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Lost Between Server 2008 R2 and Server 2012 R2 (Among Other Things)

Hello all, and my apologies for what I'm sure is the newbie ignorance of the following questions. I work for a small, independent software company that sells a desktop database application for recruiters. We're looking to create a cloud version. We just signed up with Rackspace cloud servers, and I'm getting seriously lost during setup. (Been in software/IT 14 years, never in server admin, though.)

 The basics:

- Provide individual users access to a single Windows application (not the full desktop) through RemoteApp over the internet.

- Our application is a database program that uses a Microsoft Access format back end (we do not need Access itself installed), so a user or group of users would need shared, full permission access to a data folder where the database file itself is stored.

- Most of our customers are <5 users and only a few are >10 users, so my thought was to use individual cloud servers, adding new ones as necessary for demand.

- Individual user accounts on the same server would need to be restricted to only their specific data directories, multi-user clients would need a shared data directory.

I've tried setting up Server 2012 R2 for this, but it appears to not want to do Remote Desktop on the same server as Active Directory. When I attempt to set it up without Active Directory, I can't access Remote Desktop Services through Server Manager because I'm not logged in as a “domain user”. I also tried to get it going under Server 2008 R2 (which doesn't seem to require AD), but the available documentation on-line is spotty at best.

Given those (I hope) simple requirements, can anyone who knows more about Windows Server than me (which would, I think, be all of you) recommend an OS version and what roles should be installed? Or recommend a good server admin book that covers cloud deployments like Rackspace well? Tech support is the least fun part of my job, and I hate getting those kind of open ended questions, but right now I'm lost.

Thanks much.

  • Hi, Charlie!

    RemoteApp is probably what you're looking for. RemoteApp will provide for a single application to be accessible through Remote Desktop Services on a Server 2008 or Server 2012 environment without having to expose the entire remote desktop to your users.

    Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 will allow you to run the Remote Desktop Session Host in a workgroup environment, but this requires the use of powershell and command line to do most of your configuration. The GUI tools assume you're using Active Directory. Please note that Microsoft recommends against this type of configuration. This configuration won't allow the use of RDWeb, however. RDWeb (used for the RemoteApp functionality you're trying to use) is going to require the use of Active Directory on a Server 2012 environment.

    An ideal setup for this type of environment would include an Active Directory domain controller that is firewalled off from the web so it's completely inaccessible except from the  RDS server and the RDS server, itself. The domain controller wouldn't need to be a large server. In fact, the smallest cloud server we have available would be able to handle the load placed on the server needed for the Active Directory Domain Services role. For redundency's sake, we recommend running two domain controllers in any AD environment due to limitation in our imaging/backup process when working with domain controllers.

    Your RDS server would house your data, application, and provide access to both to your customers. Configuration and support of the application and RDS infrastructure would fall upon you and your support staff as Rackspace Managed Operations provides support for installation of the RDS role and of the license.

    Please let us know if there is anything more we can do to help out.

  • UPDATE 07/22/2016 : It looks like Jeff was able to respond first.  I would recommend going with his input as he is the more experienced administrator.


    As you have found, without an Active Directory domain, setting up remote desktop services on a single Windows 2012 server is almost impossible.  I have read that it might be possible via PowerShell but I have not found solid documentation at this time.  

    I too recall the days when you could task a server to play the part of several roles.  Many of the older Microsoft TechNet deployment guides are still online available for reference.

    I wish you luck with your project. If you have any questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to get in touch with us.

    High regards,

    Bill Hertzing
    Cloud Launch Manager