The SBS writing team supports a non-profit office near us that uses SBS. They are avid users of Remote Web Workplace (RWW); using it to connect to their office PCs and work from home. “What a great SBS feature!” Recently, some folks wanted to remote in to PCs in the office but all the PCs were in use. Someone would have to get off a computer to free it up. This was happening too often and getting annoying.
What to do? Well, we discussed using a VPN scenario but the remote users wanted the same desktop experience that office users have with applications, printers, files, etc. The non-profit could purchase several computers for remote users but, besides the cost, these PCs would largely sit unused in the office taking up limited space. So VPN and new PCs weren’t the answer.
How about virtualization? “What’s that?” We took one available computer, beefed up the memory to 2GB, and installed Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 – a free download. We could just have easily used Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 – also a free download. We then created two virtual machines and installed Windows XP on each. We assigned users to separate virtual PCs and made sure the virtual PCs were available from RWW.
Now, remote users can remote in to these virtual machines any time without the need to bump someone from a physical computer. Saving money and still providing good service levels.
If the virtual world is new to you, this is an easy, inexpensive way to break into it. It’s also a scalable solution as your remote connection needs expand. If you have sufficient memory and hard drive space, even older computers can be used to provide virtualization services.
Once you’ve got the remote virtual server/PC set up, you’ll then be ready to take the next step, virtualizing your SBS server. See Using Hyper-V with Windows Small Business Server 2008.
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