What is RDP Service in Remote Desktop Services (Explained)

Remote Desktop Services (RDS), also known as Terminal Services, is an essential component in Windows Server 2016/2019/2022. Initially, released as Terminal Services in Windows NT 4.0 edition. However, in 2009, it was renamed Remote Desktop Services (RDS) with Windows Server 2008 R2. The main purpose of RDS is to help users communicate, manage, and access a remote computer or virtual machine over a corporate based network or an Internet connection. The implementation of RDS architecture by Microsoft permits a server to host multiple client sessions simultaneously. Any Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) service can access the Windows software or entire desktop running RDS. Further, it also includes the ability to access data center applications and session based desktops.

Windows Remote Assistance (Windows 10 only), Remote Desktop Connection (RDC), and Fast user switching are the three client components of Windows that use RDS. This technology allows access to connect remote desktop hosts, redirects devices, assists desktop deployments and helps accelerate applications. The current version of RDS faces no security problems, compatibility issues and requires no app installation by the end user on their device to deploy an app or full desktop. It is one of the most cost effective and reliable methods to deploy and manage applications.

There are many benefits to using RDS technology, such as:

  • Once a connection is established, you can easily access all applications, files, and programs from the client’s computer.
  • All connections are encrypted. Thus, the data on your remote desktop is safe and secure.
  • The ability to run the entire desktop from anywhere at any time.
  • It is a cost effective method and requires no VPN connection to secure remote access connections.
  • It is compatible with any corporate based network.

What is Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) Service ?

What is RDP Service in Remote Desktop Services

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.

Let’s say, for example, if you are on leave and working from home. Now, you want to access your work computers and admins providing system maintenance. In such a case, the user or admin needs to employ RDP client software to the Windows PC or server running RDS to use a remote desktop session. Then, the GUI will help connect computers, and you can have access to all applications and files.

Features and Functions of Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP)

To create a secure connection between clients, servers, and VM’s, users prefer RDP connections as they are secure and interoperable protocols. However, using a Remote desktop over the internet can be scanned for exploits. Thus, it is best to setup VPN or RD Gateway to provide a secure way to connect with an RDP server. RDP is compatible with various windows operating systems and devices. Thus, it uses the highest level of encryption techniques to build a secure connection.

Key Features of RDP Service

  • Supports smart card authentication
  • Reduced bandwidth benefits data transfer rate for low speed connections
  • Allows use of multiple displays
  • Allows temporary disconnection without logging off
  • Supports RemoteFX virtualized GPU
  • Faster connection support system
  • Session shadowing support
  • Transport layer security support
  • Helps in redirecting files to remote desktop
  • Supports local printers for remote desktop sessions
  • Supports use of local ports for remote desktop sessions
  • Support clipboard mapping, i.e., the administrator can delete, copy, and paste text or graphics from remote to local computers
  • Improved RemoteApp
  • Supports network print redirection and other features like sound, drive, port
  • Network load balancing
  • User can run remote desktop applications on local computers
  • Supports RC4 encryption. Thus, users have the authority to choose to encrypt data by using a 56 or 128 bit key.
  • Supports 64,000 independent channels for transmitting data

How Does Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) Work?

Have you ever bought a remote control car for your kid? Well! As the child presses the buttons, the car starts moving and following your commands. There is no wire between the remote and car, yet the commands are transmitted to the vehicle. Similar is the case with RDP. Under this technology, mouse movements and keystrokes are transmitted to remote computers over a network connection or the Internet. Remote User’s display screen is visible on the local computers, and you can access all its applications and files. It’s like you are sitting right in front of the other computer.

RDP provides a network channel to transfer data between the remote desktop and local computers. The RDP enabled application collects the data for transmission, which is further directed to an RDP channel by Microsoft Communications Service. In most cases, RDP uses network port 3389 for connecting and data transmission. Be it mouse movement, keystrokes, or any other action TCP/IP helps send all data to the RDP channel. After this, the operating system encrypts the received RDP data and displays it on the screen.

All RDP protocol activities are managed by the Terminal Server Device Redirector Driver. This driver comprises RDP driver and Transport Drive. RDP driver is responsible for managing encryption, interfaces, data transmission, compression, and framing. However, the transport driver performs the packaging of the protocol to send it across a TCP/IP network.

Remote Desktop Services (RDS) Security Concerns

The remote desktop services solution has a high chance of being exploited. Thus, it is crucial if you are running RDP to follow the best practices.

Avoid using Open RDP Connections over the internet: Allowing open RDP connections over the internet is not safe. Also, providing direct access to the RDP server can be risky. The only appropriate way is to set up VPN or run RD Gateway that uses multiple security layers to create a connection with the local network.

Network Level Authentication (NLA): Make sure to enable Network Level Authentication (NLA) in your Windows OS. However, in most operating systems, like Windows 10, Windows Server 2012, and the new version NLA is enabled by default. This feature ensures a connection will only occur if it is authenticated and you have the correct login information.

Try Using Limited Password Attempts: Excessive password attempts can lock out your account. Thus, try to limit the number of incorrect passwords.

Use More Complex and Secure Passwords: Try different passwords for multiple accounts. Similar passwords increase your chances of theft or hacking. Make use of a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols to create a more secure and complex password.

Use RDP for better encryption: There are many protocols that can be used for remote desktop software, but experts prefer RDP over the rest as it provides the highest level of encryption. If we check the previous records, RDP has turned out to pass various hash attacks and computer worms. Thus, it has been the most commonly used protocol.

Currently, most windows OS now have a mechanism to specify users that can access the system via an RDP session.

Pros and Cons of using Remote Desktop Services (RDS)

Remote Desktop Service has turned out to be the best initiative enterprises can hope for as a user can access all his programs and applications of the work computer regardless of your location. At the same time, there are a few disadvantages to the remote desktop services solution. Below we have listed a few Remote desktop protocol pros and cons related to its use.

Pros of Using RDS

  • Uses remote access software to create a secure connection for data on devices. Avoid cloud servers or other servers as they are less secure.
  • No additional requirement for a virtual private network.
  • It is easy to set up.
  • Windows OS has in built a remote desktop that runs on RDP. Thus, it is completely free.
  • Highly flexible and allows users to access applications and full desktop from any location at any time.

Cons of Using RDS

  • For slow internet connections users, remote employees may face latency issues.
  • Chances of hash attacks and computer worms are possible, but past records have shown RDP has turned out to pass such attacks.
  • If there are any flaws in RDS in consistency and performance, then the user may have to face downtime. As a result, unless all the necessary repairs are made, the entire network/system will stay inaccessible.
  • Chances of bottlenecks and reduced performance are high if multiple users are trying to access at the same time.

If you look overall, Remote Desktop Protocols are great for the administration of remote work management. Further, companies using on premises IT infrastructure have a great advantage of RDP in remote desktop services. Also, Remote Desktop Protocols can save your connection from various computer worms and ransomware attacks.

RDP Service - Conclusion

To run a remote desktop session, you require a proprietary protocol that connects two different devices remotely over a network connection. RDP acts as a protocol, whereas Terminal services is a group remote that accesses services and uses RDP to create a connection. Remote Desktop services are responsible for the functionality, whereas RDP focuses only on transmitting GUI and its commands. Having the ability to access your data and applications from anywhere has helped many large companies and small medium sized enterprises to work smoothly. Furthermore, Remote Desktop Services (Terminal services) and Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) have played a key role in this case. For smooth functioning and to facilitate communication, it is essential for all terminal services to have an RDP connection.

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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