Terminal Services vs. VNC

Joel discusses Terminal Services vs. VNC, and comes down firmly on the side of Terminal Services, with his only major disappointment being that the server has to be a Windows box. However, he’s completely left out the issues of cost and licensing. Now, I appreciate that if you need some software and it’s for-money rather than for-free then you pay for it, out there in the Real World. However, we use VNC at work — we’re not a TS shop, the alternative was Symantec’s PCAnywhere until I pointed out VNC to people — and, even ignoring that the zero cost of VNC makes it easy to put a VNC server on every desktop machine and make the helpdesk’s life a lot easier (which is orthogonal to what Joel was talking about, in that I think he’s talking about server administration), with VNC you don’t have to worry about licences. Even if TS CALs were free, which they’re not, you’d still have to ensure that everyone who needs one has one, every time you get a new member of the support team they get new CALs for each of the servers you admin, etc etc. And all those CALs mount up when each one costs you money. Especially since Microsoft’s recent licensing ploy for TS seems to be that even if you’re not using an MS client you still have to have a CAL, so something like the rdesktop client which has a reimplementation of the TS protocol for Linux still has to have the appropriate licence. With all that in the way, I say that the limitations of VNC aren’t really that severe, especially since Joel’s number 2 big reason (that VNC doesn’t transmit shift+arrow keypresses) doesn’t seem to apply for me — maybe he’s using an older version or something? In my experience, Citrix’s MetaFrame is an equivalent of TS (well, TS is MetaFrame — iirc, MS bought the Citrix code and rolled it into Windows proper, although that might just be my faulty memory) and has a more favourable licensing policy. YMMV, mind.

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