Category Archives: Remote Desktop Hosting

How to Shadow a user’s remote desktop session on Windows 2012 R2 server not connected to a domain

This post is about how to shadow a session if the server is not connected to a domain. If the server is connected to a domain, you can go to server manager, RDS Manager, and right click on current sessions to shadow and connect. When the server is in Workgroup mode (not connected to domain) the Remote Desktop Services Manager page is not accessible in Server Manager. To shadow another user’s sessions in Windows Server 2012 R2 in Workgroup mode, use the following steps:

1) Open command window by clicking start, CMD. You must be using an account with administrative privileges. If you are using an account with administrative privileges that isn’t the named Administrator account, you must run in administrator mode (right click on cmd and click run as administrator)

2) Type quser.exe to determine the session number of the user session you want to shadow.
C:\Users\administrator.computer>quser.exe (note: typing “>qwinsta” without .exe will show similar information)
USERNAME SESSIONNAME ID STATE
administrator rdp-tcp#0 1 Active
user1 rdp-tcp#1 3 Active

3) In this example, the Administrator is going to shadow the user1 session which is session 3. You need to know the session number (“3”) for the next step.

4) Start shadow session by typing “mstsc /shadow:# /control” where # is the session number to shadow and /control allows you to control the session.
C:\Users\administrator.computer>mstsc /shadow:3 /control

5) The other user (user1 in this example) will get a popup called “remote control request” and must press Yes before shadow session will open.

6) The shadow session will open and you’ll be able to view the user1 session desktop screen.

How to modify timing of Windows Updates in 2012 / 2012 R2 to control timing of updates and restarts

Issue:
Windows Server 2012 or 2012 R2 reboots after installing Windows Updates during inconvenient times that don’t make sense and you would like to modify settings in a more similar way as with Windows Server 2008 R2. Windows 2012 by default restarts 3 days after the installation of Windows Updates instead of 15 minutes which was used in 2008 R2, BUT the restart counter only begins counting down when a user can see it (see Microsoft Technet link below). In addition, it appears that in some situations the restart counter is temporarily disabled when you logoff/disconnect. According to the MSDN blog post below, if after 3 days it is detected that critical applications are open or running in the background or the PC is locked, etc., Windows Update will wait to automatically restart the next time a user logs on with a warning that the machine will be rebooted within 15 minutes.

Although these changes are meant to minimize data loss by providing additional time and warnings prior to reboots, this change in logic can cause confusing timing of reboots of the server and you may wish to have more control over the timing.

Resolution:
If using Windows 2012, make sure KB2885694 (included in update rollup KB2883201 which is what you will see in installed updates) is installed on your server which should already be there since it was released in year 2013. Windows 2012 R2 already includes these new group policy settings.

Modify the group policy settings located here. Open Local Group Policy Editor by typing Gpedit.msc. Go to: Computer Configuration / Administrative Templates / Windows Components / Windows Update.

1. Enable the “Configure Automatic Updates” group policy. Use value of 4. If you want to select a schedule day & time, do NOT check the automatic maintenance box.

2. Enable the “Always automatically restart at the schedule time” group policy. This will allow reboots/restarts approximately 15 minutes after the updates are installed instead of 3 days later. The restart timer can’t be postponed once started and a restart will occur even if users are signed on.

These changes should make automatic updates act similar to the behavior experienced in Windows Server 2008.

