Microsoft's Windows MultiPoint Server (WMS) is a thin client or shared resource computing software solution in which one host computer is shared by multiple users simultaneously.

Basically it allows one computer to serve several people in a lab or library at very low cost. It is very useful in nonprofits, libraries, schools, telecenters, and any computing lab environment.

It reduces overall costs 66 percent by saving on hardware, energy, and maintenance over traditional workstation setups (computer, monitor, keyboard, mouse for each person). Windows MultiPoint Server is regarded as an energy-saving green technology.

What Windows MultiPoint Server Can Do

User stations use the host computer's processing capabilities, but provide a stand-alone computer experience. Installed applications on the host computer appear automatically on all user stations.

Users Can:

  • Work on their station on whatever they want, entirely independent of other users.
  • Set their own favorites or bookmarks in their browser, customize their desktops, customize the Start menu, save and access their individual settings, and work on any station.
  • They can share files, videos, and documents with other people on the WMS network.
  • They can save files in their own private folders where only the user and admin can access them.
  • Plug in a headset or microphone at each station to a multimedia experience without disrupting other peoples work (if their hub device has headphone and microphone plug-ins).

Administrators Can:

  • Set up generic accounts instead of setting up individual accounts.
  • See how many stations are being used, which student or patron is using which system, and whether hardware is connected properly.

With WMS, each workstation is basically a monitor, keyboard, and mouse that plugs into a low-cost client hub, which, in turn, plugs in to the host computer. The station hubs connect to the single host computer through USB, video, or Ethernet cables and use the host computer's processing capabilities.

The software essentially desktop virtualizes Windows on each connected monitor and supports multiple users at the same time, each working independently using their own monitor, keyboard, and mouse.

WMS was originally developed for schools and educational environments. It was designed by Microsoft primarily for non-technical users and is easy to set up and manage.

The software includes MultiPoint Manager, which allows managers to monitor workstations, block content, and project content from station to station. All stations connected to a MultiPoint Server are already networked and no additional networking hardware is required.

WMS requires a multi-core desktop (Core 2 Duo or above) for the host computer. Refurbished multi-core computers work fine with the software. Hub devices used to connect users to a MultiPoint server can be USB hubs, traditional thin clients, multiport graphics cards, or even repurposed laptops or desktops.

Windows MultiPoint Server Donations for Nonprofits and Libraries Available through TechSoup

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We'd love to hear about your experience with Windows MultiPoint Server or any other thin client or virtual desktop computing system. Feel free to share your experiences in the comments below.

Image: Microsoft