Computer Lab by Flickr user rex librisCarlos just blogged about our recent addition to the catalog, Microsoft's Windows MultiPoint Server. Although there are many advantages such as energy savings and management simplicity, you should carefully plan your implementation in order to maximize the benefits of your donation request. In this blog post I'll talk in more detail about some implementation scenarios and deployment considerations for your nonprofit or library.

First off, in terms of hardware there are two ways to connect your user stations to your computer: using multifunction hubs or "zero-clients" to connect a monitor, keyboard, and mouse to the host computer via USB 2.0. These hubs vary in price and are available directly from the manufacturer, or via online retailers like CDW or Newegg. Alternately, you can use high-speed graphics cards that supports multiple outputs on one machine, and connect the stations' monitors to the host station directly. The input devices in this case can be connected via regular USB 2.0-only hubs.

There are pros and cons to both approaches, and you should decide based on the technology capacity your organization and library has, and your present and future expansion plans for this multi-user setup. Generally speaking, you will get better performance and cost-effectiveness with a direct graphics card connection instead of the USB plus zero client option, but that will depend on the available slots you have on your computer, and your comfort level in installing hardware and testing to ensure you have the correct drivers.

In terms of software, the version you request for donation through TechSoup would be a Volume License, rather than an OEM License. What this means is that you will be requesting and installing the software on your choice of hardware, as well as the CALs or Client Access Licenses. You will need a MultiPoint Server device CAL as well as a Windows Server device CAL for each station.

TechSoup offers a donated Windows MultiPoint Server CAL Pack that includes both for simplicity. Although one of the key advantages of MultiPoint Server is user management without the added need to manage a full server-client environment. If you already have a server running in your organization, you can add MultiPoint Server to the domain and manage your users in Active Directory instead of MultiPoint Manager. While there's no technical limit to the number of users you can connect, beyond 10 users it is advised that you use Active Directory to manage them as network users instead.

As far as additional software is concerned, Windows MultiPoint Server is an enhanced form of Windows Server 2008 R2 64-bit using Remote Desktop Services (RDS). While most common programs like Microsoft Office and web browsers will run without any problems, other more specialized programs may have issues in such an environment. You should check whether the software manufacturer allows for remote usage of their software. Microsoft is also compiling a MultiPoint Server compatibility page with community input on their experiences.

Photo: rex libris