 

Scenario Recommended configuration
Force updates and restarts at a specific time. For example:

  • Install updates on Friday nights at 11PM
  • Force a restart soon after installation
Use the Configure Automatic Updates policy:

  • Enable the policy
  • Use option #4 – Auto download and schedule the install
  • Deselect “Install during automatic maintenance”
  • Set “6 – Every Friday” for the scheduled install day
  • Set “23:00” for the scheduled install time

Use the Always automatically restart at the scheduled time policy:

  • Enable the policy
  • Configure the timer to the desired value (default is 15 minutes)

 

See links below from Microsoft for information that was used in the above post:

http://blogs.technet.com/b/wsus/archive/2013/10/08/enabling-a-more-predictable-windows-update-experience-for-windows-8-and-windows-server-2012-kb-2885694.aspx?pi47623=2#pi47623=1

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/2885694

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/b8/archive/2011/11/14/minimizing-restarts-after-automatic-updating-in-windows-update.aspx

How to set time limit for disconnected sessions Windows Server 2012R2

By default, Remote Desktop Services allows users to disconnect from a remote session without logging off the server and ending the session. When a session is in a disconnected state, running programs are kept active even though the user is no longer actively connected. A disconnected session continues to consume server resources and we recommend that you set policies to end disconnected session after a period of time. Sessions are ended/closed out if the user Logs Off from the server (start -> logoff) but are not ended if the user simply clicks the X in the upper corner to close the RDP window.

You can limit the amount of time that active, disconnected, and idle sessions remain on the server. Two methods are described below:

#1 — User Properties to set session time limits per user:

In each user’s properties window, under sessions tab, you can change the default of “end a disconnected session” from NEVER to X hours/days as well as change the other settings.

User_Properties_Picture

#2 — Group Policy to set session time limits for all users:

  1. Cmd prompt, gpedit.msc
  2. Computer Configuration, Admin Templates, Windows Components, Remote Desktop Services, Remote Desktop Session Host, Session Time Limits
    1. Enable appropriate group policies and modify as needed
    2. We recommend setting this one because it will prevent disconnected sessions from consuming server resources — “Set time limit for disconnect sessions”
  3. After modifying group policies, you can force an update without rebooting by typing “gpupdate /force” at cmd prompt

 

#3 — If Windows Server 2008R2, you can modify these settings in RD Session Host Configuration too

To configure session settings on a windows 2008R2 server with Remote Desktop Services role installed, go to start -> administrative tools -> remote desktop services -> RD Session Host Configuration. Then right click RDP-Tcp properties, Sessions tab, and enter value to end a disconnect session after a specific period of time, end an idle session, etc. (tsconfig.msc also opens the RD Session Host Configuration window). More details can be found here: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc754272.aspx

 

 

 

Remote Desktop Connection Client for Android

There are Remote Desktop Client apps for a variety of devices.   The Remote Desktop Connection client is automatically built in to Windows PCs but you can download the client app for MACs, iphones, ipads android devices, etc.

Below is the link (as of September 4, 2015) for the Microsoft Remote Desktop Client for Android:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.microsoft.rdc.android&hl=en

 

 

How to launch a program automatically when logging into Remote Desktop Server

Automatically launching a program or application upon login to a Remote Desktop Session.  See below for methods to use the “start program at login” policy which can be configured per user.  Another method to limit specific programs to a user is via RemoteApp.  We have several other posts regarding RemoteApp and how to set it up and its limitations (i.e. RemoteApp setup is easier in 2008R2 (works in Workgroup mode) than 2012R2 but RDweb requires ActiveX (so IE only) and it doesn’t work for MAC users, while use of RemoteApp in 2012R2 requires joining to a Domain).

1) USING ENVIRONMENT TAB OF EACH USER’S PROPERTIES ON SERVER:  If you want a program to automatically start when a user logs on to the RDP server instead of showing a full desktop session, you can configure this in the Environment tab of the Properties window for each particular user. 

 User_Properties_Environments

After you have made the changes, you should test that it works properly for your users by logging into the server using the accounts you changed/created including testing it with simultaneous sessions and to verify the sessions close properly when the application is closed.

