Optimizing the runtime environment and analyzing errors and flawed conditions are key tasks when operating a platform as complex as Microsoft Windows Server 2003 with Terminal Services in application server mode. Little hints often suffice to identify a weakness and eliminate it quickly and efficiently. Of course, strategies that help to avoid certain errors from the start are even better. This chapter describes common problem areas and relevant troubleshooting methods:
Find out what changes are necessary to optimize the operating system.
Learn about solutions to problems with applications.
Discover possibilities for network optimization.
Terminal servers are, of course, under particular scrutiny when they are used as central instances to provide applications. Like unstable domain controllers or inadequate resolution of network names, terminal servers that function unreliably lead to highly dissatisfied users and unwarranted costs. The stability of a terminal server environment depends very much on the skill and competence of the administrators in charge.
A terminal server resembles a classic mainframe environment in many respects. Administrators, who often come from the traditional PC environment, need to take special care to avoid some acquired habits—in particular, to stop executing routine tasks under a privileged account on the console of a production server in a terminal server environment. When an administrator interacts with the terminal server, even the smallest mistakes can negatively affect many other user sessions.
To avoid and overcome crises involving terminal servers, administrators need to consider not only the technical, but also the social, element. A set of rules applies and each person involved with this type of environment should adhere to these rules.
No one except explicitly authorized persons must perform changes on the terminal server including hardware, operating system, and applications.
New system software and applications should be installed using automated routines that have previously been tested on a reference system.
Each action relating to hardware and software changes must be 100 percent documented with the relevant tools.
Discipline is a must for the persons in charge because a terminal server merges two worlds that used to be strictly separate: Microsoft BackOffice (that is, Windows Server 2003) and front-end applications (that is, direct user interaction). In conventional environments, no administrator would dare to even imagine that users could log on to a server interactively. Who knows what ways they would find to change the system! Another reason for maintaining strict discipline is that, among administrators, experience with terminal servers is not as broad as with standard installations of Microsoft Windows systems.
When this book was written, there was very little experience in operating Windows Server 2003 Terminal Services in large production environments. Still, this chapter includes a list of optimization recommendations for commonly known issues and might be useful for troubleshooting terminal servers in well-managed environments. For additional information check the Microsoft Knowledge Base and the other Web resources introduced in the “About This Book” section, regularly.