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What’s the difference between User and Device RDS CAL?

If you haven’t heard of Remote Desktop Services (RDS) CALs, you’re not alone. But if you’re planning to deploy the popular desktop virtualization platform for your business, you need to understand what these license types are and how they affect your deployment. In this article, we will discuss the difference between user and device Remote Desktop Services (RDS) Client Access Licenses (CALs).

1. What is a Remote Desktop Services Client Access License?

What is the difference between User and Device RDS CALThe Remote Desktop Services Client Access License (RDS CAL) is required for every user or device that connects to a Remote Desktop Services server, regardless of the mode that is used for the connection. A user will be a user of RDS if they log in to a RDS-licensed server and if all of the following conditions are met:

  • The user keys or passwords are stored securely in an encrypted and signed file or on CD-ROM.
  • The server is located in the same domain as the user’s domain.
  • There is no forwarding on the connection.
  • The user means any individual or entity working remotely from their own computer or device and includes a traveling guest (different from an isolated workstation) or employee of an organization.
    Under this definition, there are servers that are RDS-licensed, users that are RDS-licensed, and devices that are RDS-licensed.
    Both server and user have to be RDS-licensed. Similarly, both server and user have to meet the other conditions for licensing:

    • The server must start and stop as a RDS service.
    • The user must enter a unique User Identification Number (UID).
    • The user ID must be different from any other UUID.
    • It does not matter if the user’s current or previous identity is the same.

    The user’s traffic is restricted to the computer that is registered with the relevant RDS server. This prevents other servers from accessing the user’s session. RDS servers also have various licensing options for the views (or applications) that run on their servers and which users can access. In an RDS-based world, many users can access just one provider; however, as we shall see, some users require that their server is located at a different domain, and the front end server “lives” on a different server than the view or application installation.
    In this article, we will take a look at the main differences between the RDS Client Access and Media Calendars option.

    2. How does a user CAL differ from a device CAL?

    RDS CAL User and Device differenceA user CAL is used to activate a copy of the software on a device. While a device CAL is used to activate copies of the software on one or more devices. This is not to be confused with a device license, which is a license that is used to activate the software on the device.By learning about the differences in a bit more depth, both RDS platforms can be made even more flexible and future-proof.
    What are RDS client access licenses (CALs)?
    A client access license to a desktop virtualization platform gives your users the ability to access licensed software on their computers via proxy servers. RDS creates software components that connect to a host computer and access it via a proxy server. The service provider overseeing the actual server hosting the software renders the desktop interface on the associated computer, and the user accesses the software application for that desktop environment on any device they choose, thus connecting to the service provider’s servers rather than to your own. As a result of this peer-to-peer process, users do not actually need desktop monitors or other hardware with them.

    Small businesses, non-profit organizations, and education/training institutions typically license desktop virtualization software only. Small business is typically defined as under 500 employees. Non-profit organizations and education/training establishments typically license desktop virtualization software to educate users on how to use the software, make modifications, and offer high quality educational/training environments for users to learn the capabilities of the software and its features. The reason why educational organizations license desktop virtualization software is that it typically provides a cost-effective solution for small businesses to educate users about virtualization technology while accessing licensed software at no cost. Classroom environments are typically unavailable to small businesses, and educational/training environments are the only places in which users may be able to access the software. Because the sales cycle for educational/training environments is long, it typically makes sense to license desktop virtualization software to small businesses rather than software that is beneficial to the larger education or training establishment.

    3. What are the advantages of a user CAL?

    User CALs can provide a number of benefits for your business. One of the biggest advantages of a CAL is the ability to use it for as long as you need it from anywhere that you have access to the internet. This is a great benefit for users that have multiple business locations or that travel frequently.

    What about users who need to access the software remotely? RDS takes your typical desktop application and puts it in the cloud — every click is mediated by the cloud rather than a human employee. In addition, if you connect via wifi, the cloud-based applications aren’t limited to just the previous 10 minutes of data. Additionally, most remote access platforms leverage WebRSS to stream video and photos to users. All of this means that while a user may need to connect to the desktop application to complete a task, they may never reconnect to the screen and get the full experience. Lastly, RDS provides a desktop application separate from your website that is not readily available to the end user. The benefit of a desktop solution vs. a cloud solution is that a desktop solution can coordinate with a dozen different remote offices.

    By excluding the users from viewing your website or viewing their work, users get to focus on their work, while the remote workers can be at their desks, watching a video conference or working on a project online. Unfortunately, Microsoft gives little explanation on the services provided by RDS to users or how long each user account can be utilized before you will be billed for a new RDS account. RDS CALs and cheap desktopsThe primary benefit of RDS that is often overlooked is how it manages its users. Very often, companies put an RDS license on cheap desktops in hopes of deploying it to their clients. Unfortunately, this approach causes a lot of frustration for RDS users. Users attempt to login and attempt to use the software on the cheap widescreen computer that they are using to access the RDS.

    4. Are there any disadvantages to using a user CAL?

    There are a few disadvantages to using a user CAL to access a terminal server. If a user CAL is lost or stolen, then the user loses access to the server. In addition, if a user leaves the company, then the user CAL will also have to be removed from the server.What is Remote Desktop Services (RDS)?

    Remote Desktop Services (RDS) is a popular desktop virtualization platform created by Microsoft. It provides universal remote access options for users, who can install it on their existing Windows, Mac, and Linux PCs or minics. This platform provides RDS on any type of desktop operating system. RDS began as a research tool project by Microsoft, headed up by Scott Prager, and today is a mature product that competes with the likes of VMWare, XenApp, and EFFICIENCY. With both price options ranging from $49 per month to over $300 per month, RDS is a product that is more expensive than more established alternatives, but it is also more flexible in terms of control. RDS was developed with small and medium size businesses in mind.
    How Do RDS Users Access the Server?
    When a user accesses a RDS Client Access Computer, then the server interacts with the user on another supported remote desktop access method. If desired, the supported methods of accessing the server could include:
    SMB connections via SMB3 protocols
    RDP connections via RDP session transport protocols
    Using 2FA (Microsoft Authenticator)
    Using a User Principal Name (UPN)
    Using Local User Accounts

    While there is some flexibility within these methods, the more common method of remote access is via SMB. If all your users have Windows 7 Home Premium, Microsoft has created a SMB control panel through Windows Update. The control panel allows you to control the installation of SMB on your PC. With this control panel, you can install SMB on your PC and configure the client to connect locally to your home or office.