We highly recommend enabling policy to log off disconnected sessions:

  • Enable policy to log off disconnected sessions immediately or within a few minutes so you don’t have a blank screen if users don’t properly exist a program.  Existing the program (instead of clicking X in upper right corner of program) will properly log off the session but enabling this policy will ensure that an improper disconnected session is automatically logged off.  See block post here for instructions on how to enable this policy on both 2012R2 and 2008R2 http://www.riptidehosting.com/blog/how-to-set-time-limit-for-disconnected-sessions-windows-server-2012r2/

2) USING PROGRAMS TAB ON REMOTE DESKTOP CLIENT – Another method is to use the programs tab on your local remote desktop client prior to logging in to the server.  On the programs tab, you can enter the path for program to start upon login.  You can also create a RDP shortcut with this information saved on to your desktop.  We have a video on our website on creating RDP shortcuts – https://youtu.be/iLKSMcIrfqE .  A disadvantage to this method versus the first method above is that each user can edit the shortcut and change the settings.  Your IT person can create these shortcuts and provide them to each user.  

If you use this method on Windows 2008R2, you may have to change settings in RemoteApp under RDP Settings Change and allow access to unlisted programs.

3) USING GROUP POLICY – Another method to configure this is to configure programs to automatically start in the RD Session Host Configuration settings and in Group Policy, although then the logon settings could be applied universally to all users, including the Administrator (which means Administrator may not be able to access the desktop, start button, etc.) whereas the method above allows configuration by User.  You could also create a separate group policy that would be applicable for a specific group, such as non-administrators, so the group policy change wouldn’t affect all users. 

4)  REMOTEAPP – Another method is to configure the RemoteApp feature in Remote Desktop Services (RDS).  In 2008R2, this feature works great (either the RemoteApp distributable file or RD Web) for PC users but not for MAC usersIn 2012R2, the RemoteApp features requires the Active Directory / Domain Controller service to be install on the server before RemoteApp can be used

 

 

Help my remote desktop server is capitalizing every other character I type like camel case or a sticky shift key

A client of ours running a Windows 2012 R2 remote desktop, terminal server was having issues where when they typed on their local keyboard it will show up on the server as alternating capital and lowercase letters like this “RiPtIdE hOsTiNg”. 

SOLUTION is to change the RDP settings on the client

The solution in his case was to modify the following setting on the remote desktop connection client prior to logging in.  Open Remote Desktop Connection on your local machine.  Click more and go to the Local Resources tab.  Under Keyboard, Apply Windows key combinations, select in the dropdown “on local machine / on this machine”.  You can save this setting to be permanent by going back to the General tab and doing “save” or “save as”.

BACKGROUND

When a user with a Windows 8.1 computer would login to a Windows 2012 R2 Remote Desktop Server any text they typed would show up as a capital letter followed by a lower case letter.  Example “CaMeL cAsE tExT”.  This every other character being a capital letter occurred when using multiple keyboards including local and USB keyboards.  It happened whether they were typing in an application or a browser and was occurring without pressing the shift key.  It also occurred on two different Windows 2012 R2 RDP virtual servers running on VMware. 

We tried many solutions such as turning off Sticky Key and disabling redirection of various devices. 

 

Redirection of printers and local drives on hosted RDP server

REDIRECTION OF PRINTERS / HARD DRIVES / CLIPBOARD FROM YOUR LAPTOP OR DESKTOP

On client laptop/desktop prior to connecting to server:

Local Printing (and redirection of DVD drive, local hard drive, enable copy and paste between client an server, etc.)— When you open the Remote Desktop Connection program on your local laptop/desktop, before pressing “Connect”, click on “Show Options” in the lower left bottom corner.  Then go to the local resources tab and make sure that printers is selected (this is also where you can click “more” and share your hard drive so you can easily move files between your PC and sever).  Then once you connect and open a document, go file->print, you will see your printer with a label like this:redirected printer #.

You can check “clipboard” and “drives” (under more) which will allow you to cut and paste from you local desktop to the server (clipboard) or see the redirected drives in windows explorer (drives) to move files on to the server.

Dedicated Server and RDP remote desktop server backup options

Riptide Hosting offers the following backup options for Dedicated servers and Remote Desktop RDP hosted servers.

