Remote Desktop Services (RDS), sometimes also known as Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), refers to software that can be accessed from an online server so that users can access apps and resources from any location and device with an internet connection. In a higher education setting, RDS allows students to connect to an operating system so they can access the same applications and software provided by their university.

Many universities have turned to virtual solutions such as RDS to facilitate easier remote learning opportunities for students since the coronavirus pandemic began in 2020. This software has a range of benefits and technical requirements that need to be considered before being implemented across a higher education institution.

The key advantages of Remote Desktop Services

One of the key benefits of using a remote desktop gateway in higher education is that it enables students to connect with on-campus machines from remote locations so that they can access any application or resource they need to carry out their studies. Through a Remote Desktop Session Host, you can group desktops and apps for specific groups of students, such as those enrolled on a certain course who need particular software.

There are many advantages to using RDS in a higher education setting, including:

  • It’s quick to implement
  • It’s cost-effective
  • It allows for the continuity of education
  • The ability for multiple users to access the system at the same time
  • It has no device compatibility issues so any student with an internet connection can access it

Find out more about the key advantages—and disadvantages—of RDS in our expert guide.

Requirements to consider before implementing a Remote Desktop Service

Introducing an RDS solution to your higher education organization isn’t as simple as implementing the server and letting it do its thing. There are a number of important factors to keep in mind before and during RDS implementation, including:

  • Hardware requirements – your RDS will need a host server to meet the demand of hundreds of users accessing the service at the same time
  • System requirements – the right technology has to be in place for your RDS solution to be able to handle constant usage and for students to access apps and software remotely
  • Licensing requirements – the type of license you require will depend on the apps and software needed from your remote desktop server, amongst other things (more on this below)
  • Sever requirements – to accommodate an RDS solution in a higher education setting, a server needs to be not only powerful but also consistent and with sufficient capacity for expansion
  • Security requirements – the security of your RDS solution is paramount and protective measures should include high-level encryption, network-level authentication and the removal of unused accounts

We have a full guide that explains these RDS implementation considerations in more detail.

How to configure a Remote Desktop Service solution

Remote desktop solutions are a very broad field of service, so it’s unlikely that an ‘out of the box’ server meets all of the requirements your higher education organization is looking for in remote learning software. Once you’ve decided which RDS solution you’re going to use, you should take some time customising and configuring the service so that it functions as it should but also doesn’t disrupt the continuity of learning and teaching.

It’s important to configure your RDS solution correctly for a number of reasons. These include cost-effectiveness, accessibility, and consistency. Much like the implementation process (see above), there are a number of factors to consider when configuring your RDS server, such as:

  • The number of users
  • The number and types of licenses required
  • The software required
  • Security and anti-virus protection
  • Server size
  • Device compatibility

Our guide to configuring RDS solutions explains these factors in more detail.

Understanding Remote Desktop Services licensing

To access some of the key RDS features such as file sharing, you need a Client Access License (CAL) which gives users permission to access the remote desktop connection. Every user who wants remote access to your RD gateway will need their own license, meaning the more users and devices accessing the RDS, the more licenses needed and the higher the cost.

There are two types of CAL license:

  • Per device CAL – licenses are assigned to each physical device
  • Per user CAL – licenses are assigned to users through the Active Directory

These licenses differ in a number of ways, including how they are tracked, whether they can be revoked, the availability of temporary licenses and whether licenses can be overallocated. Which of these licenses you will need will depend on the number of users and devices your remote desktop solution will serve.

Other important considerations include the general needs of your students and IT staff, the costs attached to licensing and your remote desktop session host. You may find that an RDS solution doesn’t fit with the level of access required by users and that an alternative service such as a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) works better for your university.

For more information about how remote desktop licensing works and how it compares to licensing for other remote working solutions, read our expert guide to RDS licensing.