Weighing in on Terminal Servers

In Planning, Tools on April 20, 2009 by TIPS Team Tagged: ,

Updates on this post available from Sid de Haan’s Tech blog.

Currently we have a number of our schools in the district using terminal servers and we’re finding out what works and what doesn’t.

But what are terminal servers? Take a flatscreen monitor and attach a Wyse box terminal to the back on the monitor, add a keyboard and mouse and presto you have a thin client – a workstation that is directly connected to a server. When you start up a program, you’re actually starting up from the server.


  • Quick start up
  • Quick access to programs (that work in terminal services)
  • Small footprint (no tower) and students have more deskspace
  • Flat screen monitor and Wyse box use much less energy
  • Great for basic productivity tool and internet research
  • Easy to maintain and change an image…you’re installing on one computer…no multicast ghosting required
  • Users don’t have control over settings…can’t muck up the main computer (in most cases)


  • Can’t use certain programs (see below). This requires a lot of trial and error and can be very frustrating for teachers and students
  • Basic productivity only…limited functionality for connecting to peripherals (digital cameras, digital camcorders, USB drives, etc.)
  • Tough to customize between terminals…a one size fits all solution
  • You are essentially running off 1 computer and not benefitting from the power of each login having a separate workstation
  • Users don’t have control over settings, such as desktop, control panel…even the Task Manager in CTL-ALT-DEL

What works

  • Microsoft Office Applications: Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Publisher
  • Web browser, although multimedia content can run slow
  • Windows Paint
  • Inspiration and Kidspiration: These both install on a server

What doesn’t work

  • Video Streaming services such as United Streaming
  • Lab Management Software
  • Some flash-based sites such run very slow such as ArtPad or Wonderville
  • Google Earth

This is a great solution for libraries and offices where client-based software isn’t required and basic productivity and research tools are required. This solution also works in computer labs, however teachers and students need to be aware of the limitations of such technology.

A workaround for teachers who want to show content with Google Earth and video streaming, is to have a dedicated teacher workstation and dedicated Wyse box hooked up to a projector with a switch between them. Teachers can then toggle between 2 inputs to project their images.


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