BACKUPS IN OUR VMWARE VM ENVIRONMENT for Virtual Servers VMs

VEEAM: In our virtual server environment, we offer and recommend using Veeam backup which provides full server image backup.  The backup can be restored on a different host/server if needed.  Veeam provides image-based backup that allows for recovery of an entire VM and also individual file restore.  Our default schedule is nightly backup with retention of 14 restore points and we backup the virtual server to a backup repository in the datacenter that is separate from the VMware cluster.

MANUAL BACKUP: Depending on the size of data you need to backup, you could also make a copy of the data/files to your local office.  This is not a full server image backup rather only the files you choose to backup.

THIRD PARTY ONLINE BACKUP: Online-based backup solutions: Carbonite, Mozy and others which offer a relatively low monthly cost depending on # of machines and amount of data.  This is not a full server image backup.

You can also use a combination of the above methods.

 

BACKUPS ON A DEDICATED SERVER

DELL APPASSURE: We offer Dell AppAssure backup to our dedicated server clients.  Dell AppAssure backs up the entire server to a separate dedicated server which allows for full server restore.  This is the most robust backup offering on a dedicated server and allows complete customization on retention time, frequency of backups and many other settings.  It is a great offering but it is more expensive than other options because it requires a second server that is completely dedicated to you with large drives (not a shared repository) & Dell licensing.  This option can work with more than one dedicated server.

LOCAL BACKUPS TO SECOND RAID ARRAY – We can add a second raid array of 2TB drives to your server for as low as $30/month and you can backup to this manually, via a backup program you install or Windows Server Backup.  You can also do this to an external USB drive.

THIRD PARTY ONLINE BACKUP: Online-based backup solutions: Carbonite, Mozy and others which offer a relatively low monthly cost depending on # of machines and amount of data.  This is not a full server image backup rather only the files you choose to backup.

VEEAM ENDPOINT PROTECTION – Veeam Endpoint Protection FREE is a free solution for backing up Windows-based machines.  You can backup the machine to an external drive and perform a bare-metal restore or file level restore if needed.  Although it is not a full enterprise backup tools, it can be used on Windows Server 2008R2 or later.  To use Veeam Endpoint Protection Free, download and install the application.  During install, it will find the USB drive if its already plugged in.  The first full backup will take several hours.  During install, you will need to create the recovery media image and burn the iso to a DVD that you should keep a copy of.

WINDOWS SERVER BACKUP – The Microsoft Windows Server OS (2008 R2 and 2012 R2) has an included feature called Windows Server Backup that can be installed on our Dedicated Hosted servers (server manager -> add roles & features -> install).   Windows server Backup can be used to backup specific files or folders, full volumes or the full server for a bare metals restore.  It can be setup to schedule backups to run automatically, and can be performed to internal disk, external disk or remote shared folder.   You’ll want to store the backup on a separate drive/array.  Recommended backup drive size is at last 2.5x the amount of data to be copied.  Also, the drive will be reformatted by Windows Server Backup during the prep stage.

You can also use the Windows Server Backup feature to create a full system image (including OS, applications, settings, users, etc.) backup to a second drive.  Another option is to copy/back-up files to a second hard drive on the same server using the windows backup utility (can set up a schedule) or perform manually.

Links to Windows Server Backup articles on Microsoft Technet:

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc770757.aspx

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc772523.aspx

You may also want to consider a combination of the above methods – i.e. local backup to separate drive on the server along with periodic backups to the cloud or local office.

Outlook file corruption for one user on remote desktop server

We had a user who was having issues sending email in an older version of outlook on their remote desktop terminal server hosted with Riptide Hosting.  The error message upon pressing the send button in Outlook was errors have been detected in the user’s outlook.pst file.  This issue was only affecting one user on the terminal server.   We ran the Inbox repair tool (scanpst.exe) which took almost 30 minutes to run the scan, after which we pressed repair (which also took a long time and sometimes said “not responding” but eventually completed with the message “Repair Complete”).  This repair tool fixed the issue but also erased the smtp account settings in outlook which then needed to be re-entered prior to being able to send/receive email.

