Remote Desktop Services (RDS): Security Benefits and Uses

Remote desktop services (also known as RDS, terminal servers, and terminal services) allow a user to take over a computer remotely.

If you outsource IT services, and you work within the Microsoft environment, RDS allows your tech team to find and fix problems on your computer from far away.

You might also use RDS to access services your company doesn’t want to install on every single computer, including your personal computer.

Many companies, including more than 60 percent of consumer products companies, outsource at least some part of their workforce. If your company does, you should know more about how RDS really works. 

What are Remote Desktop Services?

Tucked within most Microsoft products is the ability for remote work. RDS makes that possible.

In most cases, the remote worker needs some kind of invitation from the host device. With that invitation both extended and accepted, the session begins. The user has nearly full access to work on the host device, even though that user might be far from it.

Microsoft RDS image

You could use the RDS solution for:

  • Session-based virtualization. Provide one-time access to a remote server. 
  • Virtual desktop infrastructure. Give users access multiple times, so they can work on a shell-like computer at home but have all the benefits of your workplace devices. 
  • RemoteApp. Give users access to just one application in a separate window on their machines

5 benefits of using RDS delivery

Why should you use remote software access rather than just giving everyone a device? RDS comes with several advantages. 

Remote desktop services offer:

  • Cost savings. Many companies look for ways to cut down on company hardware. Using RDS could allow you to keep operating an old machine with fancy software (even if your old machine couldn't handle a direct installation). 
  • Operability. RDS could allow your Mac users to tap into Microsoft products (if that’s a requirement). 
  • Security. If a problem appears, RDS lets you investigate from miles away. 
  • Storage. With RDS, sensitive files are in the cloud, not on a device. Theft is much more difficult. 
  • Speed. It's easier to configure new devices with RDS. 

Remote desktop services roles to understand 

RDS comes with plenty of options, including some involving roles. 

Some available RDS roles include:

  • Connection broker. Users connect (and reconnect) to virtual devices.
  • Gateway. Users connect to virtual devices over the internet.
  • Session. Servers host programs on so-called "session based desktops."
  • Web. Users access RDS via a web browser regardless of device type.

Sometimes, companies use specific software to allow users to connect. Most of these programs work within the Microsoft environment, but versions exist that work on other platforms, such as Android and MacOS.

Security is critical

As companies look for ways to enhance control while lowering costs, solutions like RDS will grow in popularity.

But obviously, a solution like this is also enticing for hackers. If they can get into your device with your password and do everything you can do, the risks are immense.

At Okta, we offer MFA for virtual desktops. Give your users the access they need while locking down security for your company. Find out more in this in-depth article.


68 Percent of U.S. Consumer Products Companies Use Outsourcing. Reliable Plant.

Welcome to Remote Desktop Services. (February 2017). Microsoft.

Remote Desktop Services. PC Magazine.

10 Reasons Why Windows Terminal Services Is Becoming More Popular. (April 2010). TechRepublic.