers can access the software over the RDP using a single license.

Cons of Remote Desktop

  • You can’t run multiple concurrent sessions – The Remote Desktop features restrict you from running multiple sessions on the workstation. Microsoft’s built in software can’t handle multiple connections with different network settings. But there is a way where you can establish multiple remote desktop connections on Windows 8 and 10. You can use Techinline’s FixMe.IT to run unlimited concurrent support sessions and make the switch between them in the process.
  • Difficult to reboot the remote machine – It’s difficult to reboot the remote machine and reconnect automatically using Remote Desktop within a few clicks. You need to perform additional actions to achieve the vital remote support features. But you can use different third party applications that can help perform the required action within a click.
  • Require Fast and Powerful RDS – You need a powerful RDS to take the functional load of multiple computer systems and monitor all remote desktop connections. You also need a dedicated system administrator with RDP knowledge and be available during business hours.
  • Required Reliable Internet Connection – If you are using a Remote Desktop on a large scale, then you will need a fast, stable, and reliable internet connection to work smoothly. Otherwise, the entire remote desktop service may break down.
  • Not included in Business, Pro, or Ultimate Windows version – If you are running any Windows Home versions, the Remote Desktop version can’t run on your Windows version. You need to opt for a third party application to perform the required tasks and make the remote connections.

Terminal Server vs Remote Desktop: Key Differences

It’s hard to point out the differential points two because of the similar purpose they serve for the users but the main differences are below:

  • The primary difference between a terminal server and a remote desktop is that the terminal servers run on a Windows Server, so the user is provided with a Windows Server desktop.
  • Terminal services facilitate the functionality while RDP is only concerned with the transmission of the GUI and commands.
  • Terminal services use the RDP to establish communication while the remote desktop is used to connect the remote pc.
  • While the remote desktop environments have desktop OS like Windows 8 and 10 running within the virtual machines. The user is provided with a proper desktop operating system and not a session running on a server.
  • In a remote desktop, there is no client server environment. A remote desktop is simply used for the purpose of sharing one computer’s desktop in a network. While the terminal service works in a client server environment i.e, one computer is the server and another is the client.
  • RDP is a protocol while terminal services is a group of remote accesses services.

We hope your understanding is better when it comes to Terminal Server vs Remote Desktop – What’s the Difference .

Terminal Server vs Remote Desktop – What’s the Difference Conclusion

From the above mentioned comparisons, differences, pros, and cons, there is no doubt that both services are very useful to work on a remote computer. If you are looking to share your Windows server with multiple clients and save your Windows license cost then the Terminal server is the best option for you. If you only want to share Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10, or Windows 11 operating systems with clients then you should definitely choose the remote desktop.

Avatar for Hitesh Jethva
Hitesh Jethva

I am a fan of open source technology and have more than 10 years of experience working with Linux and Open Source technologies. I am one of the Linux technical writers for Cloud Infrastructure Services.

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