FTP service on remote desktop server or 2008 r2 windows server

Generally we don’t recommend installing FTP on a server unless it is necessary.  In some cases, it can be easier to transfer files through RDP.  If installing FTP on a remote desktop terminal server and after installation it seems like it is still blocked even though the ports were open on the Windows firewall, try restarting the FTP service.    Restarting the FTP service solved this issue.  If you are having a similar situation, checks to see that the FTP service is started/running and try restarting it.    Also, you should check that the required ports are open on any firewalls used which may be internal and external to the server.

If you are using a remote desktop terminal server, you can transfer files through RDP, by redirecting your local hard drive or via clipboard (cut & paste from local machine to server) without having to install FTP, etc.

How to host Filemaker Pro database on a remote desktop or terminal server

HOSTING FILEMAKER SERVER (database) AND FILEMAKER PRO (client) ON HOSTED SERVERS

Riptide Hosting provides servers with Dedicated Windows Operating System environments for you to host FileMaker 15!!!  See our FileMaker hosting page on our website at http://www.riptidehosting.com/FileMaker-Hosting.aspx

IMPORTANT UPDATE – The End-User License Agreement for FileMaker Server 15 requires each customer to have their own software license and no longer allows hosting providers to offer shared hosting.  Hosting providers that were offering one FileMaker Server database to many clients are no longer be able to offer that.  We provide a dedicated Windows Server operating system environment for you to load FileMaker on.  The server is dedicated to you (in fact, you can load other programs and applications on the server(s) if you wish at no extra charge).  FileMaker has also changed their licensing model/pricing which you can see at this link:  http://store.filemaker.com/

 

We often get the question “How do I install the FileMaker Pro client and the FileMaker Server database on a remote desktop or terminal server?” Often people want to install the FileMaker Pro (client) and the FileMaker Server database on a remote desktop/terminal server.   FileMaker does not support or recommend installing the FileMaker Pro client and FileMaker Server (database) together on a terminal server.  The recommended solution is to use two servers that have a private/backend connection between them.  The backend connection allows all the traffic between the servers to be on a fast and private 1 Gig per second connection.  (Using the client on a local PC with the database on a remote server will work but your experience will suffer due to much lower network speeds and higher latency). 

Other people ask if they can install the FileMaker Pro database on a hosted server and access the files via FileMaker Pro clients installed on local computers.  Most likely this implementation will result in slow response.  Your result may vary and you can always start with this implementation and add a Remote Desktop/Terminal server for the client install if you need a faster solution. You should review the requirements for your particular version but you can see below that the minimum requirements for FileMaker Server are 2 CPU cores and 4g RAM.  For FileMaker Pro, the hardware requirements depend on the number of users expected, usage concurrent, etc.   Having two servers helps spread the load placed on the servers and each can be upgraded as needed. You may also want to consider using FileMaker WebDirect to connect via a browser from your phone, tablet, PC, etc.

http://www.filemaker.com/products/filemaker-pro/pro-15-specifications.html – FOR VERSION 15

http://www.filemaker.com/products/filemaker-server/server-15-specifications.html – FOR VERSION 15

 

Riptide Hosting can provide you with a dedicated server(s) solutions to host your FileMaker Server database and FileMaker Pro client.  For a small number of users (typically less than 10 users), virtual servers with dedicated IPs and private/backend connection, and Windows Operating System is a great hosting solution.  For more than 10 users, a dedicated server solution provides a faster experience often for a lower price per user.  Contact us if you would like to review the hosting options, pricing or, licensing. 

