Working with Microsoft Azure RemoteApp

Terminal Server

Quick Start in the Cloud

Access App Services | RemoteApp at the bottom left of the screen via the +New button. There, you will find the options Quick Create and Create with VPN , which each stand for cloud or hybrid deployment. Choose the former and give the collection a name; then, select one of the 13 Azure data centers.

Next, you can opt for one of the two plans and determine which image to use as a template for the collection. The Office Professional Plus 2013 Image is a good start (Figure 2). Alternatively, Microsoft provides an image for Office 365 subscribers. You complete the process by clicking on Create RemoteApp Collection . The wizard now starts to create a Terminal Server from the template – this can take up to an hour. To access you collection, click RemoteApp in the left toolbar. The Status will change to Active when the collection is ready.

Figure 2: Provisioning Azure RemoteApp in the cloud takes just four steps.

If you click on the collection, you can access the Quick Start view, from which you can perform the additional configuration. The items Publish RemoteApp Programs and Configure User Access should be highlighted in green and checked. The wizard automatically displays a selection of programs including Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Word. These programs are also already enabled for your account under which you created the collection. Now, there is nothing standing in the way of a first RemoteApp session.

Accessing Collections

You will find the Remote Desktop client download URL in the Quick Start view. However, for Windows computers, the RDP client itself is not there because Windows already has RDP support on board – in the form of the Remote Desktop connection. The native Windows RDP client, however, cannot yet access the Azure RemoteApp independently; it needs a mediator to do so. To this end, access the link and click Install Client . You can then download the app rdclientLauncher.application. You can install it in both Windows 7 and 8.x in the user context without needing administrator rights to do so.

Next, start the new application Microsoft RemoteApp from the Start section and sign in with your Microsoft account. You will then see the available apps and can start them immediately. The Remote Desktop connection then takes over and opens a session on the Terminal Server in the Azure cloud via RDP.

The desired application launches in a separate window and can, at first view, hardly be distinguished from your local applications. Note that the office applications from Microsoft's standard image are currently only available with an English user interface.

The user memory is implemented as user profile disks within the session. Data that you store in a RemoteApp session in user profile folders, such as Desktop or Documents , remain after logging off the sessions and also survive a server image update and a change to the user plan. However, it is in the nature of user profile disks that they belong exclusively to a collection. Thus, if you store a file in the Documents folder in a RemoteApp from collection A, you will not find it again in a RemoteApp from collection B. The applications from Office 2013 work around this issue by providing native support for the cloud store OneDrive. If you log on to OneDrive within the RemoteApp, you can exchange data between collections and with your local client.

Costs of Azure RemoteApp

Microsoft invoices Azure RemoteApp per collection, user, and month; the price depends on the desired plan and the operating hours [3]. Whether a collection is created as a cloud or hybrid deployment does not, however, play a role in pricing. This means that a user with a Basic collection currently pays at least $10 per month. Microsoft demands at least $15 per month for a Standard user. In both cases, this is a starting price that includes 40 hours of operation per month.

Once a user works for more than 40 hours in a month with these applications from the respective collections, Microsoft calculates the additional hours at $0.175 per hour in the Basic plan or $0.20 per hour in the Standard plan. However, Microsoft also has a fixed upper limit for both plans which is of benefit to intensive users. Going over the 40 hours in the Basic plan only has variable costs up to a maximum of $17 per user per month; $23 is the limit for the Standard plan. Finally, you must consider that Microsoft defines a minimum of 20 users as a basis for the offer. In practice, this means that you will always have to pay for at least 20 users, even if only 13 users actually use RemoteApp.

All costs are thus paid with regard to Windows. You do not need any additional licenses to operate the virtual terminal server in the Azure cloud – either for the operating system or for Client Access Licenses (CALs) or even Remote Desktop Services (RDS) CALs. The preconfigured office applications for cloud deployment are also included. You do, however, obviously still ensure you have the correct licensing for all applications that you install in your own image.

Azure RemoteApp does not currently automatically support the ability to connect local client-side drives that you may be familiar with from conventional terminal servers. If you want to pass through drives and USB or serial ports, Microsoft again suggests requesting support [4]. Nevertheless, a remote session will connect a clipboard and a printer without further action – meaning that you can print tasks from RemoteApp both to printers connected locally and network printers.

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