Riptide Hosting partners with IT consultants

We work with many IT consultants/firms that use our hosting services for their clients.  Our premium hosting services are a good fit for IT consultants with clients looking to migrate servers to a datacenter/cloud, upgrade from older operating systems such as Windows 2003 or move to a hosting provider with superior bandwidth, infrastructure and redundancy.  The IT firm/company has root access to load and configure as needed.  The IT consultants can be our direct customer and bundle Riptide’s services with their own and mark it up as they wish, or we can directly invoice the referred end-user and pay the IT firm/consultant a recurring commission. 

 We provide many types of hosting services including remote desktop hosting (which can be utilized on a virtual server or a dedicated server).  Remote desktop hosting is often used when a client wants to have applications hosted on a central server accessible by multiple user sessions.  We also provide virtual server hosting, dedicated server hosting, colocation services, and monthly pricing on most Microsoft software (SQL, Office, RD user licenses, etc.) via the Microsoft SPLA program.   Our agreement is month to month and our pricing includes the Windows standard operating system license in the base price.  Windows VMs start at $90 for a virtual server (with root access) or $39/user, and full Dell dedicated servers start at only $225.  Our premium, blended bandwidth (8 telecom carriers) is vastly superior to a single carrier bandwidth and designed to provide 100% network uptime.   

 We are always happy to discuss options, pricing, licensing, etc. for each specific situation since they all vary somewhat.  We look forward to working with you! 

 

Installing applications / programs on remote desktop terminal server 2008R2 or 2012R2

When you add programs on a Terminal Server, you should follow the directions below by going to Control Panel -> Programs -> “Install Application on Remote Desktop…”  You can see the Microsoft article on this here:  http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc742815.aspx (shown for 2008R2, same process in 2012R2)

Also see this: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/magazine/ff432698.aspx

See our RDP youtube video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5Wx0i8Mv60

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If you don’t install your application using special install mode for multi-user environment, some applications will not work properly and you will see permission errors for non-admin users and other error.

Steps on Remote Desktop Server (Terminal Server) Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2012 R2

  1. Login to server as Administrator
  2. Download your application (executable file) to the desktop or other location on the server and make a note of that location (alternatively can place media in your local CD/DVD drive if drive re-direction is on).  If you are downloading your application file from the internet, you may need to turn off “Internet Explorer Enhanced Security Configuration” (IE ESC) if using Internet Explorer (or add URLs to trusted sites) or use a different browser such as FireFox or Chrome.
  3. Open Control Panel, then Programs, then click on “Install Application on Remote Desktop…”
  4. Click ‘next’ and browse to location to where your application file is located
  5. Let application install and click “finish”

 

 

Riptide Hosting – Premium Infrastructure to Avoid Downtime

Our Server Hosting services (dedicated server hosting, virtual server hosting and remote desktop hosting) are designed with redundant infrastructure to keep your business applications running. Below we discuss four of the common reasons for downtime and details on our infrastructure.

1) Internet Connection Failures – we utilize premium, blended bandwidth with a minimum of 8 telecom carriers (so the loss of a telecom provider has no effect on you). Each customer has its own dedicated VLAN and dedicated IPs so changes made to one client don’t affect another.

2) Hard Drive Failures – We only deploy servers in Raid1 or more (minimum 2 drives) so the failure of one drive is sustainable. We utilize enterprise class drives.

3) Power Failures – we utilize redundant power fees, UPS systems and generators for continuous power.

4) Equipment Failures – We utilize only high-end Dell PowerEdge Servers, Intel CPUs and Enterprise class hard drives. None of our servers are internal-built supermicros, etc.

If you do ever have an issue with your server at Riptide Hosting, you can contact us 24/7. All our dedicated servers come with Dell idrac Enterprise (remote KVM over IP) so you can access the server even when access to the OS fails. You can use the idrac to power cycle the server, enter BIOS or see what messages are on the console screen.

Visit our website at RiptideHosting.com to learn more about us, pricing online